Denial in Addiction and Recovery

Denial can harm the surrounding friends and family negatively to the point of no return.


Denial comes in many forms. Addicts use denial to avoid admitting that they have a problem, justifying their use. In doing so, they push people away not allowing them to help.

Here are some common styles of denial:

  • Absolute denial: This is when they simply do not see that their drug use is a problem, “I do not have a drug problem.”   

  • Avoidance: While in addiction, addicts use denial to avoid dealing with their addiction, by not acknowledging it.

  • Avoidance by Distracting and Omission: Talking about everything except their addiction.

  • Blaming or Scapegoating: This is when they blame other people for their drug use such as, “If you kids didn’t behave so badly I wouldn’t have to drink!”  

  • Comparing: Making other addicts appear worse off in their addictions than they do,

  • Compliance: Agreeing to go to treatment or quit only to get you out of their face.

  • Strategic Hopelessness: Believing that because they have already tried to quit, and have failed, means that there is no point in trying anymore.“Dave drinks more than I do and he is just fine.”

  • Democratic Disease State: Believing they have the right to use regardless of the consequence or who it hurts.

  • Intellectualizing: Using knowledge to distract from the addiction.

  • Diagnosing yourself beyond help: This is like believing that you cannot teach an old dog new trick, in that in this form of denial they believe that they are “too old” to change their habits.  

  • Minimizing: Addicts do this by making their drug use appear to be less serious than it is, such as “I only use on the weekends.”

  • Rationalizing: This is similar to justifying. This is using excuses to explain the drug abuse.  

This is how denial can be used in addiction; however, denial can also be used in recovery. Believing that your life circumstances are not as bad as they really are is denial. Getting other people to handle your business for you is a form of denial called manipulating. Denial can be detrimental to recovery.

Not realizing you are displaying signs of moving towards a relapse can lead to an eventual relapse. It is best to stay in tune with what is really happening in reality and not shrug it off, especially when others are trying to honestly point signs out to you.

Living your life in denial is like lying to yourself. In being honest with yourself there is great freedom.

Distributed by Client Initiatives

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