Addiction Treatment


Confronting an Addict or Alcoholic in Denial

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Confronting an addict or alcoholic that is in denial is not an easy thing to do.  If you decide to go through with it then you have to realize that you are taking a bit of a risk, because they might resent you for the confrontation.  They will see it as being threatening when in fact you are just caring about them and want to see them get help.  But if they are in denial then they will not see it this way, and it will be perceived more as an attack on them than anything else.

Of course if things are bad enough, then you might take the risk anyway.  If they are truly out of control with their drug or alcohol use, then it might be worth the risk to confront them and say something.  Who cares if they resent you for it if the alternative is their untimely death from overdose or something.  Sometimes you just have to go ahead and do it anyway.

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Creative Commons License photo credit: cyberuly

If they are stuck in denial, is there are way that you can get them to break through it and see the light?  Not really.  That is the stubborn nature of denial. Now what you can do is to stop enabling them in any way and not support their drinking or drug use in any way.  This could help them to get there quicker in terms of recognizing their problem.  For example, if they end up in jail, and you bail them out immediately, then what good does that do?  Should they not sit there for a while, face their real consequences, and think about what their life has become?  The experts at Al-anon would say “yes, let them sit there.”

Alcoholics do not quit drinking when everything is going good. If they have money, freedom, friends, and things are going well and they are drinking and happy, then do you really think that they are going to stop drinking at that point?  Of course not.  They are nowhere near the point of making that decision.

They call it “hitting bottom.”  That is the point when an addict or alcoholic decides to make a major change.  Remember, we are talking about changing their entire life.  This is not a light decision.  It takes real guts to admit that you have a problem of this nature and to take action to correct it.  No one is going to do it when they have alternatives.  If there is a way to keep the party going, they will do so.  It is only when they are broke down completely, and alone, that they will try something different (like change).

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  • allmhuran

    An alcoholics denial is bad enough by itself. But try getting through to one who has been raised in secret societies. This is a double shield of denial. Does anyone have any advice on this? Most people have no knowledge whatsoever about secret societies. This is a rare request. The individual in question is guarding the secrets of her family’s involvement in secret societies as well as the associated secrets of alcoholism in the family. Her own included.

  • JOE

    Your articles were interesting and informative. My love of my life is an alcoholic and has had a troubled childhood and id do anything to get her help. Ive also come to the reality her problem is now as much my problem. I dont drink but my pain for her has takin me from loving life and happy person to prescription drug abuse and lonely and depressed. Iworry for her safty 24/7 and at times when we make love i wonder if it matters its me or anyother guy would be ok to her. My life is changing for the worst and id like to know more about how to help her so i can be me again? Im sure im not the first to experience this im invovled in a program of professionals and have in kind loving genuine concern ask her to come also and each time a new excuse which i follow up to confirm her lie and denial. Its so heartbreaking freightening and each time i attempt to talk about it it seems she relizes i care and im not judgemental but back to life as usual. Any suggestions im all ears to get her to accept professonal help. She is my first last and only Love and watching her self destruct is unbearable. Were both 55 and she embarrass herself and me undignified behavior especially at our age.

  • Richard

    I have been living with the same woman for years. We are both professionals with good jobs; she being a doctor. My partner has been a wine drinker for as long as I have known her. Last year, I begin to notice that in the evening her personality would slightly change after a glass or two of wine. I began to feel like some other person had suddenly entered the room. Progressively as months went on This “other person” began to get a bit nasty when drinking. Then one night we were at our favorite restaurant with a friend. We were drinking wine. She is always way ahead of me and this night was no exception. She was probably on her 4th glass of wine. I stop at 2. We were both telling a story about our vacation and all of a sudden she turned to me and literally shouted to me, “shut the F.. up” I was stunned and the restaurant went silent. When I began to answer her she barked it again. Since then there have been several other events where anger and verbal abuse have followed her drinking, especially when I have tried to take away her car keys. She directs her anger at me. She will not talk about the drinking and gets mad when I address the problem. I came home from a biz trip unexpectedly early one evening and found, in the kitchen garbage, 4 empty bottles of wine. She was working late and I went to bed early. When I got up, I made a cup of coffee, and threw something in the trash. I noticed that all but one of the bottles was gone. When I questioned her about it she said she had hid them because she was being preemptive so as to prevent an argument because I was on her case about drinking. Since then she has had an incident when she stayed up after I went to sleep and drank until she was totally trashed at which point she came to bed and made a scene which resulted in her hitting me in the face. I’m unsure if it was an accident or not, but I know it would have not happened if she would have been sober. The next day she did not remember a thing and refused to talk about it. She holds down her job, always goes to work and excels in her vocation. There are week days when she does not drink at all, but I have noticed that she is getting more and more irritable during these times. She will not communicate with me at any level about drinking. Lately when she asks me to go out to dinner I tell her I don’t feel like it (I know she will drink). The new twist is that she now will go out to dinner alone and comes back smelling of wine. When I approached her on this issue she says that I have a problem not her. I have really become distant in my dealings with her and try to stay out of her way. I know she feels my emotional distance and dislikes it, but I don’t want to be verbally abused any more. I’m getting tired of the whole thing and feel the end is near for us. We are long time partners and I love her. One of our biggest strengths was our truthfulness with each other. I feel very betrayed that she is lying to me about the drinking. I miss my friend and mate.
    I’m confused and very worried.


