Addiction Hurts Families By Keeping Them In Denial

2 min


Man in denial

Joe was divorced a few years ago and had a secret he couldn’t share with anyone, not his friends, family, or even his lawyer: His wife, Alice’s, drinking had made him feel alone, unhappy, worried, and finally frustrated and lonely enough to leave. It was confusing because Alice thought her drinking wasn’t her husband’s business. She insisted Joe was no fun, and it was he who had changed, not her. She was in denial. He secretly wondered if the divorce was really his fault?

His Wife Denied There Was A Problem

How do you reason with someone who says nothing’s wrong? Joe told me, “I knew my wife was drinking too much. I knew she wouldn’t listen to my concerns. I knew my marriage was over. But I didn’t know what had happened or why. I didn’t know how alcoholism works or how deeply it had hurt me. I searched the web but haven’t seen another site like ROR.”

Thanks for the kind words, Joe. ROR stands in your shoes, and our mission is to open everyone’s eyes. No one affected by addiction should to feel confused, helpless, and alone. We’re all family members who need support.

Many People Don’t Know What’s Going On

One of the saddest components of addiction is the incalculable number of family members and friends impacted by the disease who don’t know the reason for their suffering. Joe did not encourage Alice to drink. He’s not co dependent (like some of us), so he didn’t rush to get Alice drinks at parties. He didn’t drink with her to mollify her, or take her to bars so she could imbibe. He did tell her about his concerns, but Alice surrounded herself with others who liked to party, so her behavior seemed normal to her and Joe seemed like the killjoy determined to stifle her fun. Alice told Joe he was a control freak and didn’t think falling down or slurring her words was a big deal. And she got worse.  

How Long Does Alcoholism Take

It takes seven or more years for an adult to become a full-blown alcoholic. Those years for a family member can be really lonely and confusing if you don’t know what you’re looking at. If your family member becomes abusive or belligerent when you bring it up and you’re forced to enter a reality that seems crazy to you, it’s a real red flag. Denial has entered the building. That’s the time to explore the reality of addiction and how it changes people.

Denial Keeps Friends and Family Isolated And Alone

The isolation that addiction breeds may be the most insidious part of the disease because loved ones tend to look to each other for resolution and comfort, and not to outsiders. If your wife or son, or daughter or boyfriend is drinking too much, and you’re unhappy about it, you’re more likely to try to reason with them, negotiate with them. Most everything on the web is geared toward managing the addict’s behavior, or dealing with the addict and finding solutions for them. Family members have their lives turned upside down, and need support to understand it’s not their fault, and it’s all right to find their own solutions. 

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Leslie Glass

Leslie Glass became a recovery advocate and co-founder of Reach Out Recovery in 2011, encouraged by her daughter Lindsey who had struggled with substances as a teen and young adult. Learning how to manage the family disease of addiction with no roadmap to follow inspired the mother and daughter to create Reach Out Recovery's website to help others experiencing the same life-threatening problems. Together they produced the the 2016 ASAM Media Award winning documentary, The Secret World of Recovery, and the teen prevention documentary, The Silent Majority, distributed by American Public Television. Leslie is also the creator of Recovery Guidance, the information website for those seeking addiction and mental healthcare for professionals nationwide. In her career, Leslie has worked in advertising, publishing, and magazines as a writer of both fiction and non fiction. She is the author of 9 bestselling crime novels, featuring NYPD Dt.Sgt. April Woo. Leslie has has served as a Public Member of the Middle States Commission of Higher Education and as a Trustee of the New York City Police Foundation. For from 1990 to 2017, Leslie was the Trustee of the Leslie Glass Foundation.

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