Everyone knows Samantha’s husband drinks too much…including Sam. The excuses she makes for Jack are common; they’re the same ones many of us tell ourselves.
According to Merriam-Webster, denial is “the refusal to admit the truth or reality (as of a statement or charge).” It’s difficult to accept the fact that a loved one is struggling with addiction, so we try to convince ourselves nothing’s wrong. We rationalize and minimize; we lie to ourselves and use a ton of excuses in an effort to deny what’s really going on.
Excuses, lies and denial only muddy the waters of substance abuse. They might alter the momentary perception, but they certainly don’t change the reality. When we’re dealing with addiction, there is absolutely no time to waste. People die from accidental overdoses each and every day; we simply don’t have the luxury of sticking our heads in the proverbial sand.
Here’s a look at five lies we often tell ourselves, hoping we can avoid the painful truth – that someone we love and cherish is being slowly consumed by an addiction:
- Lie #1 He is under a ton of stress right now. That’s the only reason he drinks so much. Sam tells herself that Jack will stop drinking (or drink less, anyway) once things get better at work. After the project is complete or once he gets a raise or…the list of excuses never ends. Somehow, there’s always a stressor to take the blame for the extra booze. And that kind of thinking doesn’t help anyone – least of all Jack.
- Lie #2 He doesn’t drink all day, so he can’t be an alcoholic. Sam only sees Jack drink at night. He doesn’t have a cocktail for breakfast, so he must be okay. If he was really an alcoholic, he’d always have a drink in his hand, right? He just drinks to unwind in the evenings and sometimes in the afternoons. That’s no big deal. Sam refuses to take off the blinders; she doesn’t want to see how much Jack drinks, how it affects him or acknowledge the fact he can’t stay sober for one night.
- Lie #3 He’s not that bad. Jack doesn’t drink nearly as much as my Uncle Jerry. Jerry is an alcoholic. Jack’s fine. Sam’s whole family knows Uncle Jerry drinks too much. Jerry even admitted he has a drinking problem. Since Jack doesn’t act like Uncle Jerry, he must be okay. Sam doesn’t want to focus on the fact that each person’s struggle with alcohol is unique and no two lives look exactly the same.
- Lie #4 Jack only drinks beer. It’s not like he’s drinking a bottle of vodka every night. Sam figures, if Jack only has a few beers at night, it’s not a big deal. Alcoholics tip back the hard stuff. Jack’s clearly a lightweight drinker, not a man with a drinking problem. Sam selectively ignores the fact that all forms of alcohol are still alcohol. The type and taste are irrelevant; they’re all addictive and have the same negative effects.
- Lie #5 Jack has a great job and never misses a day of work. He couldn’t function on the job if he were an alcoholic. Sam tells herself that alcoholics call in sick or get fired. They can’t hold down high-paying jobs and attend their kid’s school functions. Jack has a great life. Clearly, he’s okay. Never mind the fact that there are thousands of high-functioning alcoholics going to work every day across the nation.
We’re Not Fooling Anyone
Sam can’t face the fact that Jack’s an alcoholic. She overlooks the obvious and clings to false hope in an attempt to deny the truth. She follows up each excuse with “facts,” hoping the comfort of denial will eventually prove that Jack doesn’t have a problem.
On some level, Sam knows – deep down – that she’s created her own web of lies. What she doesn’t know is that, in an attempt to protect her family by denying or rationalizing Jack’s alcoholism, she’s simply setting the stage for pain and heartache.
Additional Reading: So You Married an Addict – Is it Time for a Divorce?
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