Denial will keep you sick…
In the early stages of my recovery journey from addiction, I often find myself reflecting on how I could have been so blind to the glaringly obvious problem that I had. Even in the wake of numerous alcohol and drug fueled incidents that had led to the most dire of consequences over a many years, I was still declaring that I wasn’t an alcoholic as I entered into Twin Rivers for treatment, and that the reason for my drinking was everything and everyone else’s fault.
Society Plays Its Part In Addiction and Denial
For me, society had a huge part to play in helping me convince myself that drink and drugs weren’t a problem in my life. On one hand society encourages the heavy use of alcohol as an absolute necessary for social groups to have a good time, and then, when an individual losses control and develops a destructive habit, the very same society turns its back on them, calling them weak willed and inadequate. As if the individual is somehow ruining it for everyone else and therefore must be expelled from their ranks. That’s how I looked at it. I was essentially stating that I would rather be miserable and full of pain, rather than admit that I had a drink problem and have society turn its back on me! One close member of my own family even posed the question after I entered treatment – “How is he going to make friends if he can’t have a drink!”
One of the main symptoms of addiction is denial. The illness of addiction uses denial as one of its most potent weapons of self- destruction; allowing the sufferer to point to a host of reasons as to why their life is a mess without ever seriously considering how unwell and dysfunctional they are. Most people will experience at some level of denial about things that make them feel uncomfortable I life, but the addict develops a much more rigid level of denial that is so much harder to penetrate and all too often the addict is the very last person to see their own problem!
Escaping the confinement of denial
So how does an addict escape the confinement of denial? Here are just a few recommendations that could help an individual see past their own distorted ideas of themselves:
Make an appointment to see an addiction specialist. Addiction therapists are trained to help substance abusers come to terms with their problems. They use different techniques to allow the client to gain insight into their situation.
A drink journal can be extremely helpful for alcoholics in denial. They may not even realize how much they are drinking and how it is impacting their life.
Even if the individual is convinced that they are not an addict it may still be beneficial for them to attend recovery fellowship meetings. They are likely to hear things at the meetings that will resonate with them.
Talking to people who have already achieved sobriety can help an addict see beyond their denial. Ex-addicts will understand the mentality of an addict in denial and so will have a better understanding of what to say and how to challenge denial.
If the addict is protected in any way from the consequences of their behavior it can keep them in denial. It is usually the negative consequences of addiction that brings the individual to a ‘rock bottom’.
Reading educational material about addiction and recovery can be highly beneficial at helping people see beyond denial.
David is the Clinical and Development Director of Twin Rivers Rehab in South Africa and a UK Accredited Addictions Therapist with the Federation of Drug and Alcohol Professionals UK. Articles/Blogs are written with the assistance of researchers and other specialists in the field of addiction and the recovery process