There are many factors that contribute to substance abusers persisting denial and in many cases these motivations are so convincing that they are able to successfully avoid their own recovery with potentially fatal consequences, if left untreated.
We have listed 12 of the most common denial scenarios that frequently challenge addiction recovery.
Each of these scenarios may differ from patient to patient and it my take a skilled interventionist or counsellor to unpack and begin to address the actual barriers that have been created to prevent their meaningful treatment.
Familiarity: We are born with denial and grow up with it. We encounter it everywhere. Familiarity makes it easy to apply denial, even without realising we are doing it.
Negativity: Pessimistic abusers apply extreme thoughts like: “Everybody is always wrong about everything”. This mindset makes them highly resistant to opinions that conflict with their own.
Intolerance: Impatient or short tempered abusers wipe arguments off the table and take shortcut decisions. They refuse to revisit discussions or to review past decisions.
Resistance to change: When someone is generally reluctant to change anything, it is very hard to change their existing opinions or to introduce new concepts.
Rational bias: When other people tolerate abuse for a long time, abusers see it as proof that change is unnecessary. They reject concerns about the future and deny that change is needed.
Worries: When they worry too much, some take a drug to calm down and then become dependent on it. To keep using the drug, they deny that it is a problem.
Inner Conflict: Some emotional disturbances are deep-seated and painful. A major example is post traumatic stress disorder, but there are many others. Abusers soothe it with drugs and deny the resulting problems.
Co-dependents: Family, friends and co-workers often help abusers by concealing the problem from other people, in the mistaken belief that they are doing a good deed. They even support the abuser’s denials during confrontations. This supports the abuser’s believe that all is in order.
Enablers: Empathic people aid abusers by doing them favours, such as lending them money, providing transport, and other forms of assistance that enable the abuser to persist with the habit. This tacit approval gives abusers a delusional reason to believe that everything is under control.
Peers: Fellow drinkers and drug abusers are predisposed to support other abusers’ denials. They contemptuously deride the idea of denial or become indignant about it. They prefer to see it as reasons, not denials. This is enormous motivation for abusers to believe their own denials.
Employers: Abusers are aware that they may lose their jobs and, with it, the source of income that finances the purchase of the substance. Anxiety spurs them to strenuously deny anything that might reveal the problem to the employer.
Media: In movies and on TV drunkenness is often presented as funny or comical. Addicts are also often excused by heroes in their quest to find the more important murderers and kingpins. This creates a delusion that urban drug abuse is acceptable. Abusers relate to it and deny any abnormality.
Marketing: The beverage industry vigorously promotes alcohol products as either fun items that make you happy, or prestigious items that impart dignity and respect. It gives abusers a sense of justification and subsequent denial of misbehaviour.
There are many, many other examples, but you get the idea – denialism is a common, but vast and complicated subject, best entrusted to experienced therapists for comprehensive analysis and healing.