The Nature of Denial and Enabling

Both the individual suffering from the illness and those who are concerned about him or her may find themselves in some form of denial regarding either the existence of the illness or the degree to which it is causing harm. It is not uncommon for alcoholics and addicts to flat out deny that they have a problem. They may abstain from using for a few days, a few weeks or a few months and prove to themselves that they can control their drinking or drug use. They may also justify their substance use as a well-earned reward for working hard, or as a reasonable release from the pressures of a busy work or home life. Some may justify their use as their only means of relief from painful and traumatic episodes in their lives. Those suffering from depression believe that they are both unworthy of and beyond any hope of being helped. They deny their potential for recovery.

Those of us who are concerned about the well-being of another may fervently hope that they are not, in fact, suffering from alcoholism, other forms of addiction, or a mental health disorder; or, we do not want to think their condition is “that bad”. In a well-intended but misguided effort to help, we protect them from the consequences of their irresponsible behavior. We often seek to reduce conflict in an effort to keep the peace so as to not trigger or worsen an episode of drinking or drug use, gambling, over eating, bulimia, depression, etc. We do for them what they should be doing for themselves. They do not get better. Our failed efforts to control and protect them lead only to mutual frustration, disappointment, anger and resentments. Everyone is miserable. We may eventually give up. We live with their dysfunction or we end the relationship, leaving them to their fate.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Help is available. Change is possible. Your life and that of your loved one can be restored. Happiness and peace of mind can be found.