stages of denial

Addiction denial can be a barrier to treatment unless it is understood and dealt with properly in a therapeutic sense. Two types of denial and three stages have been identified by experts in the substance abuse field to understand how individuals with addiction deny the visibility and presence of a problem. Discernment about these types and stages of denial is critical to the success of a person’s recovery.


Types of Denial

Two types of denial exist. They include the following:

Type A: when a person understands that a problem exists. Confrontation about the issue results in flat out denial in spite of knowing it is true. Dishonesty and lying are two behaviors exemplified by this type of denial.

Type B: an individual either partially or totally becomes blind to problem. Self-deception, rationalization, justification and excuse-making create a false belief about the non existence of a problem even if others around the person see the issues.

A denial system is both an intellectual and spiritual disconnect to reality. A person who intellectually understands addiction is present may not believe it internally. This individual may consistently relapse but express amazement along with friends and family. Intellectual denial manifests in people who are able to function normally on the outside (paying bills, live in a nice house, etc) but abuses substances much to the shock of loved ones.


Stages of Denial

Three stages of denial exist which keep a person in addiction without realization of the consequences. They include the following:

Stage One: the individual does not believe the addiction is a problem. Evidence supports the claim of addiction but refuse to believe chemical dependence has occurred. One of the best ways to overcome this stage of denial is through education which can result in intellectual acceptance and compliance but will not result in truly overcoming the addiction.

Stage Two: a person denies the need for ongoing support in sobriety post treatment. Good intentions in treatment do not guarantee compliance after. Individuals in this stage may not attend support meetings without a profound change of inner perception of the problem and solution. Sometimes, this is referred to as a spiritual awakening or moment of clarity. The soul needs time to accept the truth, come to an understanding and move from the head to the heart to fully embrace recovery. Denial in this stage can be overcome by seeking a greater power outside the self for ongoing support in sobriety.

Stage 3: a person in this stage denies the need to do whatever it takes to be sober. Other priorities may take precedent over sobriety and recovery. Maintenance of sobriety is a low priority and rejects the 12 steps to recovery and may result in relapse. The best way to overcome this stage is to make a firm commitment to active participation in a recovery support group which supports personal growth and responsibility. Striving for progress, not perfection, in this stage is key to healthy, long term recovery.


Hired Power provides support for recovery. Call today at 800-910-9299 to discuss how we can help you overcome addiction.

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