Denial is part of the problem in addiction. The alcoholic or addict fails to see the prevalence and extent of his addiction, therefore resists or avoids treatment

Denial can be frustrating for those close to the addict. They can clearly see how he is messing up his life, but he or she doesn’t seem to accept the facts.

If you don’t have a problem, why would you accept a solution?

Denial needs to be broken for recovery

It is important that denial is broken, before any meaningful recovery can occur. Denial management is a science, very often it is an ‘art’. Addiction counselling, unlike other types of counselling, involves talking to an individual who is not ready to accept the basic problem and will employ subtle means to divert or deflect the therapy.

Sometimes, the addict may be openly defiant and pointedly dishonest. He or she will try every method under the sun to accept the reality.

Understanding denial and its management are critical for initial treatment of alcoholism or drug addiction.

Denial is human

Denial is part of human nature. It is a self-defence mechanism, helping us deal with significant pain. Denial makes us human. It helps us cope with pain. It may be triggered during particularly painful situations, such as loss of a loved one or end of a relationship. Individuals use denial to cope with ongoing stresses in life.

An addict or alcoholic would like to minimize the pain associated with his addictive behaviour – avoiding to feel the embarrassment, shame and guilt caused by his poor or unlucky choices. He or should would try and dissociate oneself from such situations by minimizing, blaming or justifying his or her role in the situations.

An addict would not be comfortable with the labels – “addict”/ “alcoholic”/ “boozer”/ “junkie” and so on. Therefore he or she would try and project a non-addictive personality.

The only way an addict can continue his or her use of substances is to rigorously apply denial. In the addict’s perception, use of alcohol and drugs is critical for continued well-being. Thus, an addict will employ a wide range of denial forms to hide and defend is addiction. He or she may absolutely any abuse of substances whatsoever. When this becomes difficult, he or she will minimize the severity of the problem; they will hide, lie about, cheat or cover up their addictive behaviour. Soon they begin to actually believe their own lies and slip into strong denial.

Admitting the problem is first step in recovery

Therefore, for an addict or alcoholic to just admit that they might have a problem is a huge first step toward recovery. But this is just the beginning of recovery.

The only way that people suffering from substance abuse or alcohol problems can continue to actively use is through the rigorous application of denial, which is the true face of this condition. Everything about the disease of addiction is fraught with denial: addicts and alcoholics hide the existence of their problem, lie about the severity of it, steal, cheat and lie to cover it all up and lie to themselves about what the problem is really doing to their life. This is why admitting there is a significant problem and taking the first steps to get help is such a colossal achievement, but this is only the very beginning of denial management.

Denial management is an ‘art’

Addiction therapists employ a range of strategies for denial management. This may include individual counselling, group therapies and family interventions. The effectiveness of denial management is critical for ongoing addiction treatment and forms the basis for relapse prevention planning.

False projections can be immensely stressful. Acceptance of one’s real situation is rewarded by huge relief of stress. It can be done with the help of skilful counsellors who have learnt through to experience how to gently, yet effectively, penetrate the barriers of denial an addict builds around himself.

At Hope Trust rehab (est. 2002), denial management has been fine tuned to an ‘art’. The strategies involve family education and interventions. Individual counselling helps the addict separate the denial from reality. The therapists are skilled and experienced in denial management. This is done in residential, outpatient or online settings.

Once an addict or alcoholic accepts their problem, he or she is ready to take the solution!