Denial of Addiction: An Elephant in the House
By Ned Wicker
During one of his recent sermons, my pastor put up a slide for the congregation to examine. It was a photo of a corporate conference room, with a dozen people seated around a large table. In the room was an elephant.
Nobody was paying any attention to it. Whether intentionally, or unintentionally, no person in the conference room wanted to deal with the fact of the elephant.
For me, this was an excellent way to recognizing “denial of addiction.” Maybe if I ignore it, the elephant will go away. Perhaps if I appease it by offering a few peanuts it will have the good sense to understand my needs and allow me to continue my work.
Nobody else is saying anything about the elephant, they pretend to ignore it. Maybe they don’t see it. In that case, I’ll say nothing. Then again, it may not be there at all if I close my eyes. It could be a baby elephant. That wouldn’t be so bad.
Denial of addiction is a horrible enemy, because it does not allow us to face the problem, look for a solution, or any hope for recovery. A while back a person was trying to convince me that denial was relative.
She insisted that a person who doesn’t see a problem isn’t in denial because they don’t believe there is a problem. If I don’t think it’s a problem then it isn’t a problem, it’s that simple.
No amount of evidence to the contrary makes a bit of difference. If my life is out of control, my relationships are broken, my career is gone and my health is bad as a result of my addiction, and if I am the only person that doesn’t see it, that’s denial. Denial of Addiction isn’t about what the addict believes it is about the reality of what is.
The importance of Step One
Everyone always says they can handle it. They can quit any time they decide to. They’re NOT addicted. They deny the problem. That’s why the first of the 12 Steps starts out by stating, “We admitted…” Step 1 is about ending denial.
I see the elephant in the room, I acknowledge it and I realize that if I don’t remove the elephant in the room, cleaning up the mess will be a major task.
After all, you have to feed the elephant and its droppings are not pleasant. Still, denial is powerful and people will actually choose to live with the elephant rather than admitting its existence.
Denial of addiction stops most personal growth.
Denial steals any opportunity from us. Let’s say your “elephant” is tiny, a new born. By not admitting that the problem of addiction is there, looming, that your control is slipping, that the potential for disaster is looming around the corner, there is not way you’re going to address the issue and find a strategy to deal with it.
Drug/alcohol addictions, like elephants, can grow in to very large problems. Denial is also self-focused and arrogant. I don’t want to believe it, so you’re wrong. You can’t possibly be right, because that would mean that I’m wrong and we can’t have that… ever!
Denial freezes personal growth. Health issues aside, by feeding the elephant instead of our soul, we stagnate as a person. There’s no room for reasoning, for one’s understanding or reaching out to others. There is no room for new opportunities. Denial of addiction and/or alcoholism keeps us trapped in one place, to feed the elephant and limits human potential.
Sometimes one of the people in the room exclaims, “Let’s get rid of the elephant.” Others may agree and say, “Yes, the elephant is getting in the way and we don’t want to deal with it.” However, if the elephant is yours, you say, “Oh no, you’re wrong. You’re being hateful. Stop judging me. GET OFF MY BACK!! You have no right to say there’s an elephant in the room.” If denial takes a strong foothold, they you and your elephant may be asked to leave the room.
Overcoming denial often leads to major restoration of ones life.
It is the starting point of the process, and the beginning of a new and exciting and difficult period of self-discovery and examination. You don’t need the elephant. Nobody else wants the elephant. Get rid of your denial elephant and get back to your place at the conference table.
The death of pop star Michael Jackson not unlike Whitney Houston, set off a media feeding frenzy, round-the-clock updates on cable television and of course coverage of all the entertainment personalities that knew the singer over the years.
There were been tributes and more will come. I appreciate how the tributes centered on his enormous talent and most will just remember that. The legend will live on in the heats and minds of the people, while the man is gone. Talent Lost
I was never a big Michael Jackson fan, but to deny the man’s accomplishment as a singer, song-writer and dancer, is to claim that the Gettysburg Address is just another political stump speech. I joined the many others who mourned his loss, but my thoughts and feelings are not likely shared by many, as they address the tragedy of his life. In the absence of God, we turn to other things to fulfill our desires and take away the pain of life, both physical and emotional.
The past stories run by network television news programs, like 60 Minutes, show a flamboyant Jackson, buying expensive furniture and decorations from his favorite store in Las Vegas. Then of course there was the children’s amusement park and all of the accusation and speculation that surrounded his relationships with children.
Like Whitney, he had his entourage of hangers-on, who were there to provide “support.” There was all this “stuff” in his life, as he kept adding “things” and as the legend and mystery of his life grew, it just got bigger. In the end, according to news reports, there was nothing much left of him, other than a few undigested pills in his stomach. One story says he had a fain pulse when he was found, about all that was left of his humanity.
Everyone wants a pill!
Pills are the answer to everything, and for Jackson pills were an important part of his everyday routine. It doesn’t matter which pills. What matters is that he felt it necessary to take them. I always ask “what hurt” or “what was missing” when I read these kind of stories.
Drugs, sex and rock’n’roll is a LIE!
The myth of “drugs, sex and rock’n’roll” is a lie, a smoke screen to excuse bad behavior and hide the fact that we are all seriously flawed individuals in need of God’s love and compassion. But we turn to drugs, not to God.
We turn to getting high, not to solving problems. We turn to anything but God. Pills give us relief. God desires a relationship, a two-way street approach to life. We want it now. God wants forever. We want what we want.
God controls what He wants us to have. That is why we turn away. There is not necessarily an immediate response to our desires that is in keeping with our accepted solutions to the problem, and we are not necessarily willing to even examine and understand the alternatives to our own thinking.
We know better.
Jackson is just another person in a long list of “larger than life” people that could not find the answer to the basic questions of life. People who are strong in faith are not nearly as likely to resort to drugs for every function of living. Happy people do not die the way Jackson died.
People whose spirit is strong and who know the direction they are taking do not search for such unhealthy approaches. They want relief to get through the day and it doesn’t matter that the treatment is potentially terminal.
Drug use is so empty but denial of addiction is so strong! The emptiness of drug addiction breaks my heart. It’s like the dependence forces people to turn their backs on reality and live in a haze.
It’s kind of funny to me that Rev. Jessie Jackson was there as the family spokesman. I do not have any knowledge of where Rev. Jessie is spiritually, but given his background as a minister, I would hope that he had shared with Michael and his family that which was most important to him.
Even if Michael and Jessie had a long-term relationship, it is apparent that Jessie’s faith in God had little impact on Michael, at least as it related to self-care.
Somewhere along the line, Michael Jackson got lost in the fame of Michael Jackson. Addiction killed the person, but we can rely on the multitudes to always remember the legend.
There will be endless tributes, remembrances, and people who only know the celebrity and the legend will cry endlessly and lament how their lives are forever scarred. What hurt so bad?
Shutting God out!
What was so overwhelming that God was not allowed in this man’s life to bring comfort and healing? The legend does not matter to me, because the legend is not real. The drug and alcohol addiction has caused celebrity deaths in the past and addiction will continue to be the downfall of many to come.
It is the individual torture of the human soul, in both the celebrated and the forgotten, the navigation of the human experience to or away from God, that is the ultimate meaning of life. Denial of addiction is almost always a navigation AWAY from God and what is good.