There are several definitions of denial. The one I hear the most goes like this: "Denial is the subconscious defense mechanism that prevents the user from seeing the reality of what the drug use is doing to their lives." I kind of buy into this definition. Only, I believe that it is not subconscious, at least not at first. Denial starts out being an extremely conscious effort to try to make sense of the abuse, in spite of the over-whelming evidence that things are not going well. After a while, we get so used to that pattern of thinking that the denial does become automatic. We don't have to think, decide, or plan our words or thoughts. It's just the way it is. So, usually, something has to happen to shock us out of the denial. It's like we are unconscious, not subconscious. We need some recovery CPR. Here are some common ways we deny the addiction or defend ourselves:
Simple denial. "No, I don't have a problem."
Minimizing. "Yes, I use. But not that much."
Rationalizing. Trying to make our drug use reasonable. "I need to get my sleep. So, I really need a nightcap." We "had to" or something "made us." "If my wife wouldn't nag me, I would not need to use anything." " I just lost my job. I drink is all that gets me through the day."
Bargaining. "I'll quit using if you quit smoking." "I'll quit when the stress at work quits." Notice, we nearly always make our deals with someone or something that we know is not going to change either. It's a safe bet.
Intellectualizing or Generalizing. This is using theories about addiction but keeping it general and vague. "My family is alcoholic and I have the wrong genes." "I know that I use to cope with the underlying feelings about my bad childhood."
Diversion. Changing the subject. "Yeah, I got high last night, so what's for dinner?" "My dope bothers you? Well, your weight bothers me."
Passivity. Ignoring it or being a victim. "I've tried to quit, but it's stronger than me." "There's nothing I can do."
Hostility. This is scaring or threatening people away from discussing the problem. "Get off my back!"
Continuing the denial doesn't help at all. On the outside, we think we appear to be in control. Even though those around us can see the truth. On the inside, hidden from the view of others is a whole collage of genuine thoughts and emotions. Stuff like guilt, shame, remorse, fear, anger, blame, desperation, loneliness, confusion, anxiety, driven, vulnerable, and out-of-control, to name a few. It is pretty miserable to have all of this going on and have nobody we are willing to be honest and open with.
What we want is to have good judgment, better insights, commonsense, clear reasoning, healthy morals, useful boundaries, and genuine love. Denial keeps us from acquiring any of these.
If you are in treatment, but not really in treatment, how about starting over with a new commitment to genuine recovery. If you are not in treatment, how about giving us a call.
Dr. Candace McDaniel 8021 East R.L. Thornton Fwy, Suite A Dallas, Texas 75228