The opposite of Denial is Acceptance. When addicts first come into recovery, they have a firmly entrenched denial system that has to be overcome if progress is going to be made. The denial system takes many forms and these are just a few examples;
1. “I am not really addicted, I just use socially/recreationally.”
2. “I can stop any time if I want to.”
3. “I am not a junkie or alcoholic, I just need to relax.”
4. “I only have a small problem.”
5. “Once I break the cycle I am in, I will be able to use/drink occasionally.”
6. “Just “once” won’t do any harm.”
7. “It’s not my fault – others have made me what I am.”
8. “I don’t need a program. I can do this myself.”
9. “Once I am “cured” of this addiction I’ll be able to use occasionally.”
10. “If other’s (parents, spouse etc.) would change, I wouldn’t need this escape.”
11. “I know what will work best for me so I don’t need a sponsor or a program.”
12. “I don’t belong there (12 Step Group or Rehab etc.) I am not like them.”
13. “I only have to quit. I have no other problems.”
14. “I perform better if I have a drink/joint etc.”
15. “I can quit and still keep my using friends, go to places associated with my using days and the same things I used to do.”
The list goes on and on. As long as addicts stick to beliefs based on denial of reality, recovery is not possible. This is why a sponsor is so essential. Sponsors confront the addict’s denial system. They challenge false beliefs with facts and examples drawn from their own experience and the collective experience of millions who have made it into recovery.
One of the techniques that can be used to break-down denial is Securing Acceptance. If addicts accept certain “truths” then denial dissolves away in the face of these “realities”.
The following are a few core beliefs that the addict in recovery has to accept in order to progress;
1. Accept that you have a disease called “addiction”.
Whatever the reasons you started using or drinking, they are no longer relevant. You have now caught a disease which cannot be eradicated. It is called a disease because it is chronic, progressive and will kill you if not arrested.
2. Accept that you “use” because you are an addict – and for no other reason.
Removing the reasons which originally started you on your downward path will not arrest the disease. You will have to use a therapeutic recovery program to make quitting possible. Blaming your addiction on anyone or anything else is simply a denial of the true reason you now use. Accept that you have caught a disease. The disease is called addiction. You are an addict.
3. Accept that you have an insanity that causes insane thinking. Therefore you will need a sponsor.
Once addiction takes hold, it modifies addict thinking and other processes. Judgement is clouded and decisions are based on the desire for instant gratification. Denial abounds in just about every area of an addict’s life. Lies, deceit, paranoia, guilt and shame shape the addict’s thinking and core beliefs. Passing any critical decisions through this “insane mind-set” will result in insane decisions.
In early recovery there are many critical decisions (and truths) which the addict-mind will not be able to process successfully. Years of experience and millions of addicts and alcoholics have proved the effectiveness of having a sponsor to “supervise” the addict’s decision-taking and analysis of situations.
3. Accept that you have a disease which is incurable and will be dormant inside you for the rest of your life.
The disease of addiction is for life, and “addict-thinking” will continue to manifest from time to time, even after decades of sobriety! It’s for this reason that addicts and alcoholics with ten, twenty or thirty years sobriety still have sponsors and still work their programs.
Because this is a life-time disease, addicts in recovery have to do certain “maintenance activities” all the time. These include “vigilance” activities such as;
(a) Never taking over-the-counter or prescribed medicines without checking them out thoroughly for addictive triggers such as codeine, morphine derivatives, benzodiazepine, amphetamines etc
(b) At parties and other functions where alcohol is available, never put your soft-drink down. If you do leave it unattended, get a new drink!. There are many stories about people with a drinking problem, who are being nagged that “so-and-so stopped drinking, why can’t you?” … will deliberately sabotage that person’s sobriety by pouring alcohol into so-and-so’s glass or can when they aren’t watching!
(c) When meeting a new romantic interest, check their sobriety before becoming further involved. Addicts and alcoholics cannot be around people who aren’t sober.
(d) Never forget what you came from. Too many addicts forget their worst days and only remember the happy ones. This leads to addictive thinking like;
“Perhaps I wasn’t really an addict.”
“So many years have gone by, I’m sure one sip won’t do any harm.”
“I’ll just try it and if I see I am losing control, I’ll stop immediately.”
Addicts have to accept that they will never ever be able to “just have a sip” or “just one puff” without relapsing.
Eternal vigilance is the price of sobriety.
4. Accept that the only way to quit, is to quit – outright and suddenly.
Addicts’ denial systems coupled with their fears, often delude them into thinking that they can quit by slowly, cutting down or switching from hard drugs (like heroin, cocaine, crack etc.) to soft drugs (marijuana ecstasy, beer etc.) I am not a proponent of “harm reduction” as recovery method. It doesn’t work! It doesn’t work for smoker’s, dieter’s and it definitely won’t work for addicts.
Quitting must be an instant and ongoing decision backed by possible detoxing, rehabilitation or 12 Step program.
5. Accept that you will have to give up all associations with using people, places and events.
This is often hard for addicts to accept. For so many years the only friends they have had were “users” and the thought of loosing all of them at once is very scary. A whole set of new friends have to made. This is a lonely time for the new addict in recovery and family support is essential. Arrange activities, outings and interesting things to do.
The first new friends that addicts in recovery make are people in 12 Step Groups. Often they get stuck there, creating a social circle of people who could relapse and bring the new addict down as well. This is why it is important for them to also make friends with people outside of the addiction eco-system.
6. Accept that you will have to attend 12 Step meetings.
Most addicts in early recovery complain about attending 12 Step meetings. This is understandable. 12 Step meetings are a therapeutic event, not a social gathering. At first everyone there are strangers and they talk about things the addict is in denial about. However, like the cancer patient having unpleasant chemotherapy-therapy, addicts have to view going to meetings like going for life-saving therapy. Addicts don’t go to enjoy themselves – they go to recover.
Even if the addict recovered in a rehabilitation facility, they need to continue meetings afterwards.
All these factors have to be accepted in order to gain the right motivation to quit. Once the addict does accept them, the path is open to recovery.