Processing Denial and Moving Beyond Your Alcoholism or Drug Addiction

Processing Denial and Moving Beyond Your Alcoholism or Drug Addiction


This is really the single greatest hurdle for any addict or alcoholic who is struggling with addiction.

Obviously the nature of denial makes it very, very difficult for a person to look at their situation objectively and realize that they are, in fact, living in a state of denial. Our ego refuses to let us believe that we are missing the obvious. Our addictive mind jumps through all sorts of hoops in order to rationalize and justify our addiction, while protecting our ego and keeping us convinced that we really ARE different from other addicts and alcoholics.

So there are a number of steps and mental processes that the addict or alcoholic can go through that will help to expose their own denial to themselves. This can be a process, it may not happen overnight. But these ideas are all worth considering if you are stuck in active addiction, because each one of these exposes a bit more of your denial, leading you closer and closer to the moment of surrender, when you can finally change your entire life for the better.

I can remember, even in the chaos and confusion of my own active addiction, that I was using a few of these mental games to try and reason my way through my own denial. I was wrestling with the problem of addiction in my own mind, trying to figure out how I could be happy without my drug of choice, or how I could live a somewhat normal life while continuing to self medicate. At one point I think I started saying “screw it” with everything because I knew that more misery in my life would eventually force some sort of resolution to the chaotic ride that was my addiction. I was looking for ways to accelerate the process and a small part of me figured out that trying to control and restrain my own addiction was not helping, and in fact was just keeping me trapped. I can remember reasoning through this while I was still drunk and using drugs and realizing that part of shattering my denial might be facing stronger consequences in my life.

Raising your consciousness even in active addiction

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So part of what I had discovered in my own journey was that I needed to raise my level of consciousness–even while I was still trapped in active addiction–in order to finally surrender and make the leap to recovery.

Keep in mind that the whole goal is to surrender. The biggest goal in your life is to simply give up–to give up the struggle to control your drug of choice, to give up the constant need to be happy by self medicating, to give up the crazy life that comes along with your disease. The goal is to surrender. The way to get there is to see through your denial–all of it, every last bit of it, to work through your denial and fully process it in your mind and realize that it will never get any better if you continue to try to self medicate.

The goal is surrender. The action that follows this is to ask for help. This will likely involve rehab or professional treatment of some sort.

So what does it mean to “raise your consciousness?”

Your consciousness is your level of awareness. What are you really aware of in your life? Active addiction forces you to lower your level of consciousness in order to keep using drugs and self medicating. This happens due to the veil of denial that prevents you from seeing the truth.

The truth is that you are miserable in your addiction, that the chaos and constant cycle of chasing that next high has made you miserable, and that you are really only happy about 1 percent of the time. The truth is that anyone can tell that you would be happier and more content if you just stayed clean and sober entirely, and left the drugs or alcohol completely alone, and that your life would get infinitely better at that point. That is the truth that denial is shielding you from, because it has convinced you that you need to self medicate in order to be happy.

So denial allows us to slip into a lower level of consciousness. We do this via rationalization. We make a decision in our minds and then we set it on auto-pilot. We say to ourselves “I must just be different, I need these drugs or this alcohol in order to function and be happy, so I am different than other people. There is something strange about me, this is just the way that it is, and I need to accept that and realize that I am just going to have to self medicate if I want to be happy.”

So we mentally arrive at this conclusion, and then we sort of flip a switch permanently in our minds. This is the lowering of our consciousness. We decide that we are unique, we are different from others, and that we need our drug of choice in order to function and truly be happy. And then we lock into this mindset, giving it no further consideration, and simply operating based on our reasoning. In effect we are saying “I have thought long and hard about this, and I realize that I am unique and that I need drugs in order to be happy. So I am going to keep chasing that next high and continue to self medicate, thank you very much.”

Now we are living on auto-pilot. Now we no longer need to think about our actions or our decisions, because we believe that we have fully justified them to ourselves, once and for all. We are unique, we are different, and for some reason we just need our drug of choice in order to function. So we have fully accepted that and now we are going to live our life without much thought, simply chasing that next high.

