The National Institute of Drug Abuse defines addiction as a chronic brain disease which continuously relapses due to the need to use drugs despite the consequences. Drugs change how the brain functions and how an addict thinks and behaves. Drugs can permanently damage the brain which can lead to a person becoming destructive and dangerous.
Not all drug addicts are the same. Some may know they have a drug abuse problem and seek help. However, it is common for an addict to become so dependent on a drug that they refuse to acknowledge it is an addiction. The first step to recovery is to admit you are an addict.
Are You an Addict in Denial?
Most addicts tend to lose a lot before they admit to an alcohol or drug addiction problem. This is hard for friends and family to understand, let alone watch a person go through. An addict uses denial as their way to survive and justify their use. You might hear from an addict some variation of one or more of the following statements:
- “I will stop whenever I am ready.”
- “I am in control of my drug use.”
- “I am not hurting anyone by using drugs.”
- “I still have my life (family, home, job or school), how can I be an addict?”
- “I am not in legal or financial trouble.”
- “I am not using any hard drugs.”
- “I am only drinking or using drugs with my friends.”
- “My loved ones have never seen me drink or use drugs.”
Each statement of justification of drug use betrays a lack of understanding about the nature of addiction. Every addict is different. Failure to adhere to stereotypes is no defense. Just as not all people in legal or financial trouble are addicts, not all addicts are in legal or financial trouble. It is hard for addicts to face their disease. But with a strong support system, it is possible for them to begin recovery by first acknowledging their addiction.
The Damage of Ongoing Denial
When left untreated, denial continues to build and can cause a great deal of damage. Some addicts may continue to be in denial for several days after beginning rehabilitation. Family and friends should be aware of the effects of denial to prevent it from affecting their lives as well.
How Addiction Affects Loved Ones
Denial distorts reality.
An addict can be very manipulative and try to convince family and friends their addiction problem is not as bad as they believe; this is a justification tactic.
Denial causes isolation.
It is common for addicts to get tired of the constant “nagging” about their substance abuse. They tend to stay away from family and friends who continue to question them and try to get them help. Do not take offense to this. Isolation is an addict’s defense mechanism allowing them to justify their substance abuse.
Denial encourages co-dependent behaviors.
Family and friends try to help a loved one see and admit to their addiction, often developing co-dependent behaviors which are common and unhealthy. These co-dependent behaviors are classified as anything out of your standard that affects your life such as stress or depression. Putting some distance between you and the addict may be the only firm action you can take. You will not be able to help your loved one if you are not healthy and in the right state of mind.
How to Help an Addict in Denial
There are many different approaches to helping an addict admit to their addiction and getting them into recovery. Each addict has a different personality and must be approached uniquely. They may not be accepting at first. The following are suggestions on how to help your loved one.
- Intervention. Family and friends who are dealing with an addict on a regular basis are typically well-informed of their substance abuse problem. Organizing an intervention can help your loved one see how their addiction is affecting more than just themselves. If you are uncomfortable with coordinating an intervention or need help planning it, contact a professional who specializes in interventions. A trained intervention specialist has the expertise to talk to an addict and act as a mediator between them and loved ones.
- Involuntary commitment to treatment. In cases where an addict refuses treatment, some states allow loved ones to commit the addict to a rehabilitation treatment facility. Your loved one will not be accepting of this involuntary commitment at first, but you are preventing them from doing harm to themselves and continuing their substance abuse. The rehab facility will begin a recovery treatment program for the addict. They will provide professionals who are trained with addicts being committed involuntarily. Their treatment plan may include sessions with family and loved ones as well.
- Stepping away. No one wants to see their loved ones in pain or suffering; however, when you have tried everything to help your loved one, and he or she continue their addiction denial, sometimes the only thing left is for you to walk away. You must let the addict see the consequences to their actions even if it is life-threatening to them. An addict, while suffering from their addiction, must still be held accountable for their choices.
How to Approach Addiction Denial
Approaching an addict concerning their addiction is a touchy subject. Loved ones become frustrated when trying to help an addict. However, remember not to blame or criticize your loved one for their addiction. They are still a “good” person; they just made some bad decisions which led to their addiction.
- Only bring up specific instances where the addict should remember it as well. This can include missed appointments or canceled plans.
- Let them know you are worried about them using “I” statements. I worry when you do not show up; I notice when you are not around.
- Let your loved one know how their addiction is negatively affecting their family, job, commitments they have made.
- Do not take it personally when your loved one continues their substance abuse even after you have poured out your feelings to them.
- An addict does not intentionally try to hurt their loved ones.
- Remain supportive and stay in contact. Even if your loved one is not ready for recovery, keep reminding them of your support and love for them.
Helping an Addict into Recovery
Even an addict suffering from severe denial could get to the point of wanting help. With loved ones being consistent with getting an addict help, they may start to believe that someone cares about their life. Providing your loved one with recovery information such as treatment facilities, AA or NA schedules, or substance abuse professional contact information, allows them the resource to start their recovery process.
Addiction denial is difficult for any loved one to face. Watching an addict continue to spiral out of control with substance abuse is troubling. However, with your consistent “nagging” and support, an addict can still get on the road to recovery. For more help with getting your loved one to face their addiction denial, contact Serenity Acres today for addiction treatment.