Dangers of Denial in Addiction Treatment

“I do not have a drinking problem; it was just that one time I lost control!”

“Smoking up makes me a better person, but I don’t have a problem!”

“Maybe you have a problem and are insecure about yourself, no wonder you are projecting it on me! You go get help!”

“I drink because of you, you stress me out and it makes me want to drink more!”

These are common statements one hears from any addict or alcoholic. Have you wondered why? The therapy team at Hope Trust rehabilitation centre for addiction treatment first focus on these aspects of every client. Non acceptance and non-admittance of one’s disease is the first block to an individual’s recovery.

Breaking this denial is what we need to work on. This is one of the strongest barriers for every alcoholic/addict. Learning to overcome denial and dealing with the fears associated with it, is what any addict should focus on.

Behind every denial there is a fear one has to address. But, to do so, identifying the traits and shortcomings associated with every fear is highly essential. In every individual counselling and group therapy session with the counsellors, the addict learns how to overcome these fears and enhance himself positively.

To identify an addict’s type of denial is paramount for any de-addiction therapy process.

Here are a few typical denial symptoms:

  • “Yes, I do drink, but it’s not so bad”- MINIMISING

Minimising the amount of damage the addiction has done to your body, mind, relationships, etc.

  • “My wife does not understand me; she is the reason for my drinking!”- BLAMING

Blaming the cause of your disease, shortcomings and negativity on external factors.

  • “My job is full of stress, which is why I reach for my bottle to de-stress!”- RATIONALISING

Reasoning out logical reasons according to the addict to drink or use drugs.

  • “I am a doctor and I know what it means to be an alcoholic!”- INTELECTUALISING

Using too much knowledge to validate your thoughts for using.

  • P- Don’t you think you drink too much buddy? A- So how is your work going?? DIVERTING

Shifting from an uncomfortable topic to avoid conflict and being confronted with the reality.

  • P: “You should really consider going low on the drinking”.
  • A: “Mind your own God damn business man!!!! Get the hell out of my face!!!”.

HOSTILITY- When the topic is broached the alcoholic wards off with anger.

SILENCE- In the case of provocation, the alcoholic gets compliant and withdraws.

These are some of the faces of an alcoholic’s or addict’s denial.

How does a break through happen?

Breaking through the denial is the first step to recovery.

An intervention session is often done with the alcoholic’s family. By strictly being only the listener the alcoholic is made to notice the different areas his denial has affected him and his family. The family is made to communicate the way they feel and by understanding the family’s feelings and thoughts and by gauging their affected life due to the addiction can help the addict realise the unmanageability of his drinking or using. He can identify the areas of loss of control and can finally come to terms with the degree of damage he has caused to the family and himself.

Addiction can affect an individual’s personality and not just his/her physical state. An alcoholic might have deteriorated physically by acquiring various ailments due to his drinking; in addition to this, his mental, social and spiritual state is also affected. Being addicted to a substance is not just a disease that has affected an individual but also disease that affects the family. A family suffers through the disease along with the client and can get highly co-dependent which impairs their daily functioning. The family is empowered by the therapists and a structured session should be helpful in breaking through the denial of the affected person.

When an alcoholic’s denial is not broken he can contribute to widen the bridge between him and his recovery. Unresolved conflicts will continue brewing and can permanently damage relationships.

Surrendering to the program and being giving due importance honesty and addict can take the first steps to being sober. Accepting mistakes, accepting the unmanageability and the loss of control with his using and learning to “let go” can help him think in accord to the recovery and can strive to be healthy and sober. Having the willingness to change and by being able to prioritise recovery first can bring in positivity and recovery to every alcoholic.

Pooja Rajkumar

Therapist, Hope Trust