Of course, the act of self medicating every single day goes a long way in lowering our consciousness as well. We shift into a mode where we simply seek to be happy while self medicating, and we tend not to try to analyze our lives or the big picture (lest we get depressed about our situation). The goal is not to think, and in fact, for many addicts the goal is oblivion. We seek to eliminate emotional pain of any sort through our self medicating. We have learned to deal with our negative emotions in life by medicating them with drugs or alcohol.

We raise our consciousness when we look at ourselves objectively, when we look at our emotions and feelings, and when we see them for what they really are and communicate them with others. This takes guts, it takes practice, it takes rigorous honesty, and it generally only happens in sobriety. If you are self medicating then one of the primary things that you are medicating is your emotions. It is easier just to cover them up with drugs than it is to actually feel your feelings and acknowledge them. Of course to do this and cover up your emotions with drugs is a lowering of your consciousness.

So one thing to try to do in your active addiction is to raise your own level of consciousness, and start looking at yourself and your life and your situation a bit more objectively. Observe yourself. Be honest with yourself. This is going to be tough to do because you are, of course, still clouding your own thinking and judgement with your drug of choice. But even then you can still make an effort to see the truth and to identify your real emotions before you cover them up.

In particular, see if you can identify your fears. This is normally very difficult for addicts and alcoholics to do, because they are so used to medicating their fear with their drug of choice. But really think about it and try to see your fears and what is fueling them. If you feel threatened or angry or scared about a situation, try to see it for what it really is. This is you, raising your level of consciousness. Realize that you can learn to deal with these negative emotions without self medicating. Just know that it is possible. And start to notice them. Just notice your emotions and feelings. See them. Start watching them. This is an important stepping stone into recovery, towards raising your consciousness.

Seeing the futility of chasing happiness through self medicating

Part of your journey to recovery will be in realizing that your current path is not working. Right now you are stuck in addiction and you are trapped in the idea that you can “buy” your own happiness through self medicating. After all, that first time you really got high, you proved to yourself that you could be happy whenever you wanted, just by using your drug of choice, right?

Of course the nature of addiction is that we tend to chase that first peak experience, and never really are able to achieve it again. We just chase it. We chase our happiness, knowing that if we can just align all the right elements, we can have the perfect high again, and everything will be right in our world.

We say things like “If only I had enough money, I could buy an unlimited supply of my drug of choice, and then I would finally be happy.”

Or we say “If only I could get rid of (these annoying people in my life) then I could self medicate and I would be truly happy.”

Or we say “If only I could get the job I really want, then I would not have to self medicate all the time, and life would be fun again.”

So we always have an excuse about why we are not perfectly happy, even though we are using our drug of choice and trapped in active addiction. We always have a reason why we are not happy, and if things were just a little bit different, then we would truly be happy forever and ever, and life would be perfect.

Of course this happiness is a disease that never arrives, because we are actually trapped in denial, and cannot see the truth. The truth is that we are constantly moving our “happiness line” so that even if all our wishes magically did come true, we would very quickly come up with a new set of wishes about what needs to change again in order for us to be truly happy.

Think about the idea of “peak experience” for a moment. We base our happiness on getting high. In order to “get high” we have to be “not high.”

Seriously, think about this for a moment. In order to have a “peak experience” and get high and really enjoy ourselves, we have to FIRST be at a baseline that is below that, where we are not high, where we are not having this peak experience, where we are just sort of “normal.”

So really, what does the drug addict want? They want to be high, and therefore happy, all the time. Every moment of every day. That is what they want, that is their fantasy. Being high all the time, without having to experience the lows, the normal parts, etc.

But really think about this….if the addict is high all the time, wouldn’t that just become the new “normal” for them? What then? How do they get high and become happy when their new baseline for “feeling normal” already involves being high pretty much 24/7?

Pretty much any way you slice it, trying to chase your happiness based on drugs and alcohol is a losing proposition. Tolerance builds and what was once “high and happy” eventually becomes “normal, boring, and miserable.”

At some point, the addict must realize the futility of chasing their happiness with their drug of choice. They have to see how it is not working, how most of the time they are miserable, how they are just clinging to the memory of the perfect high, and how they almost never recreate a truly “fun” drug experience. Most of the time they are miserable. Most of the time they are living in chaos and despair.

So part of denial is in seeing your misery, and realizing that it will never get better, that things are not just about to change and get perfect, things are not going to align perfectly in the future where you are high and happy all the time. That is a fantasy, and getting through your denial means that you need to realize this.

