Drug Addiction Denial: The Elephant in the Room
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, the elephant in the room was a good visual for recognizing “denial.” 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. 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 is a brutal enemy, because it doesn’t allow us to confront the problem, find a solution, or give us any hope of recovery. A while back a woman 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. No amount of evidence makes any difference. If my life is out of control, my relationships are broken or damaged, my job is gone and I am having health problems as a result of my drug use, and if I am the only person that doesn’t see it, that’s denial. Drug Addiction Denial isn’t subjective, it’s objective.
People always think they can handle it. They can quit any time. They will not become addicted. They deny the problem. That’s why the first of the 12 Steps starts out by stating, “We admitted…” Step 1 is about getting over 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 robs us of opportunity. Let’s say your “elephant” is tiny, a new born. By not admitting that the problem is there, 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. Addictions, like elephants, can grow in to very large problems. Denial is also myopic and arrogant. I don’t see 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.
Denial stunts personal growth. Health issues aside, by feeding the elephant instead of our soul, we stagnate as a person. There is no room for reason, for stretching one’s understanding or reaching out to others. There is no room for development. Addiction 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. 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 leads to restoration. It is the beginning of the process, and the beginning of a new and exciting 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.For more about drug addiction denial please visit our home page.
How can I help my addict at home?
My husband is an Adderall and pain pill addict, who regularly shoots the meds up. I want to know how can I help him become clean at home?
He doesn't want to go to rehab and says he has a strong will to get clean and believes he can do it on his own at home. I want to be there for him and do everything I can to insure he has the best possible chance of achieving this.
What can I do?
Are there any suggestions of making quitting cold turkey a little easier for him?
Learn and Help
by: Ned Wicker
This is going to sound harsh, but the situation you are in is not easy and getting help for your husband is no small task.
Your husband says he can to this on his own. He’s shooting up drugs and he’s got the will to get clean by himself. Don’t believe him. He may think he is in control, but the drugs are in control and as much as he may promise you that he’s going to get better, he isn’t.
Substance Use Disorder is a brain disease, which takes over the reasoning, controls the behavior and eventually, left unchecked, will leave nothing behind. Your husband needs treatment.
You can’t do this alone. You and your husband can’t do this alone. I recommend a call to Al-anon to get some help and support. They are in virtually every community or near by. The organization is designed to help people just like you, people who are living with an addict and want to know how to help.
You don’t want to be an enabler, who just lives with it in hopes of the disease going away on it’s own, or who is afraid of losing her husband if she demands that he get treatment. Think of it this way, if you want to be married to him and desire to grow old together, you had better accept the fact that you might be in for a fight for his life.
He may deny having a problem, or say he’ll quit on his own. He may get angry with you if you push his buttons, but you have to be willing to be taught and learn what you can do to help, not just stand on the sidelines.
In addition to Al-anon, you can have a talk with a local treatment center to see what your options are. You can gather with the rest of the family and explain that your husband is in trouble, that he has a disease and everybody can be a party to the solution.
Make the call. They can help.