Breaking through Denial

Breaking through Denial

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How can we Break through our Denial?

As addicts and alcoholics, there are 2 types of denial we want to look at here. Although they are similar, it is worth differentiating between the two, because some of us might stay stuck in our recovery unless we do.

The first level of denial is when we are still using drugs and alcohol.

This is the type of denial that is painfully obvious to everyone around us….like when we are still using alcohol or our drug of choice and our lives are falling apart, yet we continue to attribute this to bad luck and believe that we can use drugs or alcohol like a normal person. We have all been at this stage before finally accepting our addiction and surrendering to the process of recovery. This is the first level of denial. If we are living a life of recovery, we have already broken through this denial.

breaking through denial

The second level of denial is much more insidious than this.

It occurs when we are already clean and sober and working a program of recovery. Instead of being big and obvious (like drinking ourselves into a blackout every night or a hundred dollar per day heroin habit), this type of denial is usually a sneaky issue that we aren’t watching out for. The specific issue that we are in denial about could be any number of things, such as a bad relationship that we have been slowly getting into, or perhaps we have just been drifted away from our recovery. Or maybe we are starting to hang around with old drinking or using buddies who are no good for us to be around. Whatever the situation may be, this is the type of denial that can slowly creep back into our lives. We might not recognize it at first, because we are too busy watching out for the really big problems (like the fifth of whiskey every day or the heroin habit or whatever).

But it is this second type of denial that can drag a recovering alcoholic or addict down and start them on that miserable road back to using. We don’t see it coming because the situation or issue doesn’t relate to using or drinking….not directly anyway. For example, while I was living in long term treatment, I saw dozens of recovering addicts who lived with me eventually go back out and relapse, and it was always over a relationship. Always. It got to be a bit ridiculous, and the guys who “stuck and stayed” in the long term treatment center were constantly warning the new guys about getting into a relationship too quickly. It was the number one downfall of young men who struggled to get clean and sober in that place–and looking back, I can see how denial played a part in every single relapse.

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In each case, the new guy in treatment thought that he was immune to the effects of these dangerous relationships. They would politely listen to our warnings, and nod their heads and tell us that they understood how dangerous relationships were in early sobriety. But deep inside, these men thought they were somehow different, that the rules did not apply the same to them, and that they could easily juggle a delicate relationship with a woman during their early recovery. They were wrong….and their denial eventually cost them their sobriety.

None of us are immune to the possibility of slipping back into denial. Here are some tips to help you stay vigilant:

1) Increase your awareness

2) Stay plugged in – with other recovering addicts and alcoholics

3) Ask for suggestions – from your sponsor or others in recovery

4) If enough people show concern for your behavior, you might want to take a look at that behavior. If more than one person shows concern for the same behavior, then you really, really might want to take a look at that behavior. This is the core of denial. We are doing something dangerous and everyone else can see it except for us. We think we are special. We think we are immune. We think we can get away with it, but we can’t. And everyone around us can see this except for us. That’s denial.

Learn to recognize your own denial quickly and it might just save your life….

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