Author: Carolyn Rennie, Foothills Centre for Change

Denial is the refusal to accept something that is presented as true, this is a stumbling block to recovery. Denial often stems from shame, low self-esteem, self-loathing, and low self-worth. For those addicted to drugs or alcohol, it can be extremely painful to acknowledge the damage they created and hurt they caused others through their use. Rather than deal with the reality of the situation, some use denial as a defense mechanism as well as a way to prevent intense emotions. Denial can keep people from seeking help and can cause them to continue in toxic cycles. 

These are some common types of denial: 

  • Minimization 
  • Optimism Bias 
  • Avoidance 
  • Control Fallacies 
  • Normalizing 
  • Externalizing Responsibility 

In order to end denial, one must come to terms with the consequences of their actions and end the behaviour. This is a big reason why those who need recovery aren’t always the ones who get recovery; denial is often a factor is postponing recovery. When someone in addiction is in denial, their mind creates a system of rationalizations which justify their harmful behaviours: “I’m not that bad; I’m not hurting anyone else; It’s the weekend; I deserve it.”  

Why Someone Is In Denial: 

  • They believe that they are in control of their using
  • They are ashamed to admit they have a problem
  • They are using alcohol or drugs to cope with other issues
  • They may have people enabling their using
  • They are convinced they are “different” than other people who are addicted to drugs & alcohol

The best thing that can be done to defeat denial is to learn to come to terms and accept addiction for what it is. Addiction is a disease. The addict can move forward from the hurt they’ve caused by amending their behaviour going forward and seeking help for their recovery.  

We are not responsible for our addiction, but we are responsible for our recovery.  


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