And they all fall down | this thing they call denial – ah that word, “denial.” I was just trying to help. I knew there was a problem, but I knew I could make it stop if I just tried hard enough. And they call that “denial?” Denial is such an important concept, that I am re-posting one of my earlier articles, “Denial of Addiction – a Key Reason for the Progression of the Disease.”
One of the keys to the progression of a loved one’s drinking moving from bad to worse, abusive to alcoholic, is DENIAL. Denial is a very human defense mechanism we all use at one time or another to protect ourselves from facing something we just don’t want to face. It can be seen in the eyes of a guilty four-year old who denies breaking a vase for fear of being punished, or in the tears of a lover who doesn’t want to admit the relationship is over or in the dieter’s pretending the size of a piece of birthday cake doesn’t really matter.
For alcoholics, however, denial not only distorts reality and hurts other people, it can ultimately lead to death. For alcohol abusers, denial can lead to alcoholism and/or years of destructive behaviors. Denial is what causes the alcoholic and alcohol abuser to adopt an arsenal of offensive measures (anger, minimizing, rationalizing, blaming and deceiving) in order to protect their ability to drink — everything from flimsy excuses to devious lies, whether they “accidentally” hide a bottle in a gym bag or pretend it’s an urgent matter to go out late at night because a “friend needs help.”
And, for family members, denial is what causes them to adopt the unhealthy coping skills (striving to be all things to all people so that he/she won’t want to drink; striving to get good grades and stay out of trouble so that mom/dad doesn’t have one more thing to deal with) that allow them to excuse or rationalize or defend themselves against the drinking behaviors (“it’s not that bad,” “everyone drinks too much now and again,” “lots of people drink and drive – he just got caught,” “at least he’s not mean when he drinks…”). A family member in denial can aide (without even understanding they are) in the progression of a loved one’s drinking but more importantly wreck havoc in their own lives – not only emotionally but often physically (stress, lack of sleep, depression, ulcers), as well.
Together, the person drinking and those who love them collaborate to enforce and support the notion that what is going on is really not what it is going on because no one wants to label a loved one as having a drinking problem they cannot control — or worse yet, of being an alcoholic. And, so together, they continue to enforce the two most important rules in the alcoholic or alcohol abusing household:
- Rule #1: Alcohol use is not the problem.
- Rule #2: Do not talk to anyone (not family, not friends) about the drinking nor the behaviors related to the drinking, and, above all, attack, minimize or discredit any family member who does.
Unless and until alcoholics or alcohol abusers and family members break through their denial, the consequences of a loved one’s drinking will continue to spiral, and they will “all fall down.” After decades of experience of loving and living with family alcohol abuse and alcoholism and years of research, therapy and Alanon, trust me when I say, “It only gets worse. It cannot/will not get better until the denial is stopped.”
To learn more about denial and how to stop it (screaming and yelling DO NOT work), consider reading my book, If You Loved Me You’d Stop! What You Really Need To Know When Your Loved One Drinks Too Much. In less than 120 pages, you will find the latest brain research on the disease of alcoholism and addiction; facts not commonly known about excessive drinking (alcohol abuse); information on the related issues, such as underage drinking, dual diagnoses, co-addictions, drunk driving, codependency and more; and advice that can help you enjoy a better life whether your loved on stops drinking or not. Click here to buy the book.