One of the biggest hurdles to recovering and getting well can be overcoming denial. It can be a coping mechanism, an attempt to protect you from the harsh truth of addiction. Recognizing and addressing denial is a critical step to recovering. Let’s take a closer look at the common types of denial in addiction and explore how you can break through this barrier.
Ways We Are in Denial:
You might find yourself downplaying the seriousness of your addiction. You rationalize your behavior, saying it’s normal or just a temporary phase. You may fail to connect problems happening in your life to your using. Loved ones might do the same, hoping it’s not as bad as it seems.
“I just have some harmless fun on the weekends, it’s not a big deal to let some steam off.”
When you justify, you provide reasons for your substance use, like self-medicating for emotional pain or using substances to socialize. You may tell yourself that you need your substance to function.
“I need to use before going out in public, it relieves my anxiety.”
When you blame, you may start to shift the responsibility to external factors or other people. Stress, friends, or past traumas become the reasons for your substance use. Loved ones might also become the targets of blame, putting additional strain on relationships.
“I went through such an awful divorce, my ex-wife caused me to drink. If I had never met her I would be sober.”
When you rationalize, you construct intricate justifications to convince yourself and others that your addiction isn’t a problem. You often will have delusional thoughts that justify your actions, making it challenging for others to break through to you. When you rationalize your behaviour, you have convinced yourself that your using is okay.
“I like using and it hasn’t caused any problems in my life. If I wanted to quit I could.”
Recognizing and Addressing Denial:
Addiction is perhaps the only disease where one of the symptoms is not believing you have the disease. That’s what makes recognizing and addressing denial so challenging. But it’s a challenge that can be met head-on.
Self-awareness helps us see our denial. It starts with taking a deep, honest look within yourself. Begin by acknowledging that something might be a problem. Reflect on the changes you’ve observed in your behavior, relationships, and overall well-being. Consider the moments when using might have taken a toll on your life, your goals, or your health.
For an exercise: keep a journal. Document your thoughts, feelings, and experiences related to substance use or addictive behaviours. Take note of moments when you’ve felt that inner struggle. By doing this, you’re not just facing the problem, you’re actively working towards understanding it.
Ask others what they see. This can be a tricky one as often those we use with will also be in denial. Make sure you talk to friends, family, and other loved ones. Find the people in your life who you know won’t sugar coat things. They should gently, but firmly, express their concerns, and share how your behavior is affecting them and the relationships you have.
Seeking professional guidance and counseling can help you gain a deeper perspective. These experts can guide you through the process of self-discovery, providing insights into your addiction’s grip and the underlying factors contributing to your denial.
Community support groups can help you connect with others who can help you see past your denial. Some of the best feedback we get can be from those who have walked down our path and have been in our shoes.
Overcoming denial is a battle, but it’s a battle worth fighting for. It begins with self-awareness and extends to the support of your loved ones and the expertise of professionals. With the right tools, you can break through denial’s hold and begin a journey towards recovery.