It’s hard to admit you have a problem with drugs or alcohol, especially to yourself. No one wants to feel powerless or out of control. For that reason, denial is common among people with addictions. It’s the “selective ignoring of information” or a refusal to acknowledge the reality of your situation. Denial allows drug addicts to feel in charge, despite evidence that they’re not. It’s a way of coping with what loved ones in your life are probably saying: You have a problem. Denial can manifest in lies people tell themselves. They can be very convincing and may even fool other people for a time. But eventually the truth comes out. When it does, the person struggling with addiction moves on to another lie or admits to themselves that they need help. Take a look below at a few of the common things addicts say to justify and/or distort the truth of their situation. Are you telling yourself any of these lies?
1. There are people who use way more than I do.
This is an example of minimization, where you downplay how much or how often you use drugs or alcohol by directing attention to others who seem to have a worse problem than you. When you’re confronted about the severity of your use, you quickly start thinking of ways to make your use pale in comparison.
2. I’m working so hard. I deserve a stress reliever.
It’s easy to rationalize or try to make logical sense of your addiction. You could be going through a rough patch in a relationship or having a stressful week at work. From there you can more easily forgive yourself for doing things you wouldn’t otherwise do—except that you’ll keep using after your stressful event has passed. You’ll either find another event or aspect of your situation to blame your drug use on, or you’ll move on to another one of these lies.
3. I can stop anytime I want to.
Each time you pour a drink or pick up a joint, you may tell yourself you’re choosing to do this and it’s totally within your control. Drug abuse is a complex disease. Using drugs or alcohol changes the chemistry of your brain and makes it extremely difficult to stop, no matter how much willpower you have. Powerful cravings, withdrawal symptoms, and other factors make it so that even if you tried to stay away from drugs, without proper help, you may come back.
4. I’m a functioning drug abuser/alcoholic.
The myth of the functioning addict is just that—a myth. It’s impossible to have a chemical dependency and be able to live normally. Your mind will always be preoccupied with how you’ll get your next high. Drug use takes a physical toll as well, affecting things like sleep and eating habits. Several serious diseases can result from addiction, like:
- Cirrhosis of the liver
- High blood pressure
- Increased risks of heart attack and stroke
Inevitably, you won’t be able to live a normal life. Addiction will take a toll on your work or school performance, your physical health, your family and social life, and your ability to take care of yourself.
5. My drug use isn’t affecting anyone but me.
Addiction cannot possibly affect just one person. Parents, a spouse, children, friends, siblings are all affected in one way or another. They may struggle not to enable you while still showing they care. They certainly are suffering watching you fall deeper into a hole while being powerless to stop it. While you may find relief telling yourself—and others—this lie, you’ll eventually have to face the pain and suffering of your loved ones.
6. I only drink in the evenings or at parties, so I can’t be an alcoholic.
People with substance use disorders may look to one or more well-known symptoms of addiction and rationalize that because they don’t apply to them, they don’t have a problem. One myth is that all alcoholics need to have a drink as soon as they wake up. This is the case for many, but not all. Or you may believe that because you can wake up without a hangover or drive yourself home from the bar or party, you can’t be an alcoholic or drug addict. There are factors that can exempt people from certain symptoms, such as tolerance or genetics. Very few people meet every single criterion for a substance use disorder. Not having a few of them doesn’t mean you aren’t addicted.
7. I’m too successful to be a drug addict/alcoholic.
Stereotypes and stigma around substance abuse are prevalent. Many believe that only people from a lower economic class or with little education are addicted. In fact, the majority of drinkers are well-educated and have good incomes. In fact, one study showed that by the age of 26, upper-middle-class young adults had a two to three times higher risk of being diagnosed with a substance use disorder than others of the same age.
8. I’m a lost cause anyway.
This lie can be the most destructive of all. When you feel like you no longer care about yourself or your future, there’s nothing stopping you from increasing your drug use to the point where you put yourself in danger. If you truly believe this lie, it reveals deep-seated beliefs you probably have about yourself, like, “I’m a bad person.” Negative self-image means you’d probably benefit from therapy-based treatment, like cognitive behavioral therapy, so you can positively change your way of thinking.
Embrace the Truth
In order to maintain your addiction, you have probably gotten good at manipulating yourself to believe, at least partially, the lies above. By doing so, you give yourself permission to do things you know aren’t healthy and definitely aren’t making you happy. If you’ve told yourself any of these things, consider seeking help at a drug and alcohol rehab center. Addiction treatment at a facility like Washburn House will help you face your denial and learn to steer your thoughts and beliefs in a positive direction. The responsibility is ultimately on you to challenge and defeat your lies. By taking a step back from your environment and surrounding yourself with caring staff and peers who know what you’re going through, your thought barriers will start to come down.