  • Bruce


    Consider what denial is. You will indure all of this and more, or you will rescue yourself. That means leaving her. Not an option?

  • Eva


    Go to Al-Anon meetings, you will gain understanding.


  • Christie

    Richard I am in a similar situation. It is hard to realize the one you love can be out of control. I to wish he would just look at the big picture. Sober he is a wonderful man and I adore. I have never giving him any reason to doubt who I am. He is full of rage at times over everything lately. I am a very patient person and he knows that. He used to say thank you for all my listening and patience with him. Now it isn’t that way any longer. I have chosen to separate from him till he stops denying everything and get some help. He is still in denial. Thinks I caused all the problems. I did do some things but it was my reaction to his actions. He only sees that I betrayed him he doesn’t see that his rages caused me fears and tears. I am sorry so sorry I turned to his family and asked for help. But I did not do anything wrong and I know that. That is where you have to get. Go to Al-anon or go see a counselor. When living with a drinker and knowing they are is draining on the person who does not have a drinking problem and it will take its toll on your health and mental being.


  • Stephanie

    Richard and Christie, I am far too familiar with both of your situations. Having recently discovered that my Mother and Father are both alcoholics I also have to deal with an extremely verbally abusive boyfriend that I am coming to grips with as also being an alcoholic. One of the most frustrating things that I have had to accept is admitting that I saw the signs very early on but chose to ignore them. I ended up leaving a very successful career to move to a new city and move in with my boyfriend. I took a huge leap of faith that things would get better once we just lived in the same city but sadly they have only gotten worse. My new job is extremely difficult and very unfulfilling to say the least, and now I feel very trapped financially and stay with the boyfriend out of financial fears of supporting myself. The one good thing I have here though is an extremely supportive group of friends and family. My Mother although a recent member of AA is more self aware of her alcoholism and truly embraced her new sober life for the better. I am very lucky to have her love and support during what seems like a very lonely and confusing time. The out of control verbal rages and degrading name calling from my boyfriend and his constant blaming of me for his behavior is enough to truly make one feel like they are going crazy. The day or two after a rage from him he can be the most loving, caring, sweet man. Alcoholics have an uncanny way of making you feel like you are the one that is to blame for their behavior. Although I am lucky to have a Mother that is so supportive I have recently found out my Father is drinking 15 to 20 beers a day and verbally abusing his new girlfriend just has he did with my Mother for their 13 year marriage. They are divorced now going on 25 years now, and my mother is married to an amazing, supportive, loving man now of 22 years. I am very lucky in that respect. I hate to admit that I truly feel like I am the cliché of the being the woman that is dating her father. I never ever wanted to be that cliché, yet here I am in my early 30’s in the exact situation that I so adamantly swore I’d never be in. I am taking the advice of what you all have written and I am going to seek out an Al-Anon meeting. My hope is that I will find the strength hearing from others stories and be brave enough to find a way out of my situation. I appreciate your stories and hold on to a faith that we all find the happiness we deserve.

  • Teresa

    Your stories touch my heart. I have been married to an alcoholic for 15 years and filed for divorce recently. He remains in a constant state of denial regarding his disease since he can go days or weeks without a drink. I’ve been blamed for the failure of our marriage and told so many times I’m just not measuring up as his wife. Thankfully, I finally admitted I needed help last year and began attending Al-Anon and working their program. I have worked diligently to recover emotionally, spiritually and physcially and finally reached a place of peace where I could make the decision I should have made years ago. I encourage anyone living with an alcoholic to go to Al-Anon. I put that decision off for so many years and would probably be in a different place today had I started earlier. I truly love my husband but the emotional and verbal abuse at me when he drinks are unacceptable to me. I know the divorce will bring change and challenges all on their own but I will face it with a tremendous support group of family, friends, fellow Al-Anon members and a Higher Power that has been there all along.