You and your buddies are out at a bar, enjoying a Friday night with drinks while shooting pool. One of your friends is notorious for having more drinks than the rest of you. When your friends bring it up, he laughs, saying “yea I know, I’m an alcoholic. It is what it is.” He shrugs it off and your friends laugh but something doesn’t seem right to you.
Later that weekend, you head over to check on the friend and make sure everything is okay. His house is littered with empty cans and bottles, and you can smell he has already had some to drink today. When you ask him what is going on, he becomes irate. He tells you he doesn’t have a problem and he can quit whenever he wants. Kicking you out, he slams the door. Didn’t he just say he was an alcoholic at the bar? Why is he so upset now?
According to a 2020 Houston Census, 15.7% of adults reported poor mental health lasting longer than 14 days. In comparison, 18.7% reported binge drinking at least once in the last 30 days. These statistics point out that more people could be living with an alcohol use disorder paired with an undiagnosed mental health condition. At SUN Behavioral Health Houston, we understand that alcoholism denial can stem from self-medicating a mental health condition with alcohol. Let’s talk more about how to address this denial and how to bring education on alcohol use disorder.
One of the most difficult symptoms of alcohol use disorder is denial. Denial can build over time and comes in different varieties. Some include:
Feeling like your opinions are not heard or valued can create frustration and animosity. When dealing with a loved one who is in denial, step back and look at how you interact with them. Are you enabling behaviors in any way? Are you preventing consequences that could be beneficial? For example, say your loved one drives the car while intoxicated and crashes. They are fine, but they call you to pick them up before the police can arrive. By agreeing, you are preventing a negative outcome, and while this may seem beneficial at the time, there is no repercussion to prevent the person from doing this again.
Putting yourself first and focusing on your needs is key to living with someone with an alcohol use disorder. By not addressing them while they are denying situations and by no longer enabling them, you are helping them to see that you are not under their control. It’s important to note that communication needs to continue during this time. Sometimes denial stems from shame or a lack of understanding. Encourage them to be open but remind them honesty is the only way you will continue the conversation.
There are many signs of alcoholism that your loved one may be showing. Denial is a key sign of an alcohol use disorder. Is your loved one telling you they only had two drinks but you know they had more? Did they tell you they would be home by 7 and it’s now 10? Do they tell you more about their friend’s drinking habits than their own? While these situations do not mean your loved one has an out-of-control alcohol use disorder, they can be a good indicator that it is time to start talking about where alcohol fits into your lives.
One reason your loved one may be drinking could be due to a type of denial. Alcohol intolerance is a condition in which drinking makes the person physically ill. When people have this condition, they continue to drink in order to make it go away. This condition cannot be cured and is worth looking into if your loved one is constantly getting sick after having only a couple of drinks.
Trying to help someone living with a high-functioning alcohol use disorder can feel impossible. As with all relationships, communication is key. Make sure when you talk to them about how their drinking makes you feel that you refrain from using negative speech. Yelling and calling them an “addict” over and over is not going to get your point across. Use a calm tone and be honest and respectful.
Setting boundaries can give you peace of mind while providing goals for your loved one to work toward. Schedule a time to have a sit-down conversation about what boundaries you would like to implement, and come up with consequences when they are broken. Pick a time when you are both relaxed and won’t be rushed. Remember, they are a person, not a problem. Don’t be afraid to be firm but also compassionate.
Some common signs of denial in an alcohol use disorder include:
These signs are typically coupled with symptoms such as withdrawing from friends and family as well as poor job or school performance. There are four stages of alcoholism, and denial can fluctuate as the person progresses. It is important to get the person into treatment the moment they admit that they are ready.
Mental health conditions can be brought on by an alcohol use disorder while pre-existing conditions can be made worse. Alcohol can increase anxiety and depression symptoms as well as interfere with any medications that treat them. A common misconception is that narcissists are likely to develop an alcohol use disorder. It is actually the opposite – the situations that involve denial mimic narcissistic behaviors, even if the person has never exhibited them before.
Whether you or a loved one are ready for treatment now or thinking things over, it’s best to know your options. At SUN Behavioral Health Houston, we pride ourselves in providing quality treatment for alcohol use disorder. Our compassionate staff will guide you through our program offerings and decide the best course of action for you. We offer:
Alcohol Detox: Detoxing helps the body readjust to not having alcohol in the system. When alcohol is consumed on a regular basis, the brain and other organs become used to it. When alcohol is taken away, it can take time for the body to recover, but this process is very important to healing and long-term recovery. Alcohol withdrawal is one of the main reasons patients keep using. Our detox program is medically supervised, and our staff is also trained in medication management to help alleviate withdrawal symptoms. Our team meets with each individual patient to decide what treatment plan is right for them after detox.
Inpatient: Our patients stay at our facility 24/7 and participate in group and individual therapy. We create an individualized treatment course that can include dual diagnosis with mental health conditions as well as wellness techniques to create healthy habits. This provides a safe and distraction-free space for our patients to focus on themselves and recovery.
Outpatient: For our patients transitioning out of inpatient care or for those who do not need as much support as an inpatient stay. The patients come to our facility for therapy, medication management, and support throughout the day, 5 days a week. They do not stay onsite overnight; they are free to go home and then come back the next day.
When your loved one is denying their alcohol use disorder, it can be hard to know what to do or how to help. At SUN Behavioral Health Houston, our team of dedicated professionals is here to provide support for you while your loved one gets the treatment they need. Call us today at 713-929-2697 to learn more about our treatment program or to schedule an appointment.
Keep communicating and setting boundaries. Stop enabling them and allow consequences to happen for their actions.
Any personality can develop an alcohol use disorder, but introverts are prone to low self-esteem which can lead to substance use.
The top five mental health disorders associated with alcoholism are bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, schizophrenia, and depression.