Tips for Dealing with Denial in a Person with Addiction

Tips for Dealing with Denial in a Person with Addiction
Medically Reviewed By: Dr. Joshua Yager M.D.

Medically Reviewed By: Dr. Joshua Yager M.D.

Dr. Joshua Yager is an Atlanta native, board-certified family practice physician who is dedicated to the health and wellbeing of his community.

Table of Contents

One thing many addicts face as they fight off this terrible affliction is denial. It is not uncommon for a person with drug and alcohol addiction will be in denial of their situation. They will have rationalizations for every single one of their actions and will justify themselves in whatever way they can so they don’t have to deal with what should come next.

This, perhaps, is the longest and most painful part of having someone you love suffer from an alcohol or drug addiction. At this stage, you might be hard-pressed to convince them to check-in at an addiction treatment center, but it is not impossible.

To that end, we have created this guide for dealing with the denial of loved ones suffering from an addiction to drugs or alcohol.

How do I prepare to talk to someone in denial?

Before you try talking your loved one into checking in at a rehab center, it is important to know what to expect. As we’ve mentioned before, they are likely to attempt to rationalize their situation. They will say whatever they need to downplay the problem. They may even become angry, which can be dangerous if they’re under the influence.

The most important thing to do in this case is to anticipate what they might say and prepare responses that express care and concern. Talk about how their substance abuse has hurt you and the people around them so you can paint them a better picture of the effects they’ve had on their loved ones.

To that end, you can ask someone who has survived and moved on from an addiction, such as a representative of AA or a professional from an addiction treatment center for advice.

What do I say to someone in denial?

A person in denial wants to believe that their world is a certain way, so it is important to help them realize that the world they want to believe in is neither real nor is it healthy for their health and the health of those who love them. This means holding them accountable for the realities of their addictions without blaming or criticizing them.

Some other tips for talking to someone in denial are:

  • Be specific and bring up specific incidents and instances that they have knowingly participated in, such as broken promises, and so on.
  • Use a lot of self-centric language or “I” statements, such as “I was worried…” or “I notice that…”
  • Talk about the negative effects your loved one’s usage of drugs and alcohol has had on the things they care about the most, such as their career, their relationships, and other commitments.
  • Do not be discouraged when they continue to deny their problem. It is not a failure on your part, as denial is one of the symptoms of alcohol and drug abuse.
  • Keep in touch with your loved one even if they aren’t open to receiving help or helping themselves right now. Your simple gesture of even offering the littlest concern might help them in the future.

Final thoughts

Dealing with addiction is tough, not just for the person using drugs and alcohol, but for the people around them. The important thing, however, is to remain patient and supportive without enabling. This means calling them out on their harmful behaviors (harmful to both themselves and others) in a gentle and patient way. Denial doesn’t last forever, and the right words and strategies might help dismantle their denial in time.

If you or your loved one needs the help of a rehab center, send us at Hope Harbor Wellness a message. We’ll do our best to help you and your family get back on its feet after this trying time in your life.


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