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My Loved One is in Denial About Addiction – What Can I Do?

It can be extremely difficult to handle our loved ones’ denial about their addictions. To us it’s evident they are struggling and need help. We are so worried about them. We fear for their safety and for the safety of the people around them, including ourselves. When they are in denial, they are convinced they don’t have a problem. They tell us we’re unnecessarily concerned and creating or overexaggerating the problem. They may even accuse us of lying or intentionally trying to hurt them. What can we do when our loved ones refuse to see just how big a problem their addictions have become?

Trying to force people to understand when they’re not ready doesn’t usually work. They don’t want to feel forced or controlled, especially if they’re already struggling. Very often people who are in denial about their addictions know instinctively, deep down within them, that they have a problem but aren’t ready to admit the truth to themselves or to other people. Instead of forcing them to admit their problem, we can gently express our concern and lovingly share information and resources with them. We can tell them things like, “I’m really concerned about you. Here is the number for a local treatment center when you’re ready to think about getting help.”

Other people’s problems are exactly that – other people’s problems, not ours. As much as we love the person, as much as we worry for them, ultimately it is their issue, their cross to bear, and their choice whether or not to get help. This doesn’t mean we give up on them or leave them alone to deal with their addiction if we feel like we can be helpful. It simply means we remove the enormous weight of the responsibility we feel for them. We often think, if we can only get through to them, if they can only open themselves to the power of our love, we will be able to steer them in the right direction. Addiction doesn’t work that way, though. We can’t save anyone but ourselves. The addicts we care about who are in denial will need to get to the point of being able to admit their problems on their own, for themselves and their healing, not to please or placate us, and not because we want them to or have forced them to. Ultimately is their journey to take.

When you’re ready to get help, we’re here. Call (800) 871-5440.