DENIAL AND ADDICTION
“Most of us have been unwilling to admit we were real alcoholics. No person likes to think he is bodily and mentally different from his fellows. Therefore, it is not surprising that our drinking careers have been characterized by countless vain attempts to prove we could drink like other people. The idea that somehow, someday he will control and enjoy his drinking is the great obsession of every abnormal drinker. The persistence of this illusion is astonishing. Many pursue it into the gates of insanity or death.”
-Insert from Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous pg 30, MORE ABOUT ALCOHOLISM.
Denial and addiction go hand in hand, and once identified should not be dismissed, as overcoming denial is the initial step into seeking help or treatment and opening the door to change and recovery.
WHAT IS DENIAL:
Denial is the common defense mechanism which is used to avoid painful emotions associated with the reality of addiction. These emotions cause discomfort. Unfortunately denial is only a short term solution as nothing has been done to address the problem nor any attempt made to change the situation or resolve the problem. The shortened version of denial is a case of saying “it isn’t so” or “it is not true”, despite the reality that is obvious to other’s involved and witnessing the results of an addiction. Outsiders are often quicker to identify the denial, however, may too, be in denial around the severity of the addiction and struggle to recognise if the situation is denial or simply normal destructive behavior. Denial happens when a person can’t or won’t face what they know deep down to be true.
Commonly when or once a decision has been made to seek treatment for addiction, a huge web of denial and mistruth’s around the individual and their thinking patterns have been altered and formed to accommodate depenance or addiction. Treatment for addiction includes the undoing of these patterns and thinking and is a vital part of the change required for the road to recovery and change.
CHARACTERISTICS OF DENIAL PATTERNS:
Being able to honestly identify and or admitting to the following will be able to establish if any denial is present.
- Difficulty in identifying true feelings.
- Tend to minimise the intensity of feelings.
- Identifying as a selfless being.
- Tend to project negative traits onto others.
- Resist or put down any help from others.
- Lack empathy for others.
- False belief that one is self-sufficient.
- Mask pain with other negative emotional states, like sarcasm, anger, and frustration.
- Tendency to covert uncomfortable feelings to aggression.
- Lacking in insight or poor interpersonal relationships
It could be helpful to consider these questions which could assist in seeking treatment and overcoming the fact that there is denial around addiction:
- Refusing criticism or honest loving comments from others who express concern around signs of addiction or addictive behavior
- Unwillingness to see that the behaviour around substances is contributing to a deterioration in all areas of life
- Worried about the stigma associated with addiction or afraid to seek or accept help
- Lost a job or been reprimanded as a result of behaviour or substance abuse
- Lost time at workplace for unexplainable illness or increased absence from workplace
- Family negatively affected by addictive behaviour
- Repeatedly tried and failed to stay clean or sober
- Given up on goals or personal dreams as a result of been stuck in addiction
- No longer care about broken promises made to loved ones
Overcoming denial is possible and it may be that the denial is so evident that the individual decides to face the truth and seek help and treatment. On the other hand, the denial may be so embedded that it appears improbable to acknowledge that there is a problem and a need for treatment and change. Often, after years of denial that there is a problem with addiction, there is an undeniable accumulation of evidence pointing to a need for treatment for addiction and loved ones may need to intervene to allow the addict access to treatment and recovery.
COMMON DENIAL PATTERNS:
Common denial patterns have been indentified that keep an individual trapped in resisting any change or seeking treatment for denial and addiction. The presence of these denial patterns will not resolve the problem and the sooner these are addressed the sooner the problem is addressed.
This is when there is a blatant refusal to talk about the problem. Individuals completely avoid any attempts to talk about the problem and are firm in the belief about not having a problem.
- ABSOLUTE DENIAL:
An adamant belief that there is no problem. The absolute idea that everything is alright. Complete unwillingness to consider that there is a problem.
A tendency to minimise the effect of the addiction, and assume that the situation is not as bad as others makes it out to be.
The ability to justify the behaviour to oneself or others. A tendency to find reasons for the behaviour.
This involves putting the blame on others and the inability to take any responsibility for the situation.
This is a constant comparing of the situation or problem and is usually done with a person who is worse, in an attempt to feel better about their current situation.
This is when there is pretence to do what is required, which simply masks the problem and does not do anything to address the situation.
People affected by the addiction and denial are manipulated, usually in the form of pushing them away, anger or temper tantrums. Another form of this is to please the other party in an attempt to not look at the problem.
- FLIGHT INTO HEALTH:
The addict attempts to mask the problem by pretending to be in good health physically and emotionally to show that they have been cured and no further problem exists.
- RECOVERY BY FEAR:
Fear of change and consequences cause an addict to avoid looking at the problem or treating the problem.
This is seen when a person believes that there is no solution to the problem, and as result they do not address or seek treatment for the problem.
When a person is finds comfort in the “sick role” and tends to get defensive about getting support or treatment.
Breaking through denial and admitting that there is a problem is one of the most challenging aspects of seeking treatment for addiction, and looking at one’s own truth’s and realities is painful. Once these beliefs and ideas are broken, the ability to engage in effective treatment is possible, and new tools are given to cope with the pain and reality of addiction. The addict can ultimately find recovery and a new way to live.
If you or a loved one needs assistance with addiction and denial – know that help is readily available. The road to recovery is not always an easy one but getting yourself or your loved one the best possible care from the team at Crossroads Recovery Centre, provides you with a map to sober, healthy living. No matter how bad things seem, there is hope and it’s only a phone call away. If you or anyone close to you needs help with an addiction to sex, gambling, substances, alcohol or food, please contact us for a free assessment.
Big Book Alcoholics Anonymous
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