One of the most commonly-accepted signs that drug abuse or addiction is occurring is the individual’s denial that it is occurring. Many individuals may believe that denial is deliberate and outright dishonesty about one’s condition, but the truth is that many individuals who are struggling with drug abuse and addiction problems either don’t actually understand and see the full extent of their problems or are so embarrassed by their inability to resolve these problems that they deny them to others.
There is no arguing the fact that any form of denial in a drug abuser or addict is dangerous for their health–as it prevents them from seeking and receiving the help they desperately need in order to achieve and maintain lasting sobriety. But what about denial in other family members? Specifically, what about denial in the parents of addicted children?
It is not unusual for parents of addicted children to struggle with the truth of their child’s addiction. This is especially true in cases where parents know that they have raised their child in a safe, loving and supportive environment, and when the child always seemed to be happy and well-adjusted. What force or impulse could possibly have driven them into drug use in the first place or compelled them to continue with their drug use can be such a confusing topic that many parents simply seek to ignore the issue altogether. They may hope that it’s just a passing phase and that their child will grow out of it on their own. There comes a point where a parent can no longer deny that their child’s drug abuse or addiction is occurring, or that it is causing great harm to their own and others’ lives. At this point, denial may become a matter of “saving face”–deliberately and purposefully trying to hide the embarrassing situation from others.
Denial is not unusual in the parents of addicted children, and while there is no denial that is entirely harmless, deliberate denial, whatever the reason, is especially harmful as it essentially condones and encourages continued drug use. Furthermore, it prevents family members from seeing the full truth about the situation and from taking action to do something about it.
Denial can be considered by some to be a natural coping mechanisms for extremely unpleasant situations–such as the death of a loved one, when one essentially denies that they are actually gone in order to make it through the stages of grief. However, when denial occurs in such a way that it prevents one from taking action in order to resolve a dangerous situation, it is not natural or helpful and actually quite harmful.
Denial of a child’s drug addiction problems is most harmful when it alters reality so thoroughly that individuals involved actually lose touch with what is normal, for healthy teenagers in general and that teenager specifically. Denial is also harmful when it forces others to join in agreement with the denial. Denial is definitely harmful when it prevents the drug addicted child from recognizing that their drug use is not tolerated and will result in tough consequences.
A parent who is dealing with a drug-addicted child will have to recognize the normal response of denial that tends to creep into the situation, and then take action to combat it. They will need to educate themselves on the truth about drug substances and the effects of drug addiction, and they will need to have an honest conversation with their child about the fact that further drug use will not be tolerated, and the consequences of continuing to use drug substances. This is not to say that the child will immediately end all drug use or reach out for the help they definitely need, but a firm position on the matter, with persistence and support of the child’s recovery, can result in a desired change that denial would never be able to bring about.