Denial in families of alcohol misuse

Denial in families of alcohol misuse

The denial in families of alcohol misuse is rife. Often starting off very innocently, social drinking, one thing leads to another. Before you know it, someone in the family is addicted to alcohol.

For a while the family and the drinker deny there is a problem, it’s socially acceptable after all. 

The family are the first to recognise there is a problem, usually prompted by the unpredictable and intolerable behaviour of the drinker. 

The drinker isn’t purposely hurting the family, but the result is real. They hurt and worry, feel helpless and frustrated. 

What is denial?

The action of denying something

What do we get from denial?

It keeps us safe (in our mind),  it also makes us feel like there isn’t a problem. We  do it to help us cope, to allow us to continue in a space that we know, rather than one we don’t. 

How does it inhibit your life?

Denial in families of alcohol misuse keeps you stuck. Not admitting there is a problem stops you from accepting it and overcoming it.  It’s dis empowering, however, sometimes in a moment it can help us. For example,  if you aren’t physically  able to deal with something and don’t have the capacity and resilience to cope with it. 

Everything is within a context and timing is important, how long do you let something go on for? If you deny that your relationship isn’t what it should be or you want it to be, what’s the impact on your happiness?

When the drinker denies their drinking, the impact can be huge on the family. However, they do it for a reason, because they don’t think they’ll cope if they open the can of worms that will follow. 

How does or has denial showed up in your life?

Below are some examples that I know of for many family members that have struggled with someone else’s drinking. 

  • Not recognising your own needs, because you don’t think they’re important
  • Staying in situations that repeatedly hurt you or aren’t healthy for you
  • Repeating the same unhelpful/destructive behaviours and wondering why your life isn’t changing/better
  • Blaming others for things going wrong in your life

How can you get clarity?

One way that you can start to get clarity, is to speak with your friends and family. They can be more objective (not always) but they aren’t in your head. 

If your open to hearing other people’s views, then they can shine a light on areas you may not see. Be mindful there maybe resistance and you may feel defensive. 

The reaction you have can be an indicator of your denial, so bring that openness to it. No one is saying you have to change, it’s your choice. However, embracing the denial can be enlightening and totally change your life in so many amazing ways.

This is the process I’ve put together to show the steps we go through with personal change. Where are you on the path?

Denial in families of alcohol misuse

Resistance is a common place that people seem to be, well more specifically the staying stuck cycle. I’m very passionate about moving people out of this cycle, in a safe, supported and paced way. That way, the change doesn’t seem so scary, yet you make progress at each step of the process. 

I hope you found the blog helpful. Denial can go on for years, especially for the drinker.  That doesn’t mean you can’t do anything about it. I think if you start to work on the areas that you fear, e.g. leaving a relationship, losing weight, letting in your emotions slowly but surely without judgements on yourself, you can make changes. You can get clarity. 

Next Steps

Remember you aren’t alone and you can always join my Change Your Mind Facebook group, where other families of alcoholics support each other with challenges they experience from the past or present.  You may have lived with an alcoholic in your past, but it’s still impacting you in the present. 




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