Breaking Through Denial

Denial and Drug Dependence

As it pertains to addiction, denial is often used to describe the state that people are in who obviously have a substance abuse problem so far as anybody else in their lives is concerned, but still refuse to accept the possibility that they may no longer be in control of their drug use. Distorting or disavowing obvious problems and issues in their lives, despite mounting evidence to the contrary, is a hallmark of being in denial.

Much like almost anything else, denial can have some positive benefits when people utilize it as a coping mechanism. It can temporarily present people with some time to process a particularly difficult or challenging life situation or event and prevent them from making irreversible rash choices or causing themselves self-harm. It serves to protect your ego structure from something that would otherwise be devastating.

Taking an honest look at yourself and the situation you find yourself in, can be an extremely difficult thing to do. It can be particularly hard to accept the situation and get real about drug dependence issues, when the truth is very painful or difficult to deal with. The refusal to accept — or even see — a painful reality that fundamentally alters the way in which we perceive ourselves and who we believe ourselves to be, often activates the psychological defense mechanism called denial. As human being we often subconsciously protect ourselves from insights, awareness or knowledge that can threaten our physical and mental health, security and self-esteem; this is a relatively normal state of being human. Needless to say this can present a significant problem when there is obviously a drug dependence issue which is causing your own or a loved one’s life to spiral out of control.

The problem with denial is that it often doesn’t end on its own after the acute phase of a life situation has passed and the individual in question should be starting the healing and processing phase of their experience. This leads to living in a perpetual state of denial, which, to be clear, tends to be a bad thing, which always leads to further suffering.

Common Misperceptions about Denial

It can be very frustrating and heart-breaking to watch a loved one’s life go down in flames while they completely ignore the core of their problems. Some very common statements made be drug-dependent individuals who are in a state of active denial include:

  • I can quit anytime I want to.
  • I’m going to stop using drugs tomorrow (or right after this difficult situation passes).
  • It would be much easier to stop using drugs if everybody would just leave me alone and stop harassing me about my personal problems.
  • My problem isn’t drugs, it’s other people who are constantly judging me.
  • My job or family life is so stressful that I need to be able to relax and unwind with drugs or alcohol.
  • I hate my job and couldn’t stand to maintain my responsibilities if I was sober. The people who depend on me would be disappointed.

While this behavior can be baffling to anyone else witnessing the events in question, it can make perfect sense to the person who is in active denial. A common misconception is that all actively using drug addicts and alcoholics are in a state of denial. People have different levels of self-awareness with regards to their substance abuse issues and drug dependence problems, and may be willing to accept many facts about the consequences of their drug use, while simultaneously willfully misperceiving the actual impact that their addictions have upon their own lives and those of their family and loved ones.

Breaking Through Denial

Putting it mildly it can be very difficult to reach a person who is actively using drugs and in a state of denial. This isn’t a behavior that is unique to drug dependent individuals, there are many people who suffer from chronic conditions and diseases such as cancer, HIV, high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, obesity, and heart disease, who are intellectually aware of their situation, but refuse — or are unable — to acknowledge, accept and act upon this information and instead choose to go about their lives ignoring the obvious, until it reaches an absolutely acute state which forces them give up their fantasy life of being in control of a situation or magical thinking that by somehow ignoring the facts, everything will turn out okay, and instead come to terms with their condition and mortality.

Within the context of treatment for drug dependence, this is the concept of ‘hitting rock bottom.’

As bad as rock bottom might sound, it doesn’t mean that a person has to lose everything in order to come to terms with their situation. An analogy often presented within different group support systems, is that of living within active denial being akin to an elevator going down. There are many stops on the way down to the sub-basements of addiction and death. There are many opportunities to get out of the downward spiral which ultimately ends in death for many drug dependent people. Getting arrested or almost dying, are not prerequisites for getting help (although, strangely enough, they can be helpful in breaking through denial, because people’s survival mechanisms kick in and produce bursts of clarity for at least a brief period of time).

There are many obstacles that must be overcome on any given person’s journey through recovery. Exiting a state of active denial — at least briefly — and accepting that they have a problem, is the beginning of the healing process. In addition to providing an extremely effective and gentle detox from drugs, and resetting a patient’s physical dependence on drugs and tolerance back to a pre-addictive state, ibogaine treatment can be highly beneficial for helping people process and accept trauma, and painful truths and events within life that they may be self-medicating.

While ibogaine is not a “cure” it is an extremely effective addiction interrupter which provides a solid foundation upon which to build your new life. Please feel free to reach out to us, and one of our addiction treatment specialists will be happy to assist you in any way possible.