Denial plays a vital role in addiction. It is the usual core reason why substance abuse continues despite its countless consequences. Addiction damages the life, health, relationships, and careers of an addict and the people around them, but by being ignorant or in denial, it can continue to persist.
You can classify this trait as the selective ignoring of information, a form of defense mechanisms, a self-deception that allows a person to ignore realities that they fear, and they are uncomfortable to face. Know that this can be a conscious or a non-conscious action.
Most addicts do not even know or acknowledge that they have an addiction. They try to rationalize their situation by thinking and saying things like “I can stop anytime” “This is just a phase” Substances like alcohol and drugs change the chemical composition of the body, and it also affects the thought process of a person.
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How To Help An In Denial Addict
Your first should focus on helping that person realize that they are in denial. Help them overcome that denial phase because for you to be able to help them, they must first be able to recognize that they need help. So what can you do to accomplish this?
1. Talk to Them
One of the most important things you need to remember is that when you decide to talk to an addict, choose a time when they are sober. A high person has a greater tendency to be irrational and aggressive.
Addiction is a touchy subject. It is not ideal to discuss it directly. There are different ways to approach a discussion about addiction.
2. Talk About Your Concerns
As much as possible, start your sentences with (I) instead of (You) when you are saying your concerns.
Instead of saying:
(Where have you been going lately?)
(You are losing so much weight )
(You do not hang out with us anymore. What have you been doing?)
(You have changed, you do not talk like you used to)
say it like this instead;
(I miss you. I do not see you a lot lately)
(I’m a bit worried, I feel like you have not been eating well)
(I miss hanging out with you)
(I miss the way we used to talk and I miss hearing your stories)
See the difference? The first set of sentences sounds accusatory, you might not mean it that way, but remember again that this is a touchy subject. An addict in denial could be easily offended and be on guard when they feel like someone is treading too close to a conversation they’ve been trying to avoid.
The second set of sentences focuses more on your concern for them rather than what they are doing. It makes a person feel that you care about their health and their well-being more than anything else. It gives a vibe that you are not there to accuse or judge them.
3. Talk About Goals and Dreams
Voicing out your concern and worries could work to most people, but some would not be affected by it, or some might even receive this negatively. Remember that they are in denial, and anything that reminds them of their problem is not welcome.
We are all different, just like there are things that work for some and not for others. If you are planning to talk to an addicted person, chances are they are your family or your loved one. That means you have an idea of how they perceive things and what works for them.
Instead of talking about your concerns, you can try to discuss with them about their plans, or goals in life. Ask them about what they see themselves doing in the next years to come.
One of the forms of denial is thinking that they should live in the moment, so they try not to think of the future consequences of their actions. By asking them about their plans, you are indirectly asking them to see how their addiction can have a significant effect on their lives and their goals in life.
Again, try not to say this to them too directly. You can start by talking about your side, talk about your own goals, dreams, and plans first. After that, you can then ask them theirs so it could appear like a random conversation.`
You can start by saying:
(I’ve been saving a lot lately. I’ve been doing this and that because I want to do this and that in the future. How about you? What are your plans?)
(I think I see myself doing this next year. How about you? Where do you see yourself next year or in the next five years)
(I have been working a lot to make this dream of mine come true. I think I can accomplish this by doing this and that. How about you? What are yours?)
If they answer you, especially if they sound like they are still in doubt, you can then ask them these follow up questions;
(What is stopping from accomplishing that?)
(How do you plan to make that happen?)
This tactic works best for people who used to have a lot of goals and dreams in life, and who used to be an achiever.
4. Talk About Your Struggles
You know how they say that if you want a person to tell their secrets, you tell them your secrets first. You can also use this tactic to help someone move out of their denial. Consider that it is easier for someone to share their vulnerable side when the other person is not afraid to show their side as well.
Talking about your struggles and how you overcome them would greatly help your cause because the addicted person will see that you have gone through a hard time too. However, try not to talk about the substance responsible for their addiction. Talk about random things and be honest with them.
You can start the conversation using this kind of samples;
(I always had a hard time losing weight. I could not stick to a diet and exercise for long, and then I remembered that I love to cycle. I have been cycling for a month now, and I’ve lost more than ten pounds! Can you believe that?)
(I used to smoke a lot. I always had my two packs of cigarettes with me to last me for a whole day. I thought I could never quit, and It came to a point where I felt that I could not survive without it in my life. But then I started to notice that it has been affecting my life more than I can imagine. I decided to do something about it. I started lessening my cigarette consumption by one every three to five days. It was so hard, and it took me so much time. Now, I am two months smoking free, and I’ve never felt so much better)
By talking about this kind of thing, it can show someone that there is hope even in a seemingly hopeless situation.
5. Speak with Love
Speak from your heart. That may seem a bit corny, but sometimes that is what it takes.
Here is an example:
(I am not ashamed of you, I am not concerned about what others would say, but I care about you, I care about your health and your life.)
Because in reality, more than anything, you only want them to get better, not for you but themselves.
Denial goes deep when it comes to addiction. It is a stage that every addicted person has to overcome to begin their path in recovery.
As shown above, as someone who is concerned, that are different ways you could do to help them accomplish this task.
You can also ask for help from a professional interventionist. These are people who have an in-depth understanding of addiction and its effect. They have gone through several interventions, so they know what to do and what to expect. They can help you prepare your mind and body. They will also guide you on how you can help the person who is addicted.
Again, do not hesitate to ask for professional help when you get confused or overwhelmed and always remember that there is hope when you believe that there is.