A loved one’s addiction can be an ugly thing, a disease taking over their lives and ruining everything they’ve worked to accomplish. What can make this even more painful is if they are in denial about their condition and refuse treatment. How can they not see the disease that’s all too obvious to their friends and family? Admitting addiction or seeking drug alcohol abuse help isn’t something people want to do, so they will do whatever it takes to not do it. Getting them past denial is a delicate and necessary process, but first one has to understand the ways that denial can manifest in an addict.
The simplest form of denial is plain old dishonesty. This type of denial manifests when a person is fully aware that they have a problem with drugs or alcohol but will lie and say they don’t when confronted. A well-planned intervention is generally enough to break through this kind of surface-level denial, as friends and family present the addicted person with their concern and support. More tricky is honest denial, where an addict truly believes they are in control and their drug habit is not a problem. This kind of denial takes many forms and can’t be fixed in an instant, but through a long, difficult process of self-discovery and acceptance.
The first obstacle in this form of denial is getting the addict to admit that they do have a problem with drugs or alcohol. Alternately, they may admit to overusing from time to time but deny that are dependent on a substance. The antidote to this form of denial is education. If a person learns about the brain-altering nature of addiction, and that it is not a choice, but a disease, they will realize that it’s something that they do in fact suffer from. It’s essential that an addict moves beyond this type of denial, not only so that they will realize that they need treatment, but also because they’re unlikely to put in the necessary commitment to health unless they’re fully aware of how tenacious and dangerous the disease of addiction is.
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Even if an addict can accept their disease and decide to work for recovery, denial can still resurface and wreak havoc on their chances of sobriety. Most addicts know that after leaving treatment, they’ll require additional support to keep themselves sober and healthy. They know they aren’t all-powerful and that they can’t fight their disease without support and drug or alcohol abuse help. As a result, they attend meetings or continue outpatient care or aftercare. Denial sets in when an addict thinks this is not a necessary part of recovery. They assume that since they’ve successfully detoxified and had a good experience in rehab, that their addiction is over. By refusing to admit that their addiction needs to be continually treated, even in recovery, they’re setting themselves up for a hugely increased chance of relapse.
The solution to this is, again, education. The recovering addict needs to be made aware that they don’t have all the answers and that they need help in order to stay sober. They also have to understand that they may have to change their lives to remove dangerous, unhealthy influences and habits. Sobriety is a part of recovery, but an addict isn’t recovering just because they’re sober. Their thinking and lifestyle have to change as well. It takes a holistic commitment to health to recover from addiction, and that’s not something someone can manage while in denial.