What Is Denial

2 min


From Rachel Fast for Reach Out Recovery: Denial is the most common reaction to problems with substance and alcohol abuse. The number of people who acknowledge that they have a problem with alcohol is a tiny fraction of those who think they don’t. If you are someone who drinks in excess and worries about it, or even gives it a thought now and then, you may be on the road to recovery.

There are people who drink a bottle of wine, or more, or sometimes a little less (or the equivalent of beer, or hard liquor) a day and consider the consumption of that amount absolutely normal. Told that they have a problem, they would scoff, wave you off, tell you you’re nuts, maybe to mind your own business.

Should You Tell People They Have A Problem

Just recently, I squelched the impulse to tell an old and close friend that she drank too much, facing as ludicrous, the idea that she would immediately concur, run out to get help, and live soberly ever after. Trouble is, aside from the physical damage the drug–yes, alcohol is a drug–does to you, it also makes you boring, or irascible, or inappropriately amorous, or silly, or embarrassing in any number of ways, AND YOU DO NOT KNOW IT.

Alcoholics Think They Are Fine

You, in your cups, are convinced that whatever way you are is just fine, often even better than fine, while all those around you are dismayed in one way or another, and some may be considering whether or not they even want you around any more.

You in your cups have the same amount of realistic recognition of reality as a person having an auditory or visual hallucination; to the mentally-ill person, that sound and/or sight is as real as a clap of thunder or the earth under his or her feet; to the drunk, the behavior is appropriate, justified, necessary, even brilliant.

Why Do They Think That

The distortion of reality brought on by alcohol makes it easy to deny its negative effects, a happy fact for the people who sell the stuff. The drinker all too often does not know how his or her behavior is changed by drink. True, occasionally, he or she will look back with remorse, but then decide, not that drinking is a problem, but to be more careful while drinking in the future.

The woman mentioned above, who had been charming and delightful while regaling the company around her with stories of her recent adventures on a cruise ship in the Baltic, suddenly turned her attention to matters political, and when asked, somewhat firmly by someone at the table, not to discuss politics, she saw violent rage in the request and reciprocated in kind. She slumped over, shook with fury, looked up occasionally to state facts about which no one had any interest, because everyone was distracted by her condition, which was scary.

No Remorse for Bad Behavior

She later acknowledged only that the person who had requested a cessation of political conversation was a dangerous maniac. She had not only ruined a lovely evening but afterwards distorted completely the events that turned it grim and even scary. If she read this now and recognized herself, she would be furious, not at herself, but at me for wrongly criticizing her. Denial is sometimes useful, in cases such as this, dangerous.


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