Addiction and the Power of Denial

Treating Addiction Denial | How to Confront an Addict in Denial

Addiction and the Power of Denial

Denial often plays a central role in addiction, and it can be instrumental in addicts persisting with alcohol abuse or substance abuse despite disastrous consequences.

In the first stage of recovery from addiction, denial routinely comes up as an early obstacle preventing awareness and acknowledgment of the problem. Clearly, someone who does not admit that a problem exists will not be in a position to solve that problem, even with the help of a treatment program Renaissance Recovery’s Southern California recovery center.

Now, before we explore some of the most frequently exhibited signs of denial during recovery, let’s get started with a quick definition.

What Is Denial of Addiction?

Denial in its broader sense is a refusal to concede the truth alongside an inclination to distort reality.

When the word denial is used in a psychological setting, the state of denial serves as a defense mechanism for the person struggling with addiction. Someone affected by denial routinely rejects any element of reality that doesn’t neatly align with their worldview. This skewing of reality takes place subconsciously.

Although most people engage in denial about things that make them feel uncomfy, denial takes on a more rigid and extreme form in addicts.

What this means is that someone who is clearly dependent on alcohol or drugs claiming otherwise doesn’t necessarily mean they’re lying. Often, it’s not a case of your loved one blatantly refusing to face black and white facts. Instead, they might be behaving a subconscious psychological strategy.

If you believe your loved one is addicted to alcohol or drugs but they won’t accept this, take a step back before accusing them of lying.

Now, as an all-purpose defense mechanism, denial is not without merit. Sometimes, for someone who needs to make sweeping, demanding changes, the state of denial serves to allow some time for adjustment. Also, denial can effectively help people to sidestep rash decisions.

Unfortunately, when someone is bogged down with addiction, denial simply prolongs the suffering and renders it impossible to kickstart meaningful recovery.

Now you have a clear overview of what denial is, broadly, and within a psychological setting, we’ll explore some of the common signs of denial you might witness in someone addicted to drink or drugs. Before that, though, how might you establish that your loved one has an addiction and needs treatment?

Signs of Addiction

The markers of addiction will vary significantly from person to person.

Here are some general signs that often point toward drinking or drug use turning into abuse or addiction:

  • Refusal to stop drinking or using drugs despite serious health consequences
  • Inability to stop drinking or taking drugs. Sometimes, there will be unsuccessful attempts to discontinue use
  • Loss of interest in normal activities and hobbies. When casual drug use becomes dependence and addiction, it’s normal for addicts to start socializing with drug buddies in place of their existing friends. Also watch out for your loved one avoiding situations where no drink or drugs are available
  • Suspicion your loved one is lying. Here is where denial is potentially at work
  • Financial difficulties often indicate a problem with drink or drugs that’s spiraling control
  • Manifesting withdrawal symptoms, physical or psychological, suggests addiction has taken hold already. From moodiness and carvings to resentment, insomnia, and depression, keep an eye out for these changes in your loved one
  • Discovering a stash of drink or drugs suggests your loved one understands they have a problem, but they are not ready to deal with it. Again, denial is coming to the fore

So, now you have an idea of some of the common signifiers of addiction, how can you establish when denial enters the fray? For an individual struggling with the early stages of addiction, sometimes even the concept of recovery is too much for them to take on.

The easiest thing is to put off thinking about detox until the next day. This form of procrastination is rooted in subconscious denial.

Now, you may see your loved one demonstrably impacted by addiction to drink or drugs, but they might not see it that way. Think of denial as a subconscious mechanism and you can better understand if your addicted love one denies point-blank that they have a problem.

If it’s you struggling with an addiction to drink or drugs, accepting that you are in a state of denial is a crucial touchstone on the path to embracing a sober life.

Next, we’ll highlight some of the most common signs of denial exhibited by addicts.

