Denial, often considered the very first stage of addiction recovery, is also one of our go-to coping mechanisms. It is a form of emotional suppression, and we deny not only the traumas we’ve experienced but also the various feelings we’ve accumulated over the years related to those traumas, causing ourselves considerable mental and emotional suffering. Our denial exacerbates our pain, so why do we revert to it and lean on it? Why do we use it as a coping mechanism when it doesn’t help us to cope?
Coping mechanisms don’t serve us, and they often really limit us, because they’re born out of our subconscious tendencies toward self-sabotage and self-destructiveness. When we’ve been traumatized, and we feel inadequate for whatever reason, we can become self-hating. This causes us subconsciously to want to self-destruct, to chip away at our self-esteem, to hurt ourselves, and to sabotage our happiness. We’re literally working against ourselves and bringing ourselves down.
Our coping mechanisms are often the things we use to make ourselves feel better, to help ourselves distract ourselves from the underlying issues we have yet to heal. When we develop these misguided coping strategies, they’re not the healthy coping skills we learn later in recovery. They’re defense mechanisms, compulsive behaviors, and unhealthy habits that we’re using to cope with our deeper pain in the moment, but that ultimately only worsens it.
We also tend to use denial in particular as one of our coping mechanisms because we’re afraid of receiving all of the judgment, scorn, hatred, and animosity directed towards addiction and addicts, in our societies, our communities, and for many of us, in our families. We may have been ridiculed, shamed or embarrassed in the past. We might have felt rejected, shunned and criticized more times than we can count, so we use denial. We deny how much pain we’re in. We deny how much we’re actually drinking or using. We deny how bad our problems have become – our problems with our addictions, our financial and legal problems, our relationship issues and personal life challenges. We deny especially to the people who could help us, the people who care most because we don’t want them to worry about us or be saddened by our struggles. We think it’s easier on everyone if we keep it to ourselves, and even then, we are often in such deep denial that we’re lying to ourselves.
Denial, like any other form of emotional suppression or avoidance, causes our difficult emotions to fester inside of us, where they grow stronger, more overpowering and more debilitating, until finally, many of us hit an emotional rock bottom that shows us we have to confront our emotions head-on and be honest with ourselves if we want to heal Set featured image ourselves and be happy.
Riverside Recovery is committed to helping you get back the life you love. Our treatment programs include multiple forms of therapy, family workshops, and mindfulness-based relapse prevention education. Call (800) 871-5440 for more information.