Do you have a loved one who struggles with addiction but denies that there is a problem? Denial is one of the most common obstacles that must be overcome when seeking addiction treatment. Unfortunately, many people who struggle with addiction refuse to admit they have a problem. Some even go to great lengths to conceal the extent of their substance usage through lies and deception.
Denial prevents individuals from getting the help they need. It may keep them stuck longer in the habit of substance use. It is never too soon or too late to help a loved one understand substance use disorder (SUD) and find help.
Understanding Addiction Denial
SUD is a complex disease caused by various factors, including genetics, environment, and mental health issues. Your loved one may have begun using drugs or alcohol as a form of self-medication. If more people understand addiction like other chronic diseases such as diabetes or cancer, we could be more compassionate toward those who struggle with it.
Because of widespread societal stigma and discrimination against individuals with SUD, many people try to hide their problems. Denial is a defense and self-protective mechanism for these individuals. They may fear losing jobs or relationships, or they may not believe they have a chance of recovery. This leads them to reject the existence of a problem that needs professional treatment to erase.
When you want to support a loved one in recovery from addiction, the first step is to show compassion instead of criticism and judgment. We tend to think of addiction as a choice or a matter of weak character rather than an illness that needs to be treated. However, if you approach the issue of addiction from a less black-and-white or morality-based perspective, you can have more compassion for a loved one who is struggling.
Dealing With Denial in the Family
Sometimes denial can also prevail in the family. You may think you are protecting a loved one by hiding the extent of the problem, but doing so is enabling harmful actions. Get informed about how addiction develops and what intervention methods are effective.
Once you understand addiction and recovery better, set boundaries and rules for your loved one’s well-being; this is when you show tough love. For example, you could ask your loved one always to be honest about using. Try to avoid blaming, showing disappointment, and verbal confrontations. Don’t give in to manipulative behavior. Learn how to say no to requests that may lead to negative consequences. These actions are how you combat denial within the whole family.
For many families, it takes a long time to accept the problem. To reach a space of acceptance, you and your family must arm yourselves with information and a decision to acknowledge and help remedy the situation. But unfortunately, a lack of acceptance can also reinforce patterns of denial.
First, prepare for resistance. Next, remember that your loved one in recovery is likely not trying to be difficult or deceiving. Finally, treat your loved one’s addiction like other chronic diseases that need a diagnosis, treatment, and long-term maintenance. As much as you want to be supportive and dispel denial, it’s hard to know where to start. Below are a few practical tips:
- Accept the fact that substance addiction is a chronic disease. Do not place blame and try to shame your loved one.
- Verbalize your concerns as well as support. Let them know that you are on their side. Kindly point out areas to work on and help them do so.
- Listen to their emotional journey. Rather than being told what to do, they most wanted to be heard and seen.
- Be present in your loved one’s decision-making.
- Educate yourself and your loved one on ways to reduce symptoms, cravings, and triggers.
- Help them build a healthy routine with exercises, nutritious foods, and fun events.
Working With Health Professionals
Even when your loved one is in denial about their addiction, you can encourage them to keep track of certain symptoms and behaviors. This information can be invaluable for health professionals as they design a treatment plan.
A sign of overcoming denial is your loved one is willing to get help. The moment will come as you become more supportive and present in their life. When they are willing to learn more about addiction recovery, schedule an appointment with a recovery expert who can enlighten you on the topic.
Though your loved one might not yet be ready, you may want to begin looking for reputable treatment programs. Encourage your loved one to start outpatient therapy first. Once they experience some benefits to their health, they are more likely to continue exploring other options.
Denial is one of the most common barriers to addiction treatment. To overcome denial, you and a loved one should work with recovery experts. Laguna Shores Recovery walks alongside families who support their loved ones in overcoming denial in different stages of recovery. Our experienced mental health professionals and compassionate staff know the value of having a nonjudgmental space to come to terms with problems. We will walk alongside you and your loved one to offer continuous guidance to build such a space at home. This sets your loved one up for the best possible recovery journey. Let us help you discover how you can be part of your loved one’s recovery journey. For more information, call (954) 329-1118.
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