Sober Body Guide

Denial, Deceit and Deflection of Addictive illness.

Ian Young Addiction Treatment

Denial, deceit and deflection of addictive illness

The first thing we naturally do when we see a loved one with a problem like an emerging addiction, is we will try to talk to them about it. But unfortunately, anyone with addictive illness is going to be resistant to your attempts to engage them in conversation about their negative behaviours as they begin to feel their addictive illness being threatened. Because they associate pleasure with their addiction, even though you are scared for their long-term welfare, they will begin putting blocks up and forming excuses in order to keep you away from the pastime that they are associating with serving them, rather than consider ceasing.

Here are 20 examples of denial, deceit and deflection that you may hear and begin to recognise someone with addictive illness (an addict) using in their attempts to justify or cover up the depths of their disease.

1. I only do it occasionally

Instead of flatly denying the abuse of a substance, the addict may concede that they have just been engaging a little, or at weekends or special occasions. This is called minimising and it’s an attempt to underplay the seriousness of the problem and an attempt to cover up what they are beginning to know is true (hence the “white” lie). A rough estimate is that an addict admits to around a quarter or less than their actual usage, if they do admit to anything at all.<

2. I’m not that bad

When we confront the addict their response may well be to claim how it isn’t a problem – how they’re not really that bad. They may even reference how much worse they used to be and how the danger has passed, and they believe they have it under control now. This is really dangerous beliefs for an addict to have, as it displays the denial that they have around the actual harm they’re causing themselves and others around them.

3. I can stop whenever I want to

This is the classic denial statement. To avoid themselves from thinking that they may have a problem, the addict attempts to self-deceive that they can stop at any time, if they should choose to, but that they prefer not to choose to at this time. They may even attempt to stop for a pre-agreed period of time in order to prove how they are in control. But this always ends up being temporary and will usually lead to an even more extreme binge afterwards.

4. Everyone else does it

This is a deflection tactic, by suggesting that the behaviours are commonplace, particularly amongst their wider circles of friends or colleagues. By stating that everyone does it too, somehow seems to justify their own acting out, and minimise the relevance of their own challenging addiction.

5. I’m not as bad as...

By comparing themselves to others, the addict will attempt to minimise the importance of their own addiction whilst highlighting the severity of someone else’s. This tactic is an attempt at misdirection. The hope is that you’ll stop focussing on them and their challenges and revert your attention on someone else.

6. I’m not the same as...

Another attempt at misdirection, but in this case the addict is picking on someone known to be unpopular with the family or circle of friends. By attempting to open up and emphasise the differences between the two of them and divert the focus onto someone less popular is classic manipulation. The comparison may be true, but it doesn’t change the very real challenges that this addict’s life is facing due to their own addiction.

7. Everyone else is doing it, it’s expected of me

The addict will claim that everyone around them is already engaging in their addictive behaviour or substances. Therefore, it has got to a point where they believe they have no other options but to engage too in order to maintain their social standing or position. This is particularly true in work environments where often a drinking culture has emerged or is encouraged by colleagues. It is a little different than the “Everyone else does it,” excuse, because in this instance they are claiming that they had no choice in the matter and were forced into the behaviour.

8. You are trying to take away my fun

Once the addict perceives that the people around them are beginning to resist and confront their addiction, they resort to believing, or at least offering the argument that everyone is now trying to keep them from enjoying their life and they need to leave them alone to their happiness. It’s passive aggression as they begin to blame their loved ones for their unhappiness, which emotionally tugs at the family to step back from the challenge and let them continue in their self-destructive addiction.

9. But it makes me feel good

True addicts have a rather personal relationship with their addiction and consider it a vital and integral part of their person. They will note that whilst intoxicated by their addiction that they feel great, and when they are not consuming or acting out that that they do not feel good about themselves. This is further evidence of just how ingrained they’ve become with their addiction and it displays danger signs to everyone else except the addict, who regards it as their salvation. It becomes an emotional relationship as well as mental and behavioural.

10. Life without my "pleasure" will be boring

This is another very common belief in almost all people with addictive illness prior to them having genuine and sincere recovery experiences. There is a real fear (albeit irrational) that their life will be boring and meaningless if the addiction is removed. This is suggestive of the love affair they may well be having with their addiction.