Stages Of Addiction Denial

  • Accusatory attitude: If you confront a loved one about a suspected addiction to drink or drugs, they may condemn or judge you in an attempt to deflect attention from the issue at hand. This is a common by-product of denial
  • Blaming others: Addicts in denial will often attach blame to others for the damage that’s been wreaked by their excessive drinking or drug abuse
  • Manipulative tactics: Some addicts will play the martyr while others might style themselves as the victim of circumstance. If you start noticing your loved one using manipulative tactics, they could be exhibiting signs of denial
  • Justifying behavior: Have you ever heard your loved one tell you they could stop any time they needed to, but they don’t want to because they are in control? The thing is, actions speak louder than words. If your loved one is clearly suffering from an addiction to drink or drugs yet still justifying their behavior, this is ly denial at work
  • Disregard for harm caused to others: A classic marker of denial is the total and uncharacteristic disregard for the harm being caused to others by the addiction
  • Bracketing reality: Look out for your loved one capitalizing on days when they are too sick to drink or use drugs and using this as evidence of their supposed control over their addiction. Ask them why they were so sick that they were unable to consume alcohol in the first place. Was it because they were binge drinking?
  • Outright denial: If your loved one is point-blank denying that a problem exists despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, this is an unequivocal sign of denial

If you have a loved one struggling with dependence on drink or drugs, do you see any of the above signs in them?

More importantly, what can you do to help them, or to help yourself?

How to Confront an Addict in Denial

Trying to initiate a conversation about addiction is not straightforward. It requires delicacy, finesse, and patience.

Never under any circumstances attempt to start this dialogue when your loved one is drunk or high. All you’re ly to achieve is creating a hostile and unproductive atmosphere with a strong chance of being confronted with outright denial.

You shouldn’t try to overanalyze what you’re going to say. Your core goal should be to express your concern honestly and lovingly. There is no single right thing to say, you just need to get this message of concern and support across.

One tactic that can often yield dividends is to approach your loved one in the aftermath of an incident they deeply regret.

Whether they’re feeling remorseful for shouting at you once again, or licking their wounds having lost their wallet yet again, take advantage of this.

You shouldn’t be worried about using tactics this that you might consider underhand. The end result is all that counts.

It can sometimes help to involve a third party who understands addiction and recovery.

Do not attempt this if your loved one is liable to feel they’re being ganged up on. You would only be confronted with more denial in this case.

Now, addiction is understood today as a disease. Denial is a symptom of that disease. Your loved one may be behaving badly, but that doesn’t make them a bad person. Blaming them and criticizing them will do nothing to improve the situation even if you feel better for a few minutes. You’ll ly make your loved one feel guilty, which might make them dive further into denial.

Once you’re speaking with your loved one frankly, be specific. Don’t tell them they’re drinking too much. Tell them instead of how terrified you were when they drove to the bar even though they were already drunk, how you were tempted to call the police but didn’t want them getting into trouble.

You should explain how your loved one’s drug use or drinking is impacting:

  • Family
  • Health
  • Leisure activities
  • Career
  • Relationships

As you outline to your loved one how their drinking or drug use is affecting the people and things they most care about, watch how they react.

With this initial dialogue, you should be hoping to sow the initial seed of recovery. That seed is ly to need some time to germinate. Immediate resolution is improbable. You should also not be surprised if you find your loved one still in denial of their addiction. Remember, denial is a symptom of addiction.

Make sure that lines of communication remain open at all times once you have told your loved one what you want them to hear.

Now, having determined that your loved one is in denial, how about some viable strategies to move beyond this barrier to treatment and recovery?

How to Help Addicts in Denial

The inbuilt flaw of addiction denial is that, since it’s a subconscious mechanism, the person doesn’t know what they are doing.

This doesn’t mean there are no solutions for overcoming this obstacle blocking the path to sobriety, though.

Many of these methods will be poorly received, and they won’t all work for everyone. See which of the following might be fruitful for dealing with denial of addiction in your loved one.

  1. Speaking with others in recovery
  2. Speaking with a therapist
  3. Journaling
  4. Attending recovery meetings
  5. Stop insulating your loved one from the negative consequences of addiction

1) Speaking with others in recovery

Do you have friends and family who have successfully recovered from addiction? If so, asking them to speak with your loved one might be beneficial. There’s every chance your addicted loved one will feel some common ground with someone who has personally experienced what they are going through.

