How to Help an Addict in Denial
The suffering of a loved one can sometimes be so painful to endure, that we forget to remember it’s not our own affliction. When we care for someone deeply, their pain becomes our own. Without realizing it, we align their successes with our happiness and their failures with our sadness.
This interdependent relationship commonly takes shape when an addict refuses to admit to their problem. Family and friends are often left exhausted at their failed attempts to help, and the addict continues living in the freedom of their denial.
If you or someone you know is in this position, remember that all hope is not lost. It may take time and patience, but with the right strategy, you can help someone overcome addiction denial.
Learn About Denial
Before you even enter into a conversation about denial, it’s prudent that you know what you’re talking about. How can you help an addict who is in denial if you don’t understand what that looks or feels like?
Denial is characterized by a refusal to believe or admit that something sad, difficult, or even harmful, is real. It involves a level of lying that enables a person to continue living in a way they perceive to be normal.
Attempting to explain this phenomenon to a person who is suffering can prove very difficult. It takes great patience, a delicate approach, and cultivated language to make a dent in that mental fortress.
How to Help an Addict in Denial
Talking to an addict in denial can be akin to talking to a brick wall. No matter how heartfelt and rehearsed your message may be, it will likely falter under disregard from the other person. Though this may be discouraging at the onset, it just means that the conversation needs to shift to a new message or a different time. Here are some tips to keep in mind when you are preparing to open a dialogue:
Be Open and Honest
Be open about the way you feel. Sometimes, the best way to reach an addict in denial is to call upon your own pain. You may want to present examples of how the addict’s behavior has hurt you or the ones you love. You can keep the tone cool and calm by using non-critical language that speaks to the heart of your otherwise heated emotions.
Reserve the Judgement
The quickest way to truncate the conversation is through judgement. Nobody responds well to criticism of this nature, especially when it involves hurting others. Avoiding judgmental language may alleviate some of the stress of the situation, and as a result, open the addict’s perspective.
A Sobering Conversation
The only time it is appropriate to have this conversation is when the addict is sober. Any other attempt will likely be forgotten or responded to in a negative way. Make sure that you have this conversation in a safe, inviting place when the addict is most certainly clean. This will ensure that there are no roadblocks to inhibit the basic exchange of communication.
Become an Ally
In the stages of addiction recovery, denial comes first. Given the nature of this phase, it’s no wonder it is an amazing challenge to overcome. Sometimes, helping an addict in denial just comes down to patience. You can become an ally to your loved one or friend by reassuring them that you will be there to support them on their journey, if and when they decide to seek help.
Repeating this assurance will likely resonate with the addict at some point. No matter when they decide to seek help, whether that is in the form of therapy or rehabilitation, you can be there to show your support. And sometimes, that’s all the hope an addict needs to admit to their problem. A helping hand goes a long way when a person is suffering in silence.
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