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How to tackle an addict in denial

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If you have a loved one who is dependent on alcohol or drugs, in addition to watching them battle with their addiction you may also be battling with their denial.

How can you help and support someone who won’t admit or face up to their addiction?

It is overwhelming and can feel like you have exhausted every option. For the person struggling with addiction, denial can be the most daunting barrier to overcome.

Helping an addict or alcoholic takes immense patience, persistence and also knowledge about what they are going through and the best ways you can help them

There isn’t an easy fix, but here are some things to keep in mind when attempting to help someone battling with addiction.

Understand why they are in denial

It can be difficult for addicts to ask for help because the power of denial and self-delusion is so great.

We all use denial to help us cope with life. Denial helps us cope with a potential threat or uncomfortable facts and feelings. In fact, denial can be an important strategy in helping us to cope with situations we cannot control.

It is the same for addicts. A coping mechanism. The addict will rationalise, repress, self-deceive and selectively forget in order to avoid confronting the unbearable reality of their addiction.

The stigma attached to addiction is also a factor in the perpetuation of this denial. There is still a deep stigma attached to addiction and the consequences of admitting the addiction which makes denial extremely appealing.

If I am an addict, I am a bad person

If I am an addict, I can’t do my job

If I’m an addict, people will judge me.

If I am an addict, I am hurting my oved ones.

If I am an addict, I am not in control.

If I am an addict, I will have to give up the substance that I rely on to cope.

If you want to address this denial, you also need to address some of the ‘truths’ the addict may be holding onto that are feeding their need to deny they have a problem.

Do not enable their behaviour

When it is someone you love, saying no to an addict, who may be extremely persistent and manipulative, can be difficult.

Enabling an addict is not just about helping them to feed their addiction directly. It can be helping them out of situations they have gotten into because of their addiction such as debt or problems with the law. It could be covering for them in social or work situations or even just forgiving then time and time again.

This is a very difficult thing to do, especially if it is child, parent or spouse and you feel like you are being too harsh, or that they may come to harm if you don’t give into them. The reality is that while you are enabling them, it is harder for them to come out of denial and face up to their situation.

You also need to think about whether you are in a co-dependent relationship with this person.

A definition of co-dependency is “a psychological condition in which someone is in an unhappy and unhealthy relationship that involves living with and providing care for another person (such as a drug addict or an alcoholic).

Signs you may be in a co-dependent relationship include:

  • An unhealthy attachment to the other person
  • You or your partner enable negative behaviour
  • Manipulation and guilt are common
  • You put their need in front of yours
  • Control is a driving factor in the relationship
  • You push away friends or family who are negative or concerned about your relationship

If you think you may be in a co-dependent relationship, you may need to seek professional help for both parties.

Be careful how you approach the subject

The temptation when tackling an addict in denial can be to try and force them to face up to their addiction. If you broach the subject too aggressively or forcefully, however, it is likely they will pull away and may even seek solace in using.

Before you confront them you need to plan your approach and not react in the height of emotion or an argument.

Try to show them specific instances of how their addiction has had a negative impact on their lives, their work and relationships. You can talk about how it has affected your life but avoid talking of blame or negativity but rather focus on why you would like to see your loved one leading a substance-free life

For more tips on how to approach a loved one about their addiction click here

Be there for them when they do seek treatment

It may take someone a while to address their denial and seek treatment or help. Make it clear to them that when they are ready, you are there to support their decision and help them through the process.

It might be useful to have done some research about the options open to them, but don’t force this information on them. Just let them know you have it if they need it.

When they are going through treatment, make sure they know you are there to support them as knowing someone cares about their wellbeing may be a positive factor in their recovery.

If you would like to discuss in confidence residential detox and rehab treatment for your loved one, call us on 01226 422 326

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