There are at least 2 levels of denial when it comes to getting clean and sober.
The first level is the “superman” level of denial. We all go through this early on in our addiction, thinking that we are different from the other poor suckers who cannot learn how to control their drinking or drug use and still enjoy it. We believe that we are somehow special, and that true addiction would never happen to us, because we are too smart or clever for that trap.
Some people never get past this level of denial, forever believing that they are truly normal and that they just keep getting unlucky. They rationalize that “if you had my problems then you would self medicate too.” Recovery, addiction, and denial are not even ideas that are showing up on their radar….they genuinely think they are “normal” and healthy. This is blatant denial.
Now a lot of people eventually get smacked upside their head with enough consequences that they are able to finally see through this level of denial, and admit to their addiction. This is a step in the process, but it is not the turning point that results in recovery. It is not the point of surrender. Breaking through “superman denial” is only one small step in the road to getting clean and sober. In my personal experience, I broke through my “superman denial” and knew full well that I was seriously addicted, but then continued to drink and use drugs for several more years.
What is this second level of denial? For me it was all about uniqueness. I was unique. Here is how my logic went: “Yes, “I am an addict, sure. But I am different from these other people who go to 12 step meetings because I truly love to get drunk and high. These people are different from me and they must not have enjoyed getting wasted as much as I do. I am not right for a 12 step program and therefore I could never have this sort of recovery work out for me. That is how I am different and that is why I continue to drink and use drugs.”
This was my second level of denial that kept me away from recovery for a few years, even though I had fully accepted the fact that I was hopelessly addicted. I had truly made peace with the fact that I was an addict and that I could never successfully control my drug use. I had even been to rehab a few times and learned about it, and also identified with the other addicts and alcoholics there. I knew I was messed up. But I felt powerless to correct the problem in any way due to this second level of denial. I was holding myself back from any possible solution with a barrage of excuses. I was unique, I was different, it won’t work for me. It can’t work for me. These other people are different. And so on. This is the second level of denial.
Just because we break through our denial does not produce a workable solution in our life. The structure usually goes:
1) Admit – that we have a real problem.
2) Accept – our problem on a really deep level.
3) Action – from the willingness to actually do something.
Just getting through denial does not ensure this willingness. It is only when you move past all the excuses for every part of your denial that you can become willing to try something different in your life.