Crossing the River of Denial

Crossing-the-River-of-DenialFor the loved ones of an addict, nothing is more frustrating, saddening and maddening than their inability to recognize the addiction, and the destruction it bleeds into all areas of life. Non-addicts are dumbfounded; why can’t the addict see the damage? Why would anyone knowingly destroy their life?

We find ourselves in a position of fearful powerlessness. We’ve begged, pleaded, explained and tried to reason. But with the alcoholic or drug addict, denial is working constantly and shuts down all chances of helpful conversation. Soon we find the issue turned back on us and we wonder where it all derailed.

Dishonesty further complicates the issue. How can the problem be discussed if there is no basis for trust? The hard thing for the non-addict to understand is that to the addict, it isn’t conscious lying. The addict has become so deluded that truth is false and lies become truth. This isn’t intentional, but it makes it almost impossible to discuss the problem or obtain any truthful information. Deception is the air the addict breathes.

For the loved one concerned about an addict, seeing the barrier of denial only brings a sense of hopelessness and despair. This is understandable. We desperately want to do something and it seems we are blockaded at every point. However, there is hope, and there is action you can take. It’s just not the action we expect.

As hard as you’ve been trying to push the addict into recovery, the process can actually begin with you. This may not be the message you want to hear if you’ve spent years feeling the pain and brunt of the addiction. Naturally, you’re fed up. You’re tired of doing the work and bearing the load while the addict continues to plummet. This is understandable.

However, as you begin to get help for yourself, you’ll begin to know freedom. Anyone who has lived with or been close to an addict is now dealing with their own breed of illness and other dysfunctional patterns. Al-Anon can help you to begin working through your own issues while better understanding the addict and his or her addiction. Understanding the 12 Steps will also give you a picture of what recovery can look like, and can help you to better support the addict when and if they decide to pursue recovery.

You’ll also learn the tools that empower you to stop enabling the addiction. We aren’t born with a set of guidelines pointing the way through the maze of addiction. As a result, many don’t realize that the actions and words intended to combat the addiction only feed it. Al-Anon can help you to better understand the nature of addiction, while exercising healthier patterns in your relationship with the addict.

Though you’ve wanted the addict to fix the problem, or get a grip on life, or begin exercising some willpower, we learn that in recovery and AA, self-control has no place. Recovery is not about power and strength, it is about weakness and the willingness to surrender. Breaking through denial means recognizing this truth and then learning to live in light of it.

Denial is not impenetrable. But the addict will have to cross this river. You cannot force the understanding or the realization. What you can do is get the support and help you need. You can learn, grow and work to end your own dysfunctional patterns. Miraculously, a solution for the addict often follows.