It is common for addicts to be unable to recognise they have a problem, and be in a constant state of denial. Family, friends and colleagues will try and help them into treatment. Yet, an addict will generally believe that everything is being blown out of proportion. Drug and alcohol abuse has a negative impact on all facets of one’s life: health, work, finances and relationships. An addict will try their hardest to ignore the problems that their addiction causes, as it means having to give up the habit and face reality.

Going through denial does not make an addict a liar, manipulator, or a bad person. Denial is an automatic psychological response to stress, conflict, and pain. It is a defence mechanism that helps people handle stress in the only way they currently know how. Their thoughts are so confused and they are blinded by substance abuse; they cannot distinguish the truth from a lie.

The Stages of Denial

There are multiple stages of denial that an addict will go through before finally admitting they have a problem with addiction.

Stage 1: The addict lessens the reality of their substance abuse problem. They tell people they are using less than they are. They underestimate the seriousness of the problem. Sometimes, the addict may lack accurate information about the disease of addiction and truly believe that their usage does not indicate addiction.
Stage 2: As it gets more difficult to ignore the problem, the addict begins making up excuses or stories to justify their substance use
Stage 3: As the addict’s loved ones and friends become less tolerant of the excuses. The addict becomes angry or defensive, blaming others for their problems rather than accepting personal responsibility. For example, an alcoholic’s marriage is falling apart because of their drinking, but they blame their spouse for all of the couple’s problems.

The stages do not have to be chronological and stage 1 may be revisited after stage 2. Some believe that they can use drugs or alcohol moderately without relapsing. In order to achieve full and lasting recovery an addict will need to enter a 12-step programme in a rehabilitation centre.

The destructiveness

An addict denying their addiction is unhealthy and destructive and it keeps them from living in reality. Denial can last for any amount of time, be it months, years, or even a lifetime. It is important that, as the 12 Steps of AA make clear, an addict acknowledges their powerlessness over their addiction. This is in order to reclaim their ability to lead a healthy, drug-free life.

An addict’s loved ones can help them overcome denial by helping them make the first step to recovery. They can do this by talking honestly to an addict about their problems. Loved ones can also avoid enabling any co-dependent people or behaviours. More active help can be pursued through calling an addiction treatment centre or arranging an intervention.

The mind is a powerful thing, but it can be used for bad when a person is stuck in denial. It can also be used for good, such as when a person commits to recovery, the mind can correct negative thinking. In order to overcome addiction, denial must be eliminated. The addict can enter a long-term rehabilitation programme and regain the life they had before drugs and alcohol took over.

If you or a loved one have a drink or drug related problem, please call 01462 851 414 for confidential help and advice