Alcoholism affects millions of families across the country, and can wreak havoc on the physical, emotional, and mental well-being of an individual. Because the disease of alcoholism has a stigma, people struggling with alcohol abuse may feel ashamed and try to keep their drinking a secret. This secretive behavior can lead to someone lying about alcohol or covering up their consequences, both of which are signs that a person is in denial.
Denial occurs when an individual refuses to acknowledge a painful truth about their life, especially if they feel embarrassed or afraid of the possible consequences. Alcoholic denial is a powerful emotional tool that protects a person from seeing the reality of their drinking — despite mounting evidence that they have a problem.
1. Making Excuses
For many people, alcohol is a socially acceptable way to celebrate events or handle the stress of daily life. Because alcohol is commonplace in American culture, it can be difficult to see when someone’s alcohol use has crossed the line into alcoholism. This can be the perfect breeding ground for a problem drinker to make excuses about their behaviors around alcohol.
Excuses for drinking can include statements or thoughts that include:
- “Anyone would drink if they had my problems.”
- “I’m just celebrating something good that happened.”
- “My family or significant other drinks, so I can too.”
- “You can’t trust people that don’t drink.”
Anyone struggling with an addiction has likely experienced what it’s like to justify unacceptable behavior. Someone can rationalize their choices in relation to alcohol, or use it to justify poor decisions made while drinking.
Examples of rationalization include:
- “I worked hard today, so I can drink tonight.”
- “I show up for my job and my family, so my drinking isn’t a big deal.”
- “I am not losing sleep or money, so I obviously don’t have a problem.”
- “I’m not in legal trouble or getting DUIs, so my alcohol use obviously isn’t an issue.”
- “I haven’t gotten in any trouble since my last DUI, so I must have this drinking thing beat.”
When a concerned friend or family member approaches someone about their drinking, they may get hit with responses that minimize the situation. By saying that drinking isn’t a big deal, the person in question is minimizing their alcohol use.
Minimizing could also take the form of lying about how much alcohol a person is consuming. By sneaking drinks or pouring large amounts of alcohol into an oversized cup and counting that as “one drink,” the individual minimizes their drinking.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention states that heavy alcohol use is consuming 15 drinks per week for men, and 8 drinks per week for women.
A standard drink refers to:
- 12 ounces of regular beer
- 8 ounces of malt liquor
- 5 ounces of wine
- 5 ounces of distilled spirits or liquor
Someone minimizing their drinking may “pre-game,” by having several drinks at home before they go out with friends. They may only order two drinks while at a bar or restaurant, making it seem like they are only drinking moderately.
There are many ways a person may blame something else for their drinking. If they are recently divorced or dealing with a breakup, an individual may blame their drinking on these problems. Blame can also show up when a person suffering from alcohol abuse blames their drinking on a specific person.
Someone using blame to justify excessive drinking may say things like:
- “Everyone in my family drinks, so it’s not my fault I drink a lot.”
- “If I hadn’t lost my job or relationship, I wouldn’t be turning to alcohol.”
- “If you would stop bothering me about it, I wouldn’t be so stressed out and have to drink.”
It’s human nature to compare and contrast ourselves with the people around us. This can become dangerous for a person with alcohol use disorder, as it allows individuals to justify their questionable drinking patterns.
Comparison can be either positive or negative. A person that compares positively may say, “I may drink a lot, but at least I can handle my alcohol, unlike some people.” Negative comparison may take the form of, “I don’t drink as much as that person — he’s a disaster.”
Additional examples of comparison include:
- “I’m not the homeless person under the bridge, so I must not have a drinking problem.”
- “I never had to go to alcohol rehab, therefore my drinking is normal.”
- “I don’t steal from my job/cheat on my spouse like alcoholics do, so I must be OK.”
Being defensive about alcohol use is a classic response used by someone suffering from alcohol addiction. This person may feel as long as they lash out and defend themselves, they’ll be able to keep drinking the way they want to.
Someone defending their drinking patterns may say things like:
- “Lay off, this is none of your business.”
- “I don’t have a problem except for you being in my business.”
- “It’s not as bad as you think, you’re just being overly sensitive.”
- “Everyone drinks, you’re making a big deal out of nothing.”
7. Suppressing And Pretending
It’s common for those experiencing alcohol addiction to suppress their true feelings. Their drinking may have stopped being fun, and now they use alcohol to hide from the reality of their life.
If a caring friend tries to discuss their alcohol usage, this person may cover up their fear of being found out by pretending they agree. They may nod in agreement and promise to get help, while hiding the truth that they don’t intend to do so.
Someone suppressing their feelings about alcohol may say or think things such as:
- “You’re right, I do need to take a look at this” (then never take action).
- “Perhaps I should cut back on my drinking” (then push the thought away).
- “Maybe I do have a problem with alcohol” (then minimize the real issue).
While hopelessness propels some individuals toward recovery, it can also be used an excuse to continue drinking excessively. People struggling with alcohol may think that the problem is too big or that they’re too far gone. Labeling oneself a “lost cause” is simply another form of denial that keeps suffering individuals in the cycle of addiction.
Feeling hopeless may cause a feeling of shame, which can drive someone back to drinking. Shame and guilt are powerful emotions that can be viewed as good reasons to continue hiding beneath the fog of alcohol.
9. It’s My Life
Another denial tactic is to push people away, by stating that it’s their choice to drink. By telling concerned friends that it’s none of their business, the individual struggling with alcohol abuse furthers their own deception. The truth is that addiction affects everyone around the person suffering, ranging from bosses to spouses and children.
When someone is using this denial tactic, they may say or think statements like:
- “Drinking is the answer to my problems, not my actual problem.”
- “I’m over 21, it’s my legal right to drink.”
- “I’m not hurting anyone but myself.”
- “I could stop if I really wanted to.”
Seeking Treatment For Alcohol Abuse And Addiction
Alcoholism is a progressive, incurable disease that can have negative emotional and social effects on someone’s life. More than 15 million American adults are suffering from alcohol use disorder — if you or someone you love is struggling with alcohol dependence, there is hope available in the form of alcohol rehab treatment.
Alcohol rehab programs can take several different approaches. In inpatient treatment programs, individuals are provided a stable residential environment where they can get honest about their alcohol use. Partial hospitalization programs are offered in day-long sessions, allowing individuals to continue work or family commitments, and outpatient programs are offered in half-day segments.
Many of these alcohol rehab programs will include medication-assisted treatment, which can reduce cravings and lower the chance of relapse for those who have previously tried to stop drinking and were unsuccessful.
To learn more about excuses for drinking, alcoholic denial, and treatment options near you, contact one of our specialists today.