Alcoholic Denial

Medically Reviewed By Kayla Loibl | Last Edited:  November 29 ,
| 4 Sources

Alcoholic denial is a common, yet frustrating, aspect that all persons involved with the problem drinker will nearly always experience. One major effect of alcoholism is that problem drinkers often lie about their condition.

This lack of truth can be far-reaching and it can be applied to virtually anyone in the person's circle. Not only will the person refuse to face the truth himself, but family, friends, and employers are also susceptible to alcoholic denial at some time or another.

The most common sign of alcoholic denial comes through verbal dishonesty. He or she may say that they are not drinking when, in fact, they are. They may say that they do not have a problem when asked or confronted. And, they may accuse the other person of being overly dramatic or of lying themselves.

The truth is, you will never really know if what they are saying is true or not.

As the overall effect of alcoholism progresses, the person may change and simply refuse to talk about his or her problem at all. If asked about their abuse, they may turn away without saying anything.

They may appear to be angry at the suggestion that they have a problem in non-verbal ways. This might include leaving the room quietly, or not so quietly.

The last way they may exhibit their unwillingness to accept that they have a problem is to avoid contact with those who ask the questions. This might mean not coming home or not attending activities where the subject may be brought up.

Photo by Megan te Boekhorst

The problem for the person asking is that the longer it takes to get their loved one into some form of treatment, the worse the situation will become. Denial is a major problem among alcoholics and a huge obstacle in recovery.

Initially, this denial may be done subconsciously while they are still trying to deny to themselves that they have a real problem with drinking. However, as time goes on and they continue to abuse alcohol, many also begin to lie about their exact condition or amount of consumption.

Even when confronted by others, no matter how uninvolved third parties may seem at first glance; alcoholic denial can set in rather quickly. And then begins the cycle of deception that only ends when there is finally acceptance of the fact that there is a problem.

Secret Drinking

Once the person has discovered that others may be suspicious, he or she may begin to drink in secret. This can occur at the home or the workplace. Person secretly drinking will almost always hide a bottle somewhere and sneak drinks when they feel no one is looking.

The other form of secret drinking is when they simply refuse to go home after they have been drinking. The motive for this is simple: out of sight, out of mind. It rarely works, but it is a fairly common way for them to drink without being caught in the act.

Friends, family, and co-workers are often left to wonder where the person went or why they aren't answering their cell phones.

Most commonly, the person will try hiding their alcohol use because they feel that whatever situation they were previously involved in was too stressful. They attempt to get away from these feelings by drinking alcohol.

The thought of having to talk about what happened can be difficult for them, so they simply leave for a while instead of dealing with it.


Progressive Problems

In nearly all cases of alcoholic denial, as the person begins to encounter more troublesome issues at home or work, such as :

  • job loss or 
  • spousal arguments, 
  • he or she will begin to lie even more, 
  • it can get to the point where the lies are almost ridiculous in nature. 

As the disease progresses the ability to tell the truth will often diminish dramatically. This is just one effect of alcoholism on otherwise good people.

It should be noted that often as the disease progresses, the person may begin to see the truth of his condition inwardly. While he is not speaking openly and honestly about his drinking, he knows, deep inside, that he has a serious problem.

As the general effect of alcoholism worsens, he may begin to feel completely out of control. He may begin to believe that he has no control over the drinking anymore, and if he reaches the final stage of the disease, he truly will have no control over his drinking.

A person who is suffering from alcoholic denial will almost always go through a long period of time where they believe that their drinking is not affecting anyone around them negatively. They may think and believe this for years, until finally life forces them to face the real effects of alcoholism on their lives.

Ultimately, denial becomes one of the biggest obstacles in dealing with alcohol abuse as well as a roadblock in recovery. It makes true sobriety impossible without proper intervention, which will most likely come in the form of outside help (by family members or friends).

Conclusion - Alcoholic Denial

For those involved with a problem drinker, expecting denial to happen is often the first step to dealing with it. It may be difficult to handle, but knowing in advance that it will probably happen can often help family and friends to cope.

Once it begins, however, it is certainly time to try to get professional help for both the drinker and those close to him. Dishonesty is one effect of alcoholism that can be heartbreaking if encountered unprepared.

This is usually the time that family members should seek help for themselves and for the drinker. If you are in need of emotional support, there are groups and treatment options available to help. 

Lead Writer/Reviewer : Kayla Loibl

Licensed Medical Health Professional 

I am a Mental Health Counselor who is licensed in both New York (LMHC) and North Carolina (LPC). I have been working in the Mental Health field since 2015. I have worked in a residential setting, an outpatient program and an inpatient addictions program. I began working in Long Island, NY and then in Guelph, Ontario after moving to Canada. Read More

More than alcoholic denial on our alcoholism disease page

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