What Is Alcohol Addiction Denial?
Watching a loved one sink into alcoholism is frustrating and terrifying. You may have asked your loved one about getting help, only to hear “my drinking is not a problem” or “I can quit any time I want to.” Obvious problems with relationships, career, money or the law are ignored, or they are considered someone else’s fault.
Unfortunately alcohol addiction denial is a characteristic of alcoholism. No matter how serious or obvious the problem seems to you, your loved one simply does not recognize it exists. When your loved one is in denial over alcoholism, how do you deal with it?
Alcohol is a dangerous substance that negatively affects how the brain processes reward and executive functions such as learning and memory. It also produces physical dependency in the most serious cases, which is why people who drink heavily must consume alcohol nearly continuously.
Without alcohol, physical withdrawal symptoms begin and last for several days or longer. These symptoms are so uncomfortable that a person who tries to quit may return to using within a few days.
The earlier in life one starts drinking heavily, the more likely developing alcoholism becomes. Because the human brain doesn’t fully develop until the early twenties, adolescents who alter brain pathways through chronic alcohol abuse may struggle with drinking problems for an extended period of time.
Alcohol Addiction Denial Occurs in Loved Ones Too
For many people addicted to alcohol, the prospect of sobriety is as frightening as it is overwhelming. These individuals have relied on alcohol as a crutch for so long that the prospect of managing life’s challenges without it is terrifying.
Ironically evidence suggests that the worse the addiction, the worse the denial. In fact, denial that alcoholism is a problem may even spill over into those who care for the struggling individual. The tendency to blame alcoholism on problems with health, psychological issues, temperament or simply bad luck occurs in many people who are close to the alcoholic as well as the alcoholic himself.
As you, your family members and other loved ones became accustomed to the signs and symptoms of your loved one’s alcoholism, you may have begun taking steps to protect that person. You may have made excuses for your loved one missing work or an important family event, for example. You might have loaned your loved one money or agreed to keep secret a consequence of alcoholism, such as drunk driving.
Undoubtedly you are protecting your loved one because of concern — your struggling loved one may have promised to quit drinking in exchange for your favor. Unfortunately, no matter how sincere that promise, alcoholism is a chronic relapsing disease — and that means there is little your loved one can do to quit without professional help. Enabling your loved one to continue drinking without suffering the full consequences of his actions worsens the disease and the denial — and its effects on you.
As the scope of research on alcoholism improves in breadth and depth, addiction professionals have learned that developing a treatment plan to match the alcoholic’s willingness to accept the diagnosis often offers the best recovery outcomes. That means an individual who suffers from severe alcoholism doesn’t need to accept a diagnosis of alcoholism to benefit from treatment.
On the other hand, for many suffering from alcoholism, the first step toward living an abstinent lifestyle will be overcoming denial to accept the diagnosis of alcoholism. Arranging an intervention and getting help from a residential treatment center are effective means of encouraging your loved one to accept help. At 12 Keys Rehab, our holistic rehabilitation program has a interventionist on staff who will fly to where you are to help convince your loved one to seek treatment.
Intervention has succeeded in convincing many in denial that getting professional help is necessary. Even an intervention that appears unsuccessful at first may later strongly influence your loved one’s decision to enter treatment.
The bottom line is this: it is never too late to ask for help. If you have questions about a loved one’s condition, contact us now. The call is free and confidential, and we are happy to tell you more about our program.