With the drug and alcohol epidemic taking the lives of young people every single day, parents around the nation often scratch their head and wonder if there is something more that can be done? Some advocates want to shout that pharmaceutical companies are to blame for the massive drug addiction rates plaguing the youth of today and doctors with a heavy hand are writing unnecessary scripts. There is another silent battle that is inside many homes. This battle is often denial. It is understandable that the addict themselves will experience the various stages of denial as it comes to their own addiction, but what about in terms of the family? Why is it that in the early stages of drug abuse or misuse that most parents tend to downplay or overlook a lot of behaviors leading to severe dependency or addiction later on for their loved one?
We first need to understand exactly what the word “denial” is, as there are some misconceptions of the word as an institution. Denial is by definition the avoidance of truth. This phrase is a commonly-used tool by addicts and alcoholics to avoid dealing with their substance abuse issues. Not only does avoiding the truth protect the addiction, but it puts the recovery process on hold until the truth can be presented. This presents some difficulty, as most addicted people are not in a position of wanting to seek the truth nor are they capable of having a comprehensive understanding of the underlying issues leading to their maladaptive behaviors or cognitive distortions.
In most cases, the truth does not surface until the consequences become severe enough that it’s impossible to ignore any longer. Addiction thrives on secrecy and addiction recovery is facing the issue head-on. It is not until the truth surfaces that the addict can begin to acknowledge something is not working and change is the only option. Most addicts and alcoholics will live in denial because of their distorted view on their use and the levels of irrational thoughts that are attached to the addiction. For parents, the same irrational thought process can be seen in the early stages of use.
If you are a parent, let’s explore some examples and see how many apply.
– Have you ever searched your child’s car or bedroom for drugs or alcohol?
– Did you find drugs or alcohol in the car or bedroom and not know what to do?
– If the drugs were “only marijuana,” did you put them back?
– Were you concerned there would be an argument about snooping?
– When you confronted your son or daughter about their behavior, found items and/or text messages, did they have an excuse that did not make sense or was believable? However, after an argument, you began to believe them?
– How many times has their behavior been justified in your head as “normal adolescent” behavior or “part of growing up”?
– If you are honest with yourself, do you believe what your child is telling you about what they are doing?
These are some examples of questions that parents can ask themselves to have a self-assessment to gauge the power dynamic within the home and if their denial about the behavior’s the child is demonstrating.
The good news is that there is a process to breaking through denial, which will be a helpful tool not only for an individual struggling with addiction, but also for a parent.
There are five stages of change that directly correlate to the addiction recovery process and breaking through the above-listed denial.
1) Pre-Contemplation: In this stage, the addict or parent does not see any issues regarding the way in which they live their lives or behaviors displayed. They do not identify any problematic behaviors or distorted thoughts.
2) Contemplation: The stage where change becomes a fleeting thought. They begin to entertain the idea that something is not quite right and an alternative option might need to be sought.
3) Preparation: One begins the process of gathering information about treatment, asking questions and beginning to seek recommendations.
4) Action: This step for both the addict and the parent is challenging. While in treatment programming, both parties will begin confronting the irrational and distorted belief systems that has been created many years before the addiction began.
5) Maintenance: This stage is where the transformation really occurs. The addict and the family will need a strong support system to keep the groundwork identified during the action phase. This stage can produce intense fear, as everything that they have learned will prepare them for this moment.
Do not be discouraged if after these five steps, change has not been significantly integrated. Most people that are unsuccessful after working through these stages may have missed key components due to their limited insight or continued denial of the severity of these issues. If you find that you do not have the results that you are looking for, go back through the process with a new perspective and see what more you can become aware of. With the help of our qualified clinicians at Lighthouse Recovery Institute, we can assist your family with addiction recovery and working through key issues in the family system and breaking through these barriers.