Denial: Not just a river in Egypt
When dealing with addiction, the first line of defense for an addict is denial. Addicts deny they have a problem long before they seek treatment. This can be frustrating for families as they watch their loved one struggle with alcohol or drug addiction, sometimes for years before they admit there is a problem. They might even go so far as to admit they have a problem but minimize its impact. Remember, denial is very real and the addict may truly be unable to see the harm that substance abuse is causing.
Dealing with denial is challenging and can cause a lot of pain and heartache. So, what is denial and how can we address it?
Webster’s dictionary defines denial as, “a statement saying that something is not true or real.” In psychological terms, denial is a defense mechanism. It’s one of the most common defense mechanisms and is used when people seem unable to face reality or admit an obvious truth. People’s ability to protect themselves can be beneficial, but it can also keep them stuck in unhealthy patterns of behavior. The most important thing to remember is that denial is a normal and natural stage when contemplating any change, addiction or not.
So, what’s next? Someone starts to realize when a change needs to be made and starts to move through denial when the pay offs of their behavior are no longer worth it. Some people call this “rock bottom.” Sometimes just the threat of rock bottom is enough to motivate an addict to take an honest look at their behavior. Presenting evidence or educational material about drug and alcohol addiction is beneficial and can help them see past denial. Asking the addict to keep a drug/drinking journal to document how much and when they use can help open their eyes to the true amount they’re using and its impact. Encouraging them to seek treatment or professional help is important. At Bayshore, our clinical staff is trained in a variety of techniques to help individuals gain insight into their behaviors. Talking to someone who has been successful in recovery may help the addict see the possibilities and instill hope. Lastly, negative consequences, or boundaries, are important. If the addict has been protected from the impact of their behavior, they may see no reason to change. Which is sometimes thought of as enabling. Negative consequences (financial restrictions, inability to see children, for example) may help move them through denial.
Sometimes when rehab is mentioned it’s simply the fear of where they might have to go. Chances are they’re aware of the typical drug treatment centers and the horror stories from them. That’s where our home environment and different attitude makes a difference. Most of the time when someone realizes that they have a choice and you’ve chosen Bayshore Retreat as a choice that you’re willing to support… it will make a difference, not only in the decision for the addicted person, but also in the results.
Ultimately, it’s up to the addict whether they seek treatment and just as importantly, to engage in treatment. Just know that there are things you can do to help. The strategies discussed above will support the shift from denial to realization. Be patient, it’s a process. by Stephanie Aldridge (Bayshore LMHC) Oct. 29, 2014