Denial is universal. It is a coping mechanism to deal with uncomfortable issues and everyday people tell themselves small half-truths and shape their version of reality in a way that suits them better.
When it comes to alcohol addiction or drug addiction – denial is a serious matter. People with addictions can suffer from mental health disorders and dangerous health conditions that need to be dealt with. For those who struggle with addiction, it can be the major roadblock that stops them from accepting treatment.
But addiction does not only affect the addict. People that live with or know addicts must put up with a person’s denial for a long time and it can be hard to stick by them. People struggling in this situation often do not know what to do or where to turn. Knowing what denial looks like and how to start a conversation around treatment are key parts of getting an addict into recovery.
What Does Addiction Denial Look Like?
When dealing with a family member or friend who may have a substance abuse problem, it is wise to be sure you know what the problem is. Addicts in full denial can react badly if they feel they are being unfairly confronted or picked on. On the other hand, the person may be more aware of their problem than they have been letting on and you could unknowingly dent the recovery process and possible rehabilitation.
Here are some clear indications of what addiction denial looks like.
Minimising the situation
When approached, an addict may say that you are making a big thing over nothing. They will couple this with downplaying the number of drugs they take or alcohol they consume. An addict may turn it around on you and say that if they seek treatment then it will make the situation worse.
I’m in control
An addict will try to convince you that they have a handle on the situation and can stop anytime they want to. In this situation, that person is unable to see that they cannot stop themselves and have lost control of the situation. People turn to drugs and alcohol to reclaim a sense of control and do not realise that they have lost it until it is too late.
There have been no major consequences
An addict that is still financially secure still has a job and has not yet ruined any relationships won’t see their addiction as a problem. Some people need to experience consequences to fully comprehend the severity of their addiction. Only then might they consider going into drug rehab or alcohol rehab.
Many addicts insist that the effects of detoxification are as bad as the addiction, and this stops them from getting help. Whilst alcohol detox and drug detox can be distressing – when completed in a treatment centre and supervised by medical professionals, it is something that can be overcome.
How to Talk to an Addict in Denial
Denial is not an impervious shield. With consideration and care, every addict doesn’t have to hit rock bottom to want change. Through mindful communication and honesty, family and friends can talk to a person out of denial and into accepting their drug and alcohol addiction.
It’s important to ask the addict about their experience and fears, allowing them to express their opinion. In turn, you can explain your feelings and fears about their addiction. If you are supportive and show you are open to helping and want to stick by them, then they are more likely to see things clearer. When talking to someone in denial, you shouldn’t treat it like an intervention (unless it is one) – instead view it as the beginning of honest continuing dialogue.
Remember though, talking honestly is not a substitute for professional medical help if that is what is needed. But it can be a good start.
Dos and Don’ts When Talking to an Addict in Denial
Talking to an addict in denial can be a bit of a minefield and you may be worried about losing trust and an addict’s love. There are some dos and don’ts for when you are dealing with a loved one who has an addiction.
Educate yourself – arming yourself with knowledge about addiction and addicts will help you better understand what your loved one is going through.
Be compassionate – addicts usually are harmful to themselves and experience isolation and disgust from people. It is a tough thing to live with and showing that you are kind and want to help will make them more receptive.
Listen – this is a big one. Hear their side, hear what they say and take it in. Addiction doesn’t form in a vacuum and they may feel like no one is willing to hear what they have to say. This will help you understand them better.
Continue to enable – there’s a difference between comprising and enabling. Setting boundaries and laying down what you won’t accept could be the jolt they need. Call it tough love, but you cannot be willing to bend to their behaviour anymore if they won’t change.
Make it a confrontation – if it feels like an attack, they will most likely leave or clam up. Trying to remove anger and negative emotions from talks will help everyone.
Talking when they are under the influence – this does no one any good. They will say things and make promises they might not keep when sober. The reality of addiction needs to be faced in the stark reality of sobriety.
How to Help Someone in Denial Get Help
One productive conversation does not mean you’ve succeeded in turning around denial. However, a willingness by your loved one to accept some responsibility and be open to solutions is a clear sign that recovery is a real possibility.
Attending family therapy is also a further step. Sessions like these allow you to discuss issues in a neutral environment with a professional who can offer advice on diagnosis or treatment.
In some cases, professional intervention may be needed. This may seem extreme but interventions are a very successful way of getting people to begin treatment.
Interventions can be one-on-one, family interventions or with a larger contingent of friends and even work colleagues. Guided by a professional interventionist, people can share their experiences around the addiction so that the addict can see the consequences of their behaviour.
For the most effective intervention, it should be planned to avoid going off the rails. Interventions should be based around care and compassion rather than people attempting to assert dominance or hurt one another. It is vital to stay on topic about the addiction and not to bring other personal things into the situation.
If the intervention is prepared by a treatment provider, then admissions into a facility can quickly follow.
Get Help Today
If you are living with an addict and need advice or guidance then try calling Rehab Clinics Group 0800 470 0382 or text HELP to 83222. Our team is on hand 24/7 to help you in any way you need. We are industry leaders in providing residential addiction treatment and can help you help someone you love.