If you have already shared your feelings about your loved one’s alcohol or drug use, then boundaries, allowing natural consequences to occur, and self-care are going to be essential to you. Often these things communicate more effectively than any words you could use.

This may also be something you might want to discuss with a therapist and/or a trusted support person, but I’d like to suggest that it is not always helpful to try to force someone out of denial.

I say this because it may be impossible to know if your loved one’s denial about their alcohol or drug problem is actually protecting your loved one from another more serious problem they’re genuinely not prepared to face.

This is why the medical and recovery community is trying to change the language around this.

Melodie Beattie calls denial the shock absorber for the soul.

I have a friend in my family recovery program who really believed another friend of his absolutely needed to stop drinking. But then he realized that drinking might be the only thing that’s keeping her from killing herself.

Of course, the drinking could end up killing her, too. But the point is, denial is a protective mechanism. Sometimes we can stay stuck in it too long, but sometimes it really does keep us from walking off a cliff.

So be careful about forcing the issue.

I was in complete denial for years and years about how profoundly growing up with so much addiction in my family had affected me. It wasn’t until I had had effective support around me for quite some time and I had rebuilt some of my self-esteem that I was able to come out of it. That’s because, growing up, my life depended on acting like everything was OK.

I have no doubt that many other people could see the severity of my issues well before I could.

But the truth is, if I had seen how badly I had been affected by the alcoholism and drug use in my family, I probably would have just killed myself because I would have believed that there was no way to overcome that. I would have said, there is no getting’ there from here.

So I’m very grateful today that I couldn’t see it.

Hopefully now you can see how denial often gets a bad rap. Sometimes it can be a good thing. In fact, it could be saving someone’s life.

If your loved one is close to being ready to come out of denial, the other things recommended in this program, may be the nudge that will support them in doing that.

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