11. It helps me to cope. I can't manage without it

The sad part of this statement is that the addict is now trying to justify their use and give excuses for acting out. They may even be creating unnecessary drama just to support this dialogue and then use the situation to attempt to convince you of the importance of their continued use of their addictive behaviours or substances.

12. I cannot be "Me" without it

Another very common belief by the addict is that they’re actually unable to function, socialise or perform their duties in work, family or society without their addiction. The dangerous part of this belief is that the more they believe this, the more they will extend their dependency upon it, which does underline their genuine dependency on it to engage. It’s a never-ending spiral into deeper and darker addiction.

13. I need it to be creative.

This is a common lie that addicts genuinely believe. They credit their previous success with the creativity their earlier experiments with their addictive behaviours or substances gave them. This is delusional and can be a tough stance to overcome. What is usually required is sober evidence that they can achieve the same results (or better) whilst addiction free. This social proof can be the persuader.

14. I need it to relax

Now we’re in straight forward denial mode. Instead of dealing with whatever stress and anxiety they have going on in their life, the addict tries to cover up their feelings by engaging in their addiction, which unfortunately only ever seems to make matters worse. But the addict cannot see this. They see the feelings of relief they temporarily receive and not the actual problem that’s causing the stress and anxiety to begin with. The main challenge is that the stress and anxiety still remain after the addict has engaged and so they re-engage further into their addiction, incorrectly believing that it’s helping the situation.

15. It doesn't change me. I'm still me

In contrast to the previous point, this time the addict's denial is flipped as they fail to see how they've changed or evolved over time due to their addiction. Addiction is a selfish pursuit and naturally it changes someone as they become self-obsessed and pre-occupied with their addiction, spending less time focusing on others and more time wrapped up in their own "wants and requirements". In reality, the more severe the addiction, the more dramatic the personality changes.

16. It helps me be a better person.

To justify their addiction they will begin saying that without their addictive process, behaviour or substance that they are more angry, frustrated, anxious, depressed, and stressed. Usually this is clearly not the case, but only those around the addict can see this. What they see is the addict’s aggression, frustration, depression and unsettlement is actually being reinforced by the addiction.

17. This is none of your business

Addicts tend to become weirdly possessive of their addiction, be it to substances or behaviours. It could be compared to an illicit love affair which is deep and entrenched, and yet also secretive and discrete. This may begin to explain why they can become agitated and aggressive under certain circumstances, particularly if they perceive you as trying to take their addiction away. The anger is used to attempt to scare you away from getting involved in something they tell you is none of your business.

18. It's not effecting you

Once the addict has been confronted, they will attempt to minimise any harms caused to others by exclaiming how their "challenges" only affect themselves and doesn’t hurt anyone else. Even in situations where this may be true from a logistical point of view, the emotional turmoil the addict causes their loved ones is incredibly high, but in most cases they are also genuinely hurting their loved ones in a real way, but without noticing so much because the nature of their addiction turns them into selfish, self-centred people who simply cannot see the world outside of their own needs, at least when it comes to their addiction. Furthermore, despite all this, they are still harming themselves in ways usually beyond measure.

19. I'm still working, so I can't be that bad.

In their continued efforts to prove to everyone around them that they have their addiction under control, the best story they will present is the differences between themselves and a park bench tramp or street homeless person. Maintaining a job or their business is the obvious point they will use to claim some sort of moral high ground. Unfortunately, addiction doesn’t discriminate between who it afflicts based upon their means or their lifestyle or any other factor. It takes people seemingly randomly as much as it takes people who come from generations of challenges families. Most of the addicts existing on the planet are functioning addicts meaning that they are able to function during the day and hold themselves together for much of their daily duties.

20. The kids don't know, so it's okay

Another common case of self-denial is the addict's belief that their children don't know or haven't noticed any change in their behaviour. But kids are very sensitive and can feel the change in vibes or energy in a family home. These children are observant and are in the copy and mimic stage of their development, so they try to replicate the behaviours of their parents, meaning that any level of addiction is imprinting poor attitudes upon their children. Essentially the addict really is putting their children future long term happiness in jeopardy.
If any or even many of these examples of denial, deceit or deflection are sounding true in your own scenario, then please do get in touch with us and discuss how we can best help you with a Sober Intervention and assisting your loved one into treatment.

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