The first step towards overcoming addiction is probably the hardest by far. The first step is admitting you have a problem, and in so many cases, regardless of how extreme their addiction problem is, or no matter how much they have suffered and shattered the lives of those who love them, addicts will deny they have a problem.
Left unchecked, alcoholism and drug addiction really have only one conclusion, the addict will die. People will literally drink themselves to death, or they will keep using their drug of choice until their body gives up its basic functions.
The disease of addiction is so powerful that the addict’s denial wants to prevent any intercession. It is almost like the disease takes on a life of its own, processing the victim, claiming his/her life for its own. Sensing that something might prevent it from moving forward, it fights back, controlling the addict’s mind, denying any truth, calling reality a liar.
Not all users become addicted
Not everybody who uses becomes and addict. People will take a prescription main medication for legitimate medical purposes, but they may abuse that drug once they discover that they like its effects. Even after using many times a person may not be suffering from any dependence, and they may chose to abuse the drug by crushing and snorting it to get the intense high it may deliver.
That still doesn’t mean they are an addict. But let’s suppose that the person uses the drug for recreation and begins a daily routine. Over time, especially with opiates, a person builds a tolerance to the drug, meaning it takes more and more to get the same high. As the disease progresses there comes a time when it takes over. The person can no longer just stop using. They lose their ability to choose. Addiction denial sets in.
It can certainly sneak up on you!
Addiction sneaks up on people. They don’t see it coming, much like the old example of the frog swimming in a pot of water. You turn on the heat, but the frog is unaware of the impending danger. He swims happily until it’s too late. Addicts do not believe they have a problem and if a problem is discussed, it’s your problem not theirs. It's everyone else's fault, these are the standard phrases of addiction denial.
Long after everyone else knows they have become addicted, or they have been in a pattern of abuse, regardless of the evidence presented, they will deny the issue entirely. It’s human nature.
Can’t make good decisions
The diseased mind cannot make good decisions. The very kind of thinking that got them into trouble to begin with is not going to be of any help in finding the solution. Sometimes it’s necessary to take the bull by the horns and decide for them, which is why some families chose an intervention. They're trying to overcome their loved one's addiction denial.
Family members are most often the ones that are hurt and they need to show the addict beyond any doubt that he/she has caused great pain and suffering. It’s not always dramatic like the ones shown on television, and sometimes they fail, but often an intervention can reach the last remaining piece of personal dignity that prompts the addict to perhaps consider the thoughts and feelings of another person.
Treatment is the BEST option
Treatment is the first and best option. In a good treatment program, one that tends to body, mind and spirit, addicts realize the destruction of their denial. The first of the 12 stapes says,
“We admitted that we were powerless over (substance), that our lives had become unmanageable.”
That powerful statement takes direct aim at denial. Once that hurdle is crossed, the addict can get on with treatment and recovery. However, that isn’t always a guaranteed outcome. Some people who enter into treatment programs, even if they agree that they are addicts, may not agree with the treatment. The denial is a form of control which the addicts use to manipulate their situation.
They may have a desire to get better, but it is going to be on their own terms, which is not hopeful. They get angry with treatment center staff members, pronounce the whole process “useless” and storm out of the building. Denial always wants its own way.
Need plan to deal with addiction denial. Families battling the addiction of a loved one need to understand denial and have a plan for how they are going to deal with it. Organizations like Al-Anon are ideal for families looking for guidance and support, as Al-Anon members understand denial, understand the addiction cycle and have been down the path. It’s an excellent resource for people who don’t know what to do, or where to turn next.
Addiction denial is a terrible encumbrance, but it doesn’t have to win. Families need to be persistent, stick together and have a plan to help the addict get over that first major step in fighting his/her disease.
What is ethical addiction treatment?