Denial is a safety net for everyone. We deny our problems when we feel overwhelmed. We deny that we are facing situations that we do not like.
Denial is a construct that is firmly embedded in our culture from birth through death. It is a construct created to protect us from harsh realities that we would rather not face. Thus, denial can be seen as an ego defense that shelters the person from the truth they cannot deal with.
This can be especially true for those struggling with active addiction.
As a concept used in the treatment of addictive disorders, "denial" was popularly coined in the early-to-mid 1980s when the conversation about addiction became more open. It was used then to describe the denial of an addict and the severity of their substance abuse and the problems surrounding it.
The overuse of the word is apparent over 30 years later. We know all the slogans and catchphrases about being "in denial."
Denial in the field of addictions' treatment means that the addict is going to minimize their addiction by any means possible. Outright denial of active addiction often includes:
- Looking at it as everyone else's problem
- Blaming those around us for our abuse of drugs and/or alcohol
- Negotiating to lessen the impact of our use and dependence on substances
These acts of denial are attempts to protect ourselves from having to face life without the only measure of comfort we know—that of using and abusing those same substances.
Denial as a Defense Mechanism
While it's apparent to everyone around an addict that their addiction is spiraling out of control, addicts will continue to resist with whatever weapons they may possess. At this juncture, their most reliable argument may well be denying any problems addiction creates for them and the social environment they inhabit.
Therefore, as trite as the word may be in today's vernacular, it is important to remember the comfort an addict finds in using this old weapon for their seeming survival.