The Many Sides of Denial in Addiction

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Denial is a hallmark symptom of addiction. But unlike the clear-cut signs of a dependency, denial is never black and white. It may rear its ugly head in all addiction cases, but overcoming denial is different for everyone. Not only do addicts work through this refusal of belief at their own pace, but also they experience different types of denial.

It’s not always easy to say for certain that a loved one is denying their addiction. For instance, in the beginning stages of a dependency, some addicts say that they’re just having fun and keeping their behaviors in control. Since their family member wants to believe them, they don’t acknowledge this as a sign of denial.

Types of Denial

While it’s never easy on the family or the addict to recognize denial as a sign of addiction, it’s more destructive to ignore the problem. Let’s discuss the different types of denial that exist.

Avoidance – Deep down, the addict knows there is a problem and that they are hurting themselves and their loved ones. But, they steer clear of admitting this, and they feel that their business is personal and should be left at that. A common reaction is to change the subject when the dependency is brought up in conversation.

Minimizing – Sometimes, the drinking or drugs do get out of hand, but it’s never as bad as other people make them sound, at least to the addict. Instead, the addict minimizes the severity of the addiction and makes it seem smaller than it is.

Blaming – The addict does acknowledge that there is a problem, but it’s not their fault. It’s their spouse’s fault, their parent’s fault, etc. Of course, this is an illusion. The worst part about blaming is that the addict feels that they don’t have to be responsible for quitting.

Rationalizing – Rationalizing is similar to blaming, except instead of putting the problems on another person, the addict rationalizes the addiction. Again, it’s hard to make a rationalizing addict accountable because they feel the rules don’t apply to them.

Comparing – The addict compares themselves to everyone else to show that their problem isn’t any worse. It’s common for the addict to point out other addicts and say how they’re different; maybe they work, have a family or a nice home. But, it’s only a matter of time before the denial catches up.

Manipulating – Manipulation is common with addicts because they want to continue using drugs and alcohol without facing their problems. So, they manipulate those who want to help. The addict will “allow” a loved one to help, and when they fail, they blame that person for their failure and make them feel guilty.

Compliance – Compliance is a bit different from manipulation, but it has the same end goal for the addict. The addict will agree to be helped, but it’s only for show. They want to keep doing what they’re doing, and when they fail, they’ll make excuses for it.

Absolute Denial – This type of denial is flat out refusing a drug addiction. The addict believes it and feels good when others believe it, too. The confidence can also turn someone skeptical into a believer, and this can cause a small amount of guilt in the addict.

How Can I Help My Loved One Acknowledge That They are in Denial?

Denial has many disguises, which is why it’s often the biggest catalyst to treatment. Like other parts of the recovery process, you as the family member cannot make your loved one see that they are in denial. They must come to terms with this on their own so that they can admit that they have a problem and need to change. As you see with denial, some forms have the addict closer to insight than others. But even as some growth is made toward overcoming denial, there are other types of refusal that can occur.

For instance, if the addict agrees to an outpatient program, they may stop using for a short time and believe that they are cured and don’t have to do anything more. Obviously, this is a recipe for relapse, but it’s another face of denial. Or, if withdrawal is too difficult, the addict may return to their old habits and blame the failure on the recovery center.

The best steps you can take is to become educated on the disease, stage an intervention or open meeting and use “I” statements instead of pointing fingers. Just because your loved one ignores you today doesn’t mean that they will tomorrow, and you want to leave that door open. Most importantly, don’t be an enabler. Set boundaries, and if your adult child or spouse can’t follow the rules, ask them to leave. Being an enabler will contribute to further denial and avoidance.

Is your loved one going through denial? Do you need professional advice, support and understanding? Call The River Source at 1-888-687-7332 and let us help.