Realize that your peak experiences and your truly happy moments in addiction only comprise about 1 percent of your total experience. The rest of the time you are miserable, chasing the perfect high, and complaining about how “if things were only a bit different, then I would be happy.” Realize this. Embrace it. Let it push you closer to surrender.

Admitting that you cannot purchase your happiness instantly if you only had the right combination of drugs and circumstances

Admit to yourself that you cannot buy your own happiness with the perfect combination of circumstances and money.

Realize that even if you had all the money in the world and were living in some mansion and being pampered and taken care of, you would still be miserable while trying to chase the perfect high. Realize this fully and admit to yourself that there is no perfect life with drugs, that you will always be miserable trying to chase your happiness with drugs.

Look back at the times when you got a lucky break and you had plenty of money or things that you had wished for had come true suddenly. Realize that this lucky break when things started going your way did not change your happiness. Realize that you simply wished for new circumstances because the nature of addiction is that you are always chasing the perfect high which you will never quite reach. Prove to yourself that your fantasy is a myth, and that you would not really be truly happy if you had unlimited drugs, money, and could change your circumstances at will. You would still be miserable in the end, because you cannot stay perfectly high and happy 100 percent of the time. There will always be low points, misery, chaos, lack of control due to your addiction, and so on. Really admit this and realize it fully.

Realizing that the perfect drug or alcohol fueled life is a fantasy and that you are just spiraling out of control in chaos

At some point you have to get honest with yourself and be realistic. Your vision of the perfect drug or alcohol-fueled life is a fantasy, and can never really be achieved. At best, you receive brief glimpses of it when abusing your drug of choice, and have brief moments where everything seems right in the world.

You say “if only I could capture those moments, duplicate them every day, then my life would be complete, I would be truly happy.” This is the fantasy that will never come true. This is where your denial is keeping you trapped–because you have yourself fooled into thinking that this fantasy could be realistic, and that you might some day be happy 24/7 while self medicating with your drug of choice.

Now is the time to realize that it is only going to get worse over time, never better. You may get a few lucky moments where you are happy while using drugs, but for the most part, consequences will pile up and things will only deteriorate. Thus is the nature of addiction.

Accepting that your experiment of using drugs to become happy has failed miserably

Accept that fact that your best ideas about how to be happy in life have turned out badly. Your great experiment with drugs or alcohol has ended with a negative conclusion. Stop holding out hope that it will suddenly turn around and all of the chaos and negative stuff will suddenly evaporate and you will then get to live happily ever after. Stop holding out hope for a happy life in addiction. It’s not going to happen.

The alternative is to stop, regroup, accept your misery fully, and then move forward and correct it. You do not have to stay trapped in addiction. You do not have to remain miserable.

Even if you believe, for now, that the only way you can be happy is when you are drunk or high, this is not accurate. You CAN be happy again without being high. It is a process, it will take some time, but you can start moving in that direction right now if you are willing to let go and surrender completely. Drop your denial. See that your misery is not going to end if you continue to self medicate. Time to take action.

Becoming open to another path and being humble enough to take direction

That moment of surrender is complete when you finally overcome all denial and agree to ask for help and direction.

Suddenly you are no longer in control. Suddenly you are no longer fighting to try to self medicate and control your drug use and be happy with your life. You let go of all of that stuff. Just sweep it all away in one big motion and agree to ask for help and follow a new path.

Of course your ego is not going to like this moment of surrender. It has been fighting against it for years. Your ego still thinks it can be happy while getting drunk or high all the time.

So it takes a bit of humility to push the ego aside and ask for help. Yet this is the beginning of true surrender.

Are you ready to change your life? Take the first step toward recovery today

You may find yourself disagreeing with some of the ideas in this article. Read it again. Bookmark it and read it again next week. See if it makes you angry or threatens you in any way.

It takes guts to break through your denial. It is not supposed to be comfortable and easy to do. It takes courage to face your own misery and admit that you are unhappy with your life.

Ask for help, seek treatment. Life can be worth living again, and even fun, if you are willing to work through your denial.

Start asking yourself the tough questions and honestly measure your misery. Is chasing that next buzz really worth it? How often are you truly happy in addiction?

Send this on to someone who needs to read it!


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