One of the largest issues with alcohol abuse is that of denial. Until the wall of denial is dropped, the person engaging in this addictive behavior will not accept or seek help for their illness. Often times, a person isn’t even intending to deny or lie, but their minds and bodies need the drink so strongly that they become deluded and come up with tons of rationalization and justifications to continue drinking. Let’s talk about some of these rationalizations and how denial impacts the recovery process of the alcoholic.
Most of the attempts to rationalize or deny a drinking problem can be boiled down to some basic forms. Although the individual ways that these basic forms of denial may be expressed can be more in-depth or slightly different from what we are about to talk about, they all generally follow these fundamental layouts. Let’s take a look. Many people who are addicted to alcohol will deny their addiction by:
Usually, the burden of blame is switched. Their drinking problem may be causing problems in their marriage or in their careers, but they will in turn blame those problems and claim them as the cause of the drinking. This is fairly clever if you think about it, but ultimately a very destructive trap that destroys their support group and social system. As in any situation, becoming defensive is a red-flag that we are guilty in some fashion.
The basic forms above are the things you may hear someone dealing with this struggle say out loud. But what is it they are saying in their mind that allows them to continue this atrocious behavior in the face of all the complications it’s creating?
“I can stop drinking any time I want to.”
Society places an unfair stigma on alcoholism. People who don’t have an addictive personality simply don’t understand that this is not a matter of willpower but that it is a true and legit illness. This causes the alcohol addict to internalize that falsehood and pretend to themselves that they have the power to stop at any time. They may ultimately find themselves saying, “I can stop at any time. Just one more and then I’ll quit.” And that one more turns into another “one more.” And so goes the cycle.
“This only effects me. I can do whatever I want to myself.”
Yes, it is true. A grown adult can do whatever they want to their own body. That’s their sovereign right. However, one person’s addiction never harms just them alone because no one person is an island unto himself. He has friends, family, coworkers, children, and more people who love, care for, and even depend upon him to take care of his responsibilities. We all survive because we are tied into a web of society, upon which we thrive and depend. So yes, alcoholism is everyone’s problem.
“I’m not homeless. I don’t scrounge for any type of alcohol. Therefore, I’m not an alcoholic.”
Alcohol addiction can reach anyone, no matter age, race, religion, gender, or socio-economic status. Nobody is immune. Just because a person has enough money to fund their problem, or others are willing to put up with it and enable them to some level, doesn’t mean that they aren’t addicted. It doesn’t matter if you only partake in wine or just beer and never touch liquor. If it’s interfering with your life, you are addicted and it’s a problem. The same thing goes with high-functioning alcoholics. Just because you can hold down a job doesn’t mean you don’t have a problem!
“It’s not like I’m using drugs! It’s not a real addiction.”
Alcohol was once illegal. It is more lethal by the statistics than any other drug out there. It kills more people than any other substance. Just because it is legally available to adults does not mean that it’s not harmful when misused and taken in absurd quantities. Alcohol can destroy your body and mind just like any other substance.
Denial and self-perpetuated myths that minimize the seriousness of alcohol addiction abound. Pointing these out to your client during your substance abuse counseling sessions is a great way to help disarm a person psychologically so they will hopefully become willing to confront the core issues. Be familiar with these excuses, rationalizations, and justifications!