Denial can be one of the most distracting, dangerous and frustrating symptoms of addictive behavior. At any given time, a person who is using drugs may seek to minimize their use, or even deny actions that they have taken as a part of denial. Denial helps you put the “blinders on” and makes it hard to realize the harm your addiction has done to your life.
When you’re in recovery, denial still can lurk in the background of your mind. Learning to cope with it is an essential task as a person new to recovery.
What is Denial?
You may recognize it as the “little voice” that nags you with things that are simply inconsistent with reality. For example, a daily heroin user may be so in denial of their disease that they tell themselves, “At least I’m not high all the time.” Or a person addicted to marijuana may tell themselves “I can’t be addicted to weed because it’s not an addictive drug.”
When you’re in denial, your brain is trying to protect you by refusing to accept the truth about something that’s happening in your life. It doesn’t want you to change, but instead, to accept the poor circumstances you’re living in.
While denial can help you cope a bit in times of stress, overall, it causes problems stemming from drug or alcohol use to become worse. That little nagging voice that tells you “it’s not so bad” is the part of you that doesn’t want to change. But change you must, or die you will, as they say in recovery. It’s time for your old self to “die” and denial to take a back seat to recovery.
Denial can be powerful. It can go away and return without warning. Unfortunately, you can’t control when and where it comes from.
You can, however, talk back to that little voice and tell it the truth. For example, if your drug use “wasn’t so bad” then why did have to get up and get high first thing in the day? Why did you spend so much time using and trying to get more of your drug of choice?
Everyone in recovery has a story. You may have been arrested, overdosed, or lost friends and families in the process of your addiction. When that voice crops up to tell you it wasn’t bad, it’s time to talk back. When you find yourself thinking “My drug use wasn’t so bad,” think of all the times you wished you could stop using. How bad did you feel?
Think about the negative consequences you’ve experienced. Were they really “not so bad”? When you’re an addict, things can get very bad, very quickly. What was your bottom like? Very few people would go to the trouble of going to detox, getting clean, and going to 12-step meetings if their drug or alcohol use caused no problems.
Get to a Meeting
Whenever you find yourself in denial, talking to others can help bring you back to reality. When you listen to others speak about their experience, strength, and hope, it gives you a chance to relate to others in recovery. Everyone struggles with denial every once in a while. Remind yourself of the good things in recovery as well as the bad parts of addiction.
If you feel like using, call your sponsor or get to a meeting. Don’t let denial talk you into doing something that will hurt you.
Recovery is possible, no matter who you are or what your struggles are. Give yourself a chance. If you or somebody you love is struggling with drugs or alcohol, we can help. Call us at 760-216-2077.
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