2) Speaking with a therapist

You should never attempt to make an appointment for your loved one to see an addiction therapist without their consent. The more you try to force an issue this, the more resistance you are ly to meet from someone in denial of their addiction.

Instead, start throwing the idea into the conversation and assess your loved one’s response. If they seem amenable, you can schedule an appointment with ease and help them on their way to recovery. If they seem resistant, backpedal and try again later.

3) Journaling

Often, someone in denial of their addiction may genuinely not realize the extent to which they are drinking or using drugs.

If you encourage them to keep a private and honest journal documenting how much they drink or use drugs, this is a crucial first step to helping them better understand the extent of the problem. Once they start seeing their intake itemized in their own handwriting, this can often illuminate a drinking problem or a drug problem.

4) Attending recovery meetings

Maybe your loved one is convinced they don’t have an addiction to drink or drugs. Perhaps they don’t have any intention of getting sober.

In either case, attending just a single 12-step meeting AA or NA might be an instructive experience.

5) Stop insulating your loved one from the negative consequences of addiction

Now, we understand it’s tempting and natural to be protective of your loved ones as they are struggling with addiction. The truth is, if you enable this behavior, you’re simply perpetuating a vicious cycle.

You should stop furnishing them with money if you believe they’re using it to buy alcohol or drugs.

Stop making excuses for them, and remove the safety net they have been relying on to continue drinking to excess or using drugs.

Not all of these strategies will work in all situations. The best approach is to explore some of the above ideas casually with your loved one without using any kind of pressure at all. You can then test the waters and assess which approaches might be worth pursuing.

Helping Someone in Denial of Addiction to Recover

When you look at a loved one exhibiting outward signs of denial, this doesn’t mean they haven’t already thought about getting help for their addiction.

What can you do, then, to make this happen?

Well, you should take full advantage of the power of words. Impress upon your loved one how much you love them and how concerned you are. Emphasize the extent to which you’ll support them during the ongoing process of recovery.

Give your loved one relevant contact details for recovery meetings, therapists, and any other appropriate medical professionals. Do this with no strings or pressure attached.

You could also put them in touch with an Orange County drug rehab  Renaissance where they can follow a structured inpatient or outpatient program following medical detox.

If you need any further information on how to help addicts in denial, call our friendly team today at 866.330.9449 and your loved one will be in safe hands.


The Power Of Denial In Addiction

Addiction and the Power of Denial

Asking a family member or friend to enter drug and alcohol rehab is not an easy task. Many people are not ready to admit when they have a problem, let alone spend one to three months in a rehab facility. Denial is one of the strongest barriers to treatment that keeps people from getting the help they need.

According to research from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, most people who need treatment for addiction will not receive it.

About 1 in 8 people end up getting the kind of clinical help they need to overcome addiction.

Statistically, the primary reason that the vast majority of people (94%) do not seek treatment for substance abuse issues is that most people don’t think they need treatment.

As the loved one of an addict, it may be difficult to entirely understand things from their perspective. While the problems may seem painfully apparent on the outside, they may be willfully ignored by those who are causing them. Unfortunately, drugs and alcohol can inure us to the pain and suffering around us, clouding our judgement and interfering with our ability to think clearly.

Signs of Denial

Trauma and mood disorders may also play a role, as co-occurring disorders are not uncommon among substance abusers. An individual struggling with substance use disorders may hold certain beliefs about their condition. For example:

Not Caring

Many people struggling with addiction have reached the point where no longer care about getting sober. They have relegated all other priorities in their life underneath getting high and do not care about the damage they are causing to themselves or others.

Mistaken Belief in Control

They may also falsely believe that they are still in control. Some people believe that no matter how bad it has gotten, they can still quit if they want to. This is true for a very small minority of people. The truth is that many have lost control and need help.

No Harm No Foul

They could also believe that their addiction is not harming anyone else.

