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What is Denial in Addiction?

jrtempleton - December 7, 2016

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Addiction denial is a stage of the grieving process where, despite clear signs and symptoms, people refuse to believe that they are dependent on drugs or alcohol. Believe it or not, denial actually serves a useful purpose as a coping mechanism that shields us from pain. The problem, however, is that it also prevents us from getting the help we really need.

This is what makes denial in addiction so difficult – not just for the people struggling with the chemical dependency, but also for their friends and families. Loved ones can usually see that there is a problem, but until the addict acknowledges it, there is very little anyone can do to help.

In this post, our goal is to help people who may have a problem with drugs or alcohol understand more about the denial stage and how to move beyond it.

How to Tell if You Are in Denial

Your brain uses denial to protect you from unpleasant feelings. So, the only way to recognize if you are experiencing denial in addiction may be to get out of your own head for a second. This is easier said than done, but here’s a simple exercise that could help: Think back on the last week or month. At any time, can you recall making excuses for your behavior while under the influence? Excuses like, “it was just that one time.” Or, “I didn’t really mean those things I said.” If so, was it an isolated incident or do you see a pattern?

Now ask yourself another question: Have your friends, family or co-workers expressed concern or made comments about your drug use? If you answered yes, did you respond with a negative, defensive or angry reaction? If so, this is could be a classic sign of addiction denial. Remember, denial is a coping mechanism that your brain uses to protect against painful emotions. Comments from your friends could make you feel exposed, vulnerable or under attack.

Overcoming Denial in Addiction

There is no right way to deal with addiction denial. For some, it could take weeks, months or even years. However, that doesn’t mean you must wait around helplessly. Try keeping a journal of all the times you make excuses for your behavior while intoxicated, or of comments from friends and family. If you aren’t ready to accept these as warning signs of addiction denial today, you might be ready in the future. A journal gives you something objective to look back on – free from the tricks your mind could be playing on you.

Footprints Beachside Recovery is Here to Help

At Footprints, we use proven drug and alcohol treatment techniques to create personalized treatment plans for every resident. We offer a variety of addiction rehab options, including 30-, 60-, and 90-day residential programs, as well as an intensive outpatient program for local clients who meet certain criteria.

Ready to take the first step?

Call Footprints Beachside Recovery at 877-954-3908 today.