The Role of Denial in Addiction

For many people, the hardest part of the recovery process is accepting that the illness exists in the first place. Denial is a common characteristic of addiction, but unless the individual can actually admit they have a problem, they are unlikely to make any changes or reach out for help.

This can be incredibly frustrating for family members and friends who can clearly see the effect that drugs or alcohol is having. Denial often results in the addict being unable to see the real cause of the problems in their life. He or she will have a number of other excuses as to why they are behaving in such a way, but the affected person will never blame their substance abuse.

What is Denial?

Denial is often referred to as an unwillingness or inability to accept the truth of a situation. It is frequently practised by those who have been diagnosed with a serious illness or others who have discovered they are pregnant. Individuals with addiction more commonly practice it. Denial is a defence mechanism employed by the brain to protect the person from situations that they are uncomfortable with.

Addicts who are in denial will refuse to accept that there is a problem. Despite what others might think, however, they are not lying or being pig-headed; the reality is that they are just unable to see the truth of their situation and therefore cannot see their substance abuse as being a problem.

The Pros and Cons of Denial

For some people, denial can be a good thing because it can stop them from making impulsive decisions and can allow them time to get used to a situation that could be life-changing. However, for those with an addiction, denial can be a major problem as it is often used as a justification for continuing with their addictive behaviour.

Addicts frequently have very good reasons they should continue with their substance abuse and will blame all their problems on everything but their use of drugs or alcohol. The fact that they are in denial means that they will never see the truth.

Overcoming Denial in Addiction

For many addicts, the only way they will ever get past their denial is by hitting rock bottom. For most people, rock-bottom is the point at which they are no longer able to ignore their situation. Their life has become so bad that they must accept the truth. It is at this point that family and friends often seize the opportunity to encourage their addicted loved one to reach out for help.

If you are frustrated by a loved one who clearly has an addiction but is refusing to accept it, there are several things you could do. Creating a substance abuse journal can be helpful; you can make a note of every time your loved one is under the influence of drugs or alcohol. It is often the case that those who are abusing a chemical substance cannot see the impact their substance abuse is having. Many do not even realise that they are drinking so much or taking drugs so often.

An addiction therapist may also prove useful when it comes to getting an addicted loved one to face up to reality. Professional therapists and counsellors will have experience in dealing with denial among addicts and will have tools and techniques that they can use to force the individual to face up to reality.

For more information on addiction, denial and the recovery process, contact us here at Recovery Lighthouse. We can provide useful and helpful advice for family members and friends who are concerned about a loved one.