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How Do I Help My Addicted Loved One in Denial?

If your loved one is in denial about their addiction, don’t give up!

How Do I Help My Addicted Loved One in Denial?

Woman putting her hands up and refusing to listen

Addicts in denial put up walls, but the right approach can break them down.

Break Through Your Loved One’s Denial with These Helpful Tips

Your loved one has an addiction, and all you want is for them to get better. But what if they don’t want to get better? What if they don’t even think they have a problem?

Trying to convince an addict in denial that they need help can be frustrating and heartbreaking. At times it can feel like trying to help a brick wall. But the last thing you should do is give up on your loved one.

There are steps you can take to guide your loved one away from denial and towards recovery. In this article, we will show you how to make those steps and support your loved one no matter what.

Step 1: Learn What Denial Is and How to Identify It

You may be tempted to try to shake some sense into your loved one without first learning what they’re going through. Don’t do this! Instead, educate yourself on denial and try to understand why they might not see their condition as a problem.

What is Denial?

Denial is a defense mechanism addicts use to protect themselves from feeling guilty for their condition. Although they sense they have a problem, they may be too proud or ashamed to reach out for help. So instead, they often come up with excuses for their condition to protect their ego. Before long, these excuses can become their reality.

What are the Symptoms of Denial?

As you learn about denial, you should also learn about the many ways it can manifest itself. Become familiar with the typical excuses an addict will make so you won’t fall prey to believing them and enabling their addiction.

Here are some examples of common excuses:

  • “I don’t have a problem. People just need to stop judging me!”
  • “I only drink because life is stressful. When things calm down, I’ll be fine.”
  • “Other people drink just as much as I do, and they’re fine.”
  • “I haven’t had a drink all day, so how could I be an addict?”
  • “I just drink to have fun. Is that such a crime?”
Friends gently consoling their loved one

Your loved one will be more likely to listen if you approach them gently.

Step 2: Talk to Your Loved One Strategically, Gently, and Honestly

Your loved one’s denial will only continue to fester unless you confront them about it. Plan how you will approach this conversation ahead of time for the best results. Above all, make sure your plan is strategic, gentle, and honest. Here is what each of those elements looks like:

Being Strategic Means Choosing the Right Time, Place, and People

Look for an opportunity to talk to your loved one when they are most receptive to what you have to say. Addicts in denial tend to be most willing to listen when they’ve just clearly seen the consequences of their addiction. So, plan to have your conversation in the aftermath of a substance-induced incident or episode. Just make sure you give them time to sober up first beforehand.

Choosing the proper place is just as important. Find a private spot where your loved one won’t be embarrassed by your conversation. Try to make it a spot where your loved one feels comfortable. This way they’ll be less likely to retreat when the discussion begins.

Also, don’t feel like you must have this conversation alone. Invite friends to join you who are also concerned for your loved one. Just make sure everyone is on the same page about how you are going to address their denial.

Being Gentle Means Eliminating Accusations

Since denial comes from a fragile place of self-deception, a gentle approach will be more productive than an accusatory approach. Chastising your loved one for being careless and thoughtless will likely only push them further into denial. Instead, you should calmly alert them to the problems you’ve been noticing so that they will be more inclined to listen.

Being Honest Means Sticking to the Facts

While denial can generate a lot of excuses, it can’t argue with facts. So, make a list of specific occasions where you saw the harmful effects of your loved one’s addiction and use those instances as evidence in your meeting. Honestly detail the ramifications of those events and describe how things could be different if they chose sobriety.

A person holding hands with a friend.

Commit to being there for your loved one no matter what.

Step 3: Be Prepared for Better or for Worse

Hopefully, this interaction will result in your loved one admitting they have a problem and agreeing to seek help. The unfortunate reality is there’s no guarantee that your efforts will lead to success immediately. Whatever the result, you should be prepared to continue to support your loved one no matter what.

If they do escape their denial, offer to assist them in the next steps along their journey to recovery. Be willing to accompany them to recovery group meetings if they feel nervous and be their accountability partner when times get rough. Your support will mean the world to them.

The same goes for if they remain in denial. Tell them that you’ll be there to help them if they ever decide to seek help. You can also provide them with recovery resources, even if you don’t think they’ll use them. Above all, keep doing what you’re doing and have faith that your efforts will one day pay off.

Need help caring for an addicted loved one who is in denial? Contact New Directions at 779-220-0336. We’d be happy to provide you with the information, support, and programs you need to aid your loved one on the road to recovery.