The Signs of Alcoholic Denial

Today many treatments for alcohol addiction are available and recovery is possible. The bad news is that in order to become well, the person affected must admit that a problem exisits. Denial presents the greatest obstacle to recovery. By it, a person insulates themselves from any need to change. The first form of denial is the refusal to admit that anything is amiss. The person, when confronted with his/her problem drinking, may insist that drinking is a private matter and therefore none of your business. Frequently, the person will attempt to change the subject in order to halt the conversation altogether. If the person does not flatly deny the problem, they may instead try to minimize the problem. This form of denial includes hiding alcohol and lying about how much and how often drinking occurs. The person refuses to own up to the actual amount of drinking they do or attempts to paint other people as overreacting. Denial can also take the form of rationalization or justifying drinking. The person may speak openly about the potential problem while at the same time feeling their own behavior is well within reason. They may attempt to show you how their own drinking compares favorably with someone else’s or they may shift blame for individual instances to anyone else besides themselves. They will tell you that they have not hurt anyone, have not lost their job, and don’t have cirrhosis of the liver or any number of other comparisons which make their own issue appear small. They may say that they only drink when their spouse is unkind or their child misbehaves or the boss is unreasonable. If you see these signs in a loved one, understand that this could be the result of deep shame. They are afraid to ask for help, so instead they go to great lengths to cover up. Whenever you see one or several of these forms of denial, it is likely that the alcohol problem is even worse than you suppose. Keep in mind that the person may have come to believe the lies they are telling. They really do believe that their drinking does not rise to the level of addiction. They really believe that others drive them to drink. They really do think that they need the alcohol in order to cope in the same way someone else needs coffee to wake up in the morning. Of course, there will be other signs long before denial is necessary. Missed work days, less interpersonal engagement at home, a preoccupation with drinking -any of these may be signs that the person is addicted to alcohol long before they are ever confronted by another. The important thing is not to join in the denial. Realize there is a potential problem and be willing to lovingly confront it. And don’t be surprised if the first reaction is a denial.

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