Denial is Not a River in Egypt: Addiction will convince you that you are not sick
I can quit anytime I want. I don’t need addiction treatment!
Sigmund Freud, considered the father of psychology, suggested that denial is a defense mechanism that a person uses when facing a reality that is uncomfortable. Denial allows a person to continue using substances despite negative consequences and convinces him or her that nothing is wrong. This denial protects one from facing a harsh reality that they are not psychologically prepared to accept. Once in denial, an addict believes control over alcohol and drug abuse is possible and that treatment for addiction is unwarranted.
Ironically, Sigmund Freud used cocaine himself. He reported that it helped him with depression and indigestion, and that it was successful. Research has found that the abuse of cocaine increases depression and destroys your intestines. Freud suffered from denial, focusing on the euphoric effects of cocaine which allowed him to continue using the drug even though it was unhealthy.
Denial and Addiction
Denial is an unconscious and automatic thought process that tells you nothing is wrong and that you don’t need drug rehab. Counselors in addiction treatment centers will often make the statement, “the house is burning down and you are busy straightening pictures,” to describe those who suffer from denial. This describes an addict who is avoiding reality and unknowing exercising denial thinking patterns. Family, friends and co-workers may also suffer from denial. People who are outside of the addict’s core group are better able to see denial patterns. Negative consequences produced by denial and addiction are:
- Loss of relationships
- Loss of employment
- Deteriorated health
- Financial issues
- Legal issues
Addiction causes an addict to look for excuses to explain reasons negative consequences of using. The denial thoughts allow the addict to believe that there is no problem and no need for addiction treatment. The challenge for counselors in substance abuse programs is to expose the denial thought patterns. Counselors use the negative consequences as evidence of addiction to counter the addict’s denial statements that allows him or her to continue using.
Denial Statements by the Addict
Addicts will offset negative consequences with statements explaining why their behavior is ‘not that bad’. Addicts will find believable explanations to continue using alcohol and drugs and minimize the concern of others. The addict’s denial thoughts explaining use are more influential than the negative consequences of using alcohol and drugs. Some denial thought patterns are:
- My alcohol and drug use is my problem, and it doesn’t harm anyone else. I don’t need alcohol treatment.
- I don’t drink in the morning, so I can’t be alcoholic.
- The DUI was not fair. I wasn’t drunk. I don’t need to go to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.
- I only drink beer or wine, none of that hard stuff. I’m not one of those people who need alcohol rehab.
- The doctor prescribes all these drugs, so it must be fine. Drug rehab is not for me.
This underlying denial pattern of thought allows the addict to continue using alcohol and drugs. Denial clouds an addict’s judgment about the need for substance abuse treatment. Unfortunately, the addict is not the only person who may suffer from denial.
In the same way that addiction hurts the addict, it also damages primary relationships as well. Parents, spouses, children, siblings, friends, co-workers are all negatively effected by addiction. For some, it is easier to deny the problem of addiction then face the pain of having a loved one who is an addict.
Denial thought patterns are a contributing factor to the cycle of addiction and breaking those patterns are essential for recovery.
Denial Statements made by Others
Addiction can also impact the non-addict’s thinking. Denial thinking patterns emerge. Excuses are made in an effort to protect the addict from outside consequences, such as losing a job. Denial statements that other’s make on behalf of the addict are:
- He has a lot of stress at work and alcohol helps him relax. That’s why he drinks so much.
- She only drinks on the weekends.
- He isn’t that bad.I know people who drink more than that.
- She never misses a day at work. She doesn’t have a problem.
Other people’s denial can also allow the addict to continue self destructive patterns of using alcohol and drugs. Those who have loved ones suffering from addiction also need education and counseling to stop making excuses for the addict. A comprehensive addiction treatment program will offer additional support for loved ones to break denial patterns and assist the addict in the recovery process.
Breaking Through Denial in Addiction
Denial is an unconscious thought process. Breaking denial is difficult because the addict does not realize that there is a problem. It is often the outside circumstances such as loss of job, legal or financial issues and failure in school that propel a decision for substance abuse treatment. A few suggestive questions to assess the presence of denial are:
- Are you being honest with yourself about alcohol or drug use?
- How often do you put limits on how much you use?
- Examine your circumstance. What role does using substances play?
- How often do friends and/or family voice concern about your substance use?
- Do you become angry or annoyed when other’s talk about your substance use and need for change?
- Do you have legal, financial or relationship issues due to alcohol and/or drug use?
Denial is a barrier for addicts who need help. These powerful thought patterns will convince you that you are not sick. If the questions above make you feel uncomfortable, denial may be present. If you are using alcohol or drugs and unsure if you have a problem you may want to seek the advice of a drug addiction professional or contact a drug treatment center.
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