Effects of Living in Denial of Addiction
Many addicts fall under the illusion of denial about their substance abuse. There are two different types of denial that addicts fall into: deception and self-deception. Deception is when an addict knows that they have a substance abuse problem but will not admit it to other people. Self-deception is when an addict is totally blind to the fact that they have a problem. They will often use rationalization, justification and excuses for their behavior. These addicts usually believe that they can stop using at any time regardless of what people say or think.
Denial runs deep and often has psychological, spiritual and emotional roots. There are stigmas attached to substance abuse that support the belief that an addict is a homeless, dirty and immoral person. An addict is believed to be someone who is weak-willed and does not possess the strength they need to get well. There are many stigmas that people have accepted to be their truth when defining addiction. Therefore it is highly impossible that someone can have an addiction problem if they have a family, live in a nice house, have a job and are able to pay their bills. These people may be popular and hold high paying jobs or public office. They may be high-functioning addicts who are able to perform well under the influence of substances. Many Hollywood actors and rock musicians would fall under that heading. Because these types of addicts do not fall under the stigmatized heading of addiction, they usually believe that they do not have a substance abuse addiction. That is the problem with stigmatization because the true definition of addiction is: a person who has become dependent on a substance and will experience withdrawal symptoms if they discontinue use. There are many excuses addicts make up to support denial of their addiction.
The truth is that denial must be conquered before any real type of recovery can take place. Forcing a person to go through detox without full compliance of their problem will only result in a relapse. Until an addict can accept the truth of their addiction on an intellectual, psychological, emotional and spiritual level they cannot really fight their demons. You have to recognize the enemy to be able to defeat it.
One psychological premise that an addict in denial holds true is that they are unique and exceptional individuals. They are not like all the other addicts and therefore what applies to others does not apply to them. This type of personal exceptionalism is called “terminal uniqueness” and allows the addict to continue is their substance abuse. This mindset adheres to beliefs such as: “I’ll quit tomorrow,” or “If you had my problems you would drink/drug too.” Even if the addict has stopped using, this mindset is a warning that they will begin using again very soon.
Another level of denial is that an addict does not believe that they need ongoing support once they have completed the first phase of recovery treatment. They will open themself up to all sorts of dangers of relapse if they allow this type of thinking to rule their behavior. They will never attend a support group meeting and they will begin to go their own way, which could be back to their former way of thinking and behaving. This type of denial has to be understood spiritually and not just mentally. The addict has to realize deep within them self that they have an addiction problem and will need continual support. To overcome this type of denial, the addict must place their addiction problem into the hands of a Higher Power. They must come to realize that they do not possess their own sufficient power over addiction. Dependence on a Higher Power and support from their peers is what will keep them on the right track. This type of ongoing support is essential to their sobriety.
Addicts must make a commitment to fully engage in the recovery process or they will not succeed. If they have other agendas that are more important than staying active in their support recovery group, they are in denial. There is nothing more important and vital than staying linked to your source of support, both in a Higher Power and a peer support group. The more inactive an addict is in his recovery shows that he is in denial. He must strive to be fully engaged in the process for the rest of his life. Denial has many faces from complete denial that a problem exists, to denial of needing certain recovery tools or programs. To win the fight against addiction the addict must win the fight against denial.