Addiction Denial Kills!
by Ned Wicker
She was serious. She stated firmly that if a person does not believe they have a problem, then they don’t. There was no objective truth to be disclosed, no differing opinion to be considered and no other belief mattered.
They just don’t get it!
We were talking about denial and more specifically the state of mind that an addict/alcoholic gets into which prevents them from realizing, at any level, that their life is out of control. Everyone around them might believe they have a problem, but they deny any problem exists. In effect, she was telling us all that we get to define our own truth.
She was serious and adamant in her stance. We could not move from that point. We could not even discuss the first of the 12 Steps because there was no problem to “admit” and she shut the door on any possibility of an alternative. Her believe in her own ability to handle her drinking issues, her absolute confidence in her own perception shut the door on the outside world.
Her own alcoholism did not exist, because she said it didn’t. Family and friends all had their concerns. People would say something to her and get a sharp rebuke in return, and when she was fired from her job for not showing up, poor performance and disciplinary problems, she was convinced that the action was unjust. At any level, she just didn’t see.
Step one “We admitted”
That critical first step begins with “We admitted.” It’s so vitally important. When we see the problem and accept the problem, we take the first step towards overcoming the problem. The woman thought that by shutting out the problem, denying it, refusing to give in to it, the problem would somehow melt away and not be an issue.
It reminds me of the boy who was asking a minister about the condition of his father. “Reverend,” the boy said, “my dad is pretty sick.” The minister replied, “No son, he isn’t sick. He just thinks he’s sick.” A few days later the boy saw the minister again and naturally the minister asked how his father was doing. “Oh, he just thinks he’s dead,” the boy answered. A man I know loved to indulge his children. Like many parents, he tried as best he could to protect them, shelter them from harm and tried to help them avoid the calamities of life. But in his effort to smooth their pathways, he failed to see that his children, like other children, were subject to the same pressures and temptations of life.
He instructed them, he encouraged them, but he didn’t necessary believe that they would make foolish mistakes, mainly because he had taught them so well. It’s a kind of denial that other parents have experienced, so when the day comes and the child is caught up in drugs, they express shock and surprise. After all, this kind of thing is not supposed to happen to their children.
Does not mean we love less
Getting over denial does not mean they love their children less. On the contrary, getting over denial is getting over their own limitations and facing their children’s problems. That kind of denial is just pride and arrogance. His daughter, now an adult, has been charged in connection with a drug overdose death.
She has been heavily involved with drugs for over 10 years, but she insists she did nothing wrong. He believes the authorities have framed his daughter. Denial is a key component in perpetuating addiction. The addict/alcoholic never has a problem, never needs treatment and anyone who says anything to the contrary is wrong. The addict does not want to quit, even though the disease has progressed to the point where they no longer enjoy their drug of choice. The drug owns them.
Addiction often total controls us
C.S. Lewis wrote a booked called “The Great Divorce,” which is about a man who got on a bus to go to heaven. There is a wonderful section of the book about another man who has a red animal on his shoulder. The animal controls every aspect of his life. The animal does not care for the man, other than to use him as a parasite uses an unwilling host. At the end of the story, the man ends his denial, faces the problem and overcomes. The little animal turns into a horse and the man gets on and rides away.
When addicts and their families stop the denial and seriously pursue treatment and recovery, they can like the man in Lewis’ story, be the one in charge and ride the horse, rather than be subject to the misery and limitation of addiction.
She does function
This woman who was in denial, to the point of saying that denial did not even exist, continues to suffer. Her problems are the fault of the world around her. She’s one of those folks who can never accept or give love. Her life stinks and it’s your fault.
Her behavior is not erratic and she doesn’t howl at the moon. She seems to function in society, but she suffers. If you speak to her, you see quickly that something isn’t quite right, so people just leave her alone.
It’s very sad and no matter how angry and disagreeable she becomes, the underlying sadness of her life is so apparent that it’s difficult to become angry with her. Denial has grabbed hold of her and won’t let go. Her alcoholism is progressing. It owns her. She is powerless to stop it, mainly because he denies it.