The alcoholic denies there is a problem in many statements to themselves and others.
I have heard all of these statements and more by people who later decided they were alcoholic.
- “I’m not a real alcoholic. I haven’t missed a day’s work in five years.”
- “Real alcoholics lose their jobs, houses and families. That hasn’t happened to me.”
- “Drinking is part of the culture where I work.”
- “I only drink because I’m under pressure at work.”
- “I have a drink to escape from my partner’s nagging.”
- “It’s not my fault I got into an accident. The other driver was going too fast.”
- “I’ll stop drinking as soon as I get out of this relationship.”
- “I’ll be fine as soon as I move away from this dreadful town.”
- “I’m not hurting anybody else, leave me alone.”
- “I don’t need help to stop drinking; I can do it by myself.”
- “I can stop drinking anytime.”
- And the mother of all statements; “I’m not an alcoholic! I drink, I go to detox and sober up. Then I go home and drink. I do it once a year. I’m OK.”
In my experience if anyone makes any or some of the above statements with anger or assertiveness there is a very real possibility that they are in denial about their drinking.
I have then asked other questions, its known as the CAGE questionnaire;
- C – Have you ever felt you should Cut own on your drinking ?
- A – Have people Annoyed you by criticizing your drinking?
- G – Have you ever felt bad or Guilty about your drinking?
- E – Have you had an Eye opener first thing in the morning to steady nerves or get rid of a hangover?
If anyone is making some of the first 10 statements and answer the CAGE with several ‘No’s’ on the CAGE they may have constructed a psychological cage around their drinking.
What is denial?
Denial is the psychological process by which alcoholics protect themselves from things which threaten them by blocking knowledge of those things from their awareness. It is a defence which distorts reality; it keeps them from feeling the pain and uncomfortable truth about things they do not want to face. If they cannot feel or see the consequences of our actions, then everything is fine and they can continue to live without making any changes.
Denial is automatic; it is not usually a matter of deliberate lying or wilful deception. Most dependent people do not know what is true or false concerning their drinking and its consequences. They are blinded to the fact that their view of the situation does not conform to reality. The denial system distorts their perception and impairs their judgment so they become self-deluded and incapable of accurate self-awareness.
Denial is progressive. The denial system becomes increasingly more pervasive and entrenched as the illness of chemical dependency progresses. In the very early stages it is minimal, and with encouragement, such people can usually view their problem fairly realistically. However, by the time a person’s illness is sufficiently advanced that the problem appears serious in the eyes of others, an elaborate system of defences shields them from seeing what is really happening.