Denial and Addiction:  The Roadblock to Recovery

Denial and Addiction: The Roadblock to Recovery

Getting a loved one to go to drug and alcohol rehab isn’t always easy.  In fact, it can be very difficult for several reasons.  A person who is abusing substances doesn’t think quite like you might. Their thoughts are clouded by the substance abuse. They deny their addiction and the problems it causes though it’s obvious to everyone else around them.  At times, addicts get to the point where they just don’t care about their lives or the damage they are inflicting upon themselves.  However, they still believe they’re in complete control and think they can stop using substances whenever they want and it’s not an issue of control (or a lack of).  They may even argue that they don’t think their addiction is harming anyone else.  Addicts struggle to see how their behavior is affecting others.  Sometimes it takes an organized intervention to open their eyes to the damage they are causing.  In fact, they view themselves as a victim.  Addicts may think they face more stress than everyone else or that life is out to get them and they wouldn’t be able to cope without drugs or alcohol. 

Denial can play out in a variety of ways during active addiction, such as:

  • Manipulating loved ones by playing the victim card or being a martyr.
  • Accusing loved ones of judging or condemning them for speaking up about their substance use.
  • Denying that they are addicted to drugs or alcohol.
  • Blaming you or others for their problems caused by the substance abuse.
  • Disregarding any harmful or damaging actions loved ones have accused them of.

What’s the damage of ongoing denial?  Well, denial distorts realityDistortion of reality is the addict’s way of ignoring the problem, and the destruction and chaos continue.  Denial causes isolation. Your loved one may be sick and tired of you and others confronting him/her about the substance abuse.  They pull away, isolate, or spend their time with others abusing drugs or alcohol as a way to escape.  Lastly, denial breeds codependent behaviors.  As you keep trying to help them, you begin to develop codependent behaviors not healthy for you or the addict.  Avoid this by disconnecting and letting the addict experience the consequences of their decisions.  It’s difficult and painful, but it may eventually encourage your loved one to seek help.

What can you do that will work?  Organize an interventionMost organized interventions are highly successful in getting a loved one to accept help and enroll in a drug and alcohol treatment program.  There are experienced professionals trained to help you plan and coordinate effective interventions if you look for them.  Educate yourself about pursuing involuntary commitment to treatment.  Some states have laws that will allow a family member or loved one to involuntarily commit their loved one to a drug and alcohol program.  One example is the Florida Marchman Act which allows families to petition the courts for mandatory treatment.  Decide when to let go. This is the most difficult decision for a loved one to make. In some cases, there is nothing more that can be done for a person and he or she must come to accept the addiction on their own. It can be difficult to watch a person struggle, especially when those consequences could be life-threatening, but sometimes this is the only way.