After all, if they are the only ones shooting up, getting drunk, and facing the consequences, why should anyone else be concerned? The truth is that many people struggling with addiction do not see how their actions affect the people around them. Sometimes it takes an intervention to help them see the damage they are causing.

False Victim-hood

Some people may also view themselves as victims. In this case, they are apt to think they have to use drugs because the environment around them is too hard to cope without it. They may think the stress of life is unreasonable without drugs and alcohol. They may think the world is out to get them.

Regardless of the exact reasons that someone becomes addicted, odds are that they are not fully aware of how much danger they are in. Either that, or they are unwilling to face it. No matter how you cut it, the outcome is the same: Denial.

They deny that they need help because they are denying that there is a problem with their situation. Overcoming this roadblock is often the hardest step in recovery.

Denial about addiction can cause someone to rationalize any number of bad behaviors, such as:

  • Manipulating loves ones
  • Accusing loved ones of being selfish
  • Denying addiction
  • Blaming loved ones for their problems
  • Disregarding harmful and damaging actions

Any of the above behaviors can be caused by denial. If your loved one displays any of these behaviors, they may be in denial about their addiction. Letting this behavior continue could lead to even worse consequences down the road.

What Denial Does to People

Denial causes continued destruction to the ones affected by addiction. To be in denial is often blatantly obvious to loved ones or friends of an addict, but can also be not so clear to the person addicted to drugs or alcohol.

There are three several signs of denial, and it’s important to know what they are so that you can help your loved one acknowledge that a problem exists, take the first step to overcoming addiction, and stay motivated to a maintain a sober lifestyle long-term.

The Ongoing Damage of Denial

Continual denial of addiction is something that will get worse with time. It may even continue into the first few days and even weeks of treatment. Examining your own bullshit can be the most difficult part about recovery, but it’s pulling out a bullet. It’s better to do it sooner before it festers and gets worse.

The Distortion of Denial

When a person continually denies the reality of their addiction, they try to get their loved ones to also buy into their bullshit. This may lead friends and family members to buy into the false perception of the situation or doubt themselves. This distortion of reality stems from the addict’s own warped understanding and outlook. As a result, destruction and chaos continue.

The Isolation of Denial

Someone struggling with addiction gradually becomes more and more withdrawn into their own black hole of addiction. They could be sick and tired of dealing with others or with being confronted about their addiction, so they begin to pull away and seek isolation. They may choose to only spend time with other people who abuse drugs they do in order to escape the shame.

Denial and Codependency

As you try to help your loved one to see the reality of the situation, you yourself may start to notice codependent behaviors that are unhealthy and harmful. Codependents may often feel they are never good enough and compare themselves to others.

Sometimes this is disguised as narcissism and thinking extremely highly of oneself while genuinely feeling unlovable beneath the surface. Codependents will feel sensations of guilt and perfectionism.

They find that perfectionism is one of the only ways they can feel good about themselves, even if it is only momentary. Here are common signs of codependency:

  • Low Self Esteem
  • Poor Boundaries
  • People Pleasing
  • Reactive
  • Care taking
  • Controlling
  • Poor Communication
  • Obsessions
  • Dependency
  • Denial
  • Intimacy Issues

The best way to push back against codependent behaviors is to disconnect entirely and let your loved one experience the consequences of their decisions. While this may feel difficult and painful, it is often the only way for someone to experience reality and finally seek out the help that they need.

Helping Someone Who is in Denial

So with all this information about what denial manifests as, you’re probably wondering how you are supposed to help your loved one when there is a problem. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed in the face of all this, but there are several practical ways you can bring positive change to you and your loved one’s life.

Organize an Intervention

People suffering from addiction often have trouble coming to terms with the reality of their affliction. Many do not accept that they are affected by a mental disease. Even more refuse to acknowledge the severity of the problems that their dependence on substances creates.

An intervention is a tried and true method for friends and families of addicts to encourage a loved one to seek treatment. An intervention is a carefully planned process by which friends and family of an addict may confront that person about their addiction.

