Oh my gosh! Every now and then I read something so profound that it feels like the author has been privy to my personal life. This is one of those blog posts.
My ex-husband is so blind to the truth, he wouldn’t know it if it were sitting on him! He has this grandiose lie cycle in his mind and it causes him to not be able to see anything except from his own twisted perspective. His mental narrative is limited to his own echo chamber and what he thinks is the only truth. He is right and everyone else around him is wrong and stupid. The kids and I were talking about this just yesterday.
The most frustrating thing for all of us it not being able to get him to LISTEN so he can hear or see the truth. He makes up stories in his own mind to support his addiction and that keeps him from being able to make any significant progress in repairing or restoring his most important relationships. So we are forced to helplessly stand by and watch him spiral out of control, until he finally hits bottom, that is, if he ever does…
Had he been able to hear and see the truth I would have never divorced him. Even now, if he would wake up to his own awful state and get super humble about his situation I am confident that our relationship could and would be repairable.
I have had EVERY ONE of these DENIAL TACTICS used on me! It is a horrible experience to have someone you love live in denial. It’s painful to the point of feeling like torture. And because of it I was forced to distance myself from him and eventually divorce him to escape the abuse of denial. Even in the face of losing me, and now, losing his children still isn’t enough to wake him up from his denial coma. His is a willful blindness.
For now…there is absolutely NOTHING any of us can do because he is in ABSOLUTE DENIAL. All we can do is watch. For a family of an addict, that is pure torture!
Addicts are Blind
When we are in our addiction, we are blind to it. Alcoholism and all other addictions come with built in denial. The patient does not know that they are ill. They have no real concept of how severe the situation is and they are frequently not willing to talk about it at all. (Larson, 1998)
That makes recovery a bit difficult. In the mind of the addict, recovery just isn’t necessary. The addicts response when first confronted with his situation is: I DO NOT HAVE A PROBLEM!!! It is an emphatic response, often with anger and indignation that such a thing might even be proposed. The more anger and indignation, the more probability that there is a problem. One of the many painful frustrations for family and friends is watching someone they love, losing their life to addiction while they seem completely unaware of it.
The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) describes addiction as a cunning and baffling disease. (Bill W, 2001) Indeed all addictions may be so described. Addictions steal our sense of, and contact with, reality. It is part of our blindness. We weave such an intricate web of rationalizations and justifications to allow our addictive behavior, that we become engulfed by the darkness of our lies of denial and are blinded. Drunkenness is excused as, “Just letting off a little steam.” Smoking marijuana as, “It’s the only thing that helps me relax.” We use Meth not because we are addicts but say, “I have to work two jobs and need the help staying awake.”
The truth is this: WE ARE ADDICTS. WE DO NOT REALIZE WE ARE ADDICTS, AND WE WILL DO WHATEVER WE HAVE TO DO, AND SAY WHATEVER WE HAVE TO SAY, TO CONTINUE TO BE ADDICTS.
To gain the comfort of acting out in their lives, addicts employ the truth and reality bending benefits of denial. Denial is the hall pass to our addiction. Denial can help us justify our acting out or even hide it completely, even from our own eyes. One sex addict emphatically said, “I was NOT a sex addict. I was NOT that guy!” He really didn’t believe he was until he recognized that he was doing what a sex addict does. That is some of the hardest work of recovery; recognizing, coming to terms with, and gaining freedom from the addict’s patterns of denial.
Unfortunately, we lie to ourselves as much as we lie to others. “I need this,” or “No one will know,” even “I am not hurting anyone.” The list of thinking errors or denial patterns is very long. Addicts are very creative people. Often, the more intelligent they are, the better addicts they become. Terence Gorski MA has identified the patterns of denial in his book, Denial Management Counseling (Gorski, 2000). These patterns are:
Minimizing and Absolute Denial. Some addicts are like our friend Ron, using Absolute Denial, I am NOT that guy! He also throws in a little Minimizing for good measure, Yes, I had some problems with affairs, but….
One of the classic reasons that individuals cannot recognize themselves as addicts is that they don’t meet their definition or their mind’s picture of what an addict is. It is the perfect setup for Minimizing:
Elton was a pretty high functioning alcoholic. He taught high school, didn’t miss work, and was very well respected by both colleagues and students. In John’s mind an alcoholic was the guy in that Christmas movie with Jimmy Stewart. The unshaven guy, disheveled, stumbling in and out of bars, begging for drinks. Elton was nothing like that, so there was no way he could convict himself of being a drunk. Reality is that alcoholics come in all kinds of packages, and Elton came to understand this when he was driving home from work with a very high blood/alcohol content and was the cause of a terrible accident that took someone’s life. He couldn’t deny that he was a drunk anymore.
In the mean time…
Be Sweet, Stay Strong!