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Someone in denial of addiction

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Getting someone who is in denial of their addiction to accept their situation and move into treatment or rehab is a very challenging thing.

That said, the old adage that you ‘can’t help someone who will not help themselves’ is not wholly true.

There are steps you can take to help someone to:

  • begin to see and accept they are suffering with addiction
  • recognise the consequences of not dealing with their addiction
  • ultimately accept help.

None of this is simple and it may take a lot of patience and persistence.

We have lots of experience in this area and have helped dozens of other people in this situation. We have laid out some guidance below and urge you to reach out for help.

Signs of an addict in denial

How to deal with an addict in denial

It would be great to think you could follow a step-by-step guide to get an addict who is in denial to go to rehab but, in reality, it is not that simple.

Addiction is confusing, chaotic and unique to each individual. That is true whether the addiction is to drugs, alcohol, gambling or some other behaviour. Therefore there cannot be a one-size fits all approach and solution.

That said, having a checklist of positive and proactive actions you can take will help you to help them by providing clarity of thought and empowering you to see what you can do as well as what you cannot.

It’s sensible to try to work through the steps in order, but in all likelihood, you may not be able to successfully complete all the steps and may need to return to some steps a number of times. See this as the framework for your support – not as a guaranteed easy route to a solution.

These steps are:

  1. Know the signs of an addict in denial
  2. Open a conversation – what to say to an addict in denial
  3. Work to recognise and adjust your own actions, responses and behaviour

1. Know the signs of an addict in denial

Knowing the signs of an addict in denial will help you to have greater confidence in your own convictions that someone you care about is suffering with addiction and needs help.

An addict may often be dismissive about your concerns or try to convince you that you are wrong. They’re likely trying to convince themselves too.

Not all of the signs need to be present in order for someone to have an issue with addiction.

Signs of an addict in denial may include:

  • drinking or using drugs when alone
  • drinking or using drugs at unusual times, such as in the morning
  • keeping alcohol or drugs in unusual places, such as hidden in the home, the car or in a desk at work
  • developing a tolerance to alcohol or drugs that requires taking more and more to get the same high
  • combining multiple substances to get a stronger high, such as taking painkillers and drinking alcohol at the same time
  • lying about, or hiding, how much or how frequently substance abuse takes place or conversely talking a lot about their addictive behaviour – taking drugs, drinking or gambling, for example – and rationalising it
  • suffering from withdrawal symptoms, including anxiety and shakiness, when trying to stay sober
  • encountering serious problems due to their substance abuse, such as drink driving or building up excessive debt
  • ignoring old friends or once-loved activities to spend time using instead
  • blacking out things that occurred when using drugs or alcohol.
  • relapsing into abuse after a period of sobriety, or alternating between periods of using and periods of sobriety
  • conversations about addiction that often end in arguments or heated discussions.

2. What to say to someone who has an addiction issue

Whether you have tried to discuss addiction with the person you are concerned about before or have not yet raised the subject, you can make a difference by raising the subject.

It can be extremely difficult to speak about addiction without the conversation either escalating into an argument, being dismissed or leading to accusations and blame.

Giving careful consideration as to how and when you begin the conversation – and trying to use certain language – will increase the chances of success.

Should things not work out the first time you try to raise the subject, try to be resilient. You can have another go and often it will be necessary to try numerous times before your message gets through.

A valuable thing to have in mind is to attempt to speak in statements that express what you are thinking and feeling. This way you can demonstrate the impact your concerns are having on you and your life.

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Statements that begin with the word ‘you’ – such as ‘you drink all the time’ – are usually best avoided. They are generally perceived as accusatory and are more likely to lead to defensiveness, denial and recriminations.

Statements that begin with ‘I’ are often more acceptable to someone who is listening and therefore may be better received. Useful statements may be ones that begin, for example: ‘I’m worried about you,’ and ‘I can see the pressure you’re under and want to help.’

It’s not easy to have a conversation about addiction that results in someone who is in denial accepting that they have a problem and they need help. Professional advice and support is available on how to confront an addict in denial.

Our team is happy to discuss this process with you and to offer free and confidential advice and support either over the phone, by text or direct message. Do get in touch.

We can also link you to professional counsellors for advice or to organise a formal intervention, whereby you are supported to demonstrate to the person you care about how serious their addiction is and to try to get them to accept treatment.

3. Work to recognise and adjust your own actions, responses and behaviour

There is a phrase for people who are associated with someone who is addicted that many people find helpful.

It is: “I didn’t cause it, I can’t cure it, I can’t control it.”

Taking steps to embrace and continuously remind yourself of those ‘three Cs,’ as they are often referred to, will help enormously. Though, accepting the three Cs is much easier said than done due to the levels of guilt, fear and concern people who care about someone who is suffering addiction are often carrying themselves.

What you can influence is your own behaviour, responses and actions. None of this is easy and it’s understandable if you don’t always feel able to do it due to your own feelings, perhaps of anger, bitterness or low mood.

You may be able to:

  • avoid raising the issue of a person’s addiction when they are unfit through drink or drugs
  • use positive reinforcement to acknowledge things they do that make you happy, such as enjoyable times you have when they are not drinking or using
  • remove yourself from the situation if things become heated or an argument is brewing
  • recognise and avoid enabling behaviours which may include making excuses for the addicted person’s behaviour, lying for them or about their behaviour, giving them money or buying them drugs or alcohol
  • seek out help for any children that may be affected by the addiction of the person you care about. Adfam may be able to help and lists a number of organisations that support the families of people dealing with addiction.

None of the above actions are easy and it’s vital not to give yourself a hard time if you slip up when attempting any of them. You’re allowed to make mistakes too.

You really ought to try to:

  • seek advice and support for yourself – living alongside addiction is stressful, upsetting and takes its toll on everyone
  • consider and assess if the addiction is putting you or anyone else in danger and whether you need to take steps to distance yourself, report the situation or remove yourself or children from the family home. That doesn’t mean you are abandoning the person you care about. You can still offer care and support from a distance if it is safe to do so and you want to.

If domestic violence is an issue, there is lots of help available. The Government guide ‘Domestic abuse: how to get help’ contains lots of information and contacts.

Next steps when facing denial of addiction

Reaching out for help is vital when someone you care about is facing addiction and there’s more support than you may realise.

Our supportive, empathetic team is here to offer free, confidential support and advice on addiction and treatment. Contact us today.

Other resources you may find useful include:

Call today for free & confidential advice on 08000029010 (International: +44 161 674 9049)

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