It involves meeting at a pre-arranged date and time and most often is done without letting the addict know until the moment it begins. Friends and family are then encouraged to express their feelings and concerns towards the afflicted person’s condition in a positive and structured manner.

The most successful forms of intervention usually involve a large amount of forethought and careful planning towards structure, what people plan to say, and the next steps following the intervention.

Court-Ordered Treatment

According to the National Institute of Justice, there are more than 3,000 drug courts within the United States.

These entities help manage and sentence drug offenders to complete court-ordered treatment, work with specialized caseworkers, and undergo randomized and regular drug testing.

Court ordered rehab offers individuals an alternative form of sentencing for any kind of drug-related crime, meaning instead of serving prison time they may be able to get the help they need to turn their life around.

In the states of Kentucky and Ohio, individuals can request court-ordered treatment for people outside of active criminal charges.

Known as Casey’s Law, this act enables close friends, loved ones, and relatives of addicts to legally mandate people to attend a treatment program.

The process involves petitioning a court to judge the severity of the afflicted person’s addiction and rendering a judgment on whether to commit that person and to what extent their treatment should encapsulate.


For friends and family members of an alcoholic, one of the most difficult and important aspects of recovery is learning to let go and “let God”. In the Al-Anon program, this concept is known as “detachment”. Detachment teaches those in some kind of relationship with an alcoholic to detach from their loved one’s addiction in a healthy manner.

A major component of Al-Anon is learning that those who live with another person’s alcoholism did not cause, cannot control, and cannot stop their loved one’s drinking. Detachment teaches us how to relinquish our obsession with the alcoholic’s behavior, letting go of our attempts to control or influence them, and allowing ourselves to live happier, more manageable lives.

Having some kind of relationship with an alcoholic often involves trying to care or manage their addiction.

The stress and exhaustion of caring for or about someone with the chronic disease of alcoholism can lead to frustration, anxiety, depression, and even unsafe living conditions.

For this reason, detachment from the situation is one of the most important steps for achieving emotional well being.

The Psycho-dynamics of Addiction

Denial is defined as the selective ignorance of information. It means refusing acknowledgement of reality and is a form of self deception that detaches us from reality.

Sometimes this is done in order to maintain positive self image. Psychological processes such as repression, forgetfulness, and distraction all contribute to the psycho-dynamic of addiction.

Most of these psychological processes are subconscious, not deliberate.

Traditional psychology holds that denial is a defense mechanism. In other words, individuals with addiction problems usually use denial in order to stop threatening emotions from entering our conscious.

It may be difficult to cope with negative states, so instead people create fictional states of reality that better suit them. Keeping out unacceptable feelings usually results in the development of a “false self.

” The price for this type of defense mechanism is ironically the inability to seek out help. For instance, an alcoholic will dismiss that his or her excessive drinking is a real problem.

After all, admitting that negative consequences arising from substance abuse are real, it becomes necessary to end substance use. However, quitting will cause pain and distress. Denial thus protects people from negative experiences and the reality of one’s situation, avoiding pain and distress.

Over time, individuals struggling with substance abuse will come to be cognitively impaired by substance abuse.

Chronic drug and alcohol abuse has been associated with impaired self-awareness and difficulties with memory recall and empathy. Future consequences tend to become unconcerning.

The benefits of drug and alcohol usage, immediate, temporary pleasure, become more valuable than future rewards such as health, happiness, peace, and financial stability.

Ultimately, denial is central to the core of addiction and why addicts continue to persist in the face of harmful evidence.

Indeed, the first step of Alcoholics Anonymous is to admit that you have a problem and begin to seek out help.

Since individuals use denial to protect themselves from the pain of reality, the individual suffering from substance abuse needs to be given new tools for coping effectively with that pain.

In Conclusion

At Landmark Recovery, we have inpatient and outpatient facilities with knowledgeable staff who are dedicated to helping you get back to a healthy lifestyle. We approach drug and alcohol treatment from the perspective that everyone is different, and requires a unique and ongoing solution. Reach out to Landmark Recovery today to begin your journey to a better tomorrow.

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