Denial used to twist logic, blame others for drug use

Mr. Atwater: Both my husband and my son have addiction problems but always maintain that I am overreacting and have caused the problems that caused them to drink or use drugs.

I know it sounds ridiculous, but if you live with someone for a long time and they believe what they’re saying, you start to think maybe they’re right and you’re the crazy one. As it turns out, I am a little crazy but not in the way they say. They also maintain a person can be addicted and decide not to be addicted anymore. They prove this by quitting drinking or, in my son’s case, drugging for periods of time, and then some “reason” comes along, usually something I’ve done or not done, and we’re off to the races again. My son has even been in rehab twice and still keeps this way of thinking. Each time we re-start the race, the ending is worse, but they don’t see it. Can you say something about this problem?

Dear Reader: I heard about a young actor who recently died of an overdose described as a “former addict.” Saying “former addict” or “former alcoholic” is like saying “genuine imitation” or “lactose-free milk.” If you say it fast enough and with enough confidence, it can sound plausible, but that doesn’t make it true.

Addiction is a disease that, like most chronic conditions, will get worse over time without treatment. Chronic illnesses can be treated so there are periods of remission, but they are never considered cured. This information isn’t new regarding addictive disease. In fact, it’s been common knowledge to the medical community since the World Health Organization made a statement to that effect in 1950. But if we are dealing with addiction, we are also dealing with a highly misunderstood symptom called denial.

Denial is a virulent form of self-deception, an ability to rationalize beyond the range of nonaddicted folks. Denial can make big things small and small things big, adjust responsibility for actions so the responsibility never lands at the feet of the denier, and twist the thinking process in numerous and subtle ways that will always result in a reason to use alcohol or drugs. I have heard the phrase “cunning, baffling and powerful,” used to describe alcoholism.

Addictive disease isn’t something you want to battle with by yourself. Like the alcoholic or addict, you, as you mentioned, are “a little crazy,” and that craziness can be far more harmful to you than you might think. I would suggest if you haven’t already looked into counseling, do so with a qualified addictions counselor and check out an Al Anon meeting tonight.

• Rick Atwater is a licensed clinical professional counselor.

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