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Overcoming Alcoholism Denial

    Overcoming Alcoholism Denial

    While alcoholism is one of the most common forms of addiction in the Western world, it is also highly stigmatised.

    For this reason and others, many people live in denial about their alcoholism, either unwilling to acknowledge its presence to themselves or unwilling to acknowledge it to those around them.

    Alcoholism denial is a big issue among alcoholics because it prevents them from taking action to make better choices.

    If you simply live in denial about your issue, you avoid confronting it, inevitably leading to a more entrenched addiction or dependency upon alcohol, and worse health outcomes in the long term.

    For these reasons, it is crucially important that an alcoholic (as well as their close family and friends) understands the reasons behind alcoholism denial, how to spot it and the ways in which it is possible to overcome it.

    How Is Alcoholism Defined?

    Denial and alcoholism interact in many nuanced ways and for a variety of reasons.

    To understand these, it’s useful to have a general understanding of what alcoholism really is and how it is defined.

    There are many misunderstandings about what constitutes alcoholism, and sometimes the word is applied too flexibly to include people who aren’t really alcoholics.

    On the other hand, a misunderstanding about what alcoholism is can also lead to people who really are alcoholics not being recognised as such, with themselves and people around them just thinking that they “like to drink a lot”.

    Alcoholism is an alcohol use disorder and is defined as uncontrollable cravings and actions which lead to the consumption of alcohol.

    This means that an alcoholic will seek out alcohol to drink in times or situations where they shouldn’t, as they are subject to impulses and cravings.

    Usually, an alcoholic will consume alcohol to an excessive degree, as their body becomes more resistant to the effects.

    An alcoholic is not necessarily:

    • Someone who drinks more than they should for their health
    • Someone who occasionally binge drinks
    • Or someone who gets drunk quickly

    These are some common misconceptions, and it is important to recognise their inaccuracy.

    Reasons For Alcoholism Denial

    So why might someone be in denial about their alcoholism?

    There are innumerable reasons why someone might choose to hide their alcoholism from themselves and others.

    Some of the most common reasons will be discussed below.

    Stigma: The stigma of alcoholism is one of the number one causes of alcoholism denial. Alcoholics are widely looked down on across society due to a variety of preconceptions and incorrect stereotypes.

    Alcoholics are often known to have difficulty fulfilling their everyday responsibilities, and this can mean that admitting that you’re dealing with alcoholism could threaten your career, your relationship and your social connections.

    For this reason, the stigma of alcoholism can make it seem easier for an alcoholic to hide their problem from themselves and those around them, rather than admitting their struggle and seeking help.

    Shame: Linked to the stigma of alcoholism, shame is another major reason why alcoholics often live in denial.

    Alcoholics generally recognise that alcoholism is a damaging, unhealthy and risky disorder.

    It can cause financial instability, it can break down social relationships, and it has a hugely negative impact on your own health.

    It is unsurprising, then, that alcoholics often live with a lot of shame.

    This shame comes from a feeling of frustration about being unable to control your own actions, and a recognition of the damage that you could be doing to your family and friends, let alone yourself.


    Uncomfortable Conversations: Alcoholism is a huge and justified cause for concern among family members and friends, who will rightly want what’s best for you.

    Therefore, if they suspect that your alcohol consumption is causing problems and that you might be an alcoholic, they may wish to open up a conversation with you.

    This conversation can be uncomfortable, due to the stigma of the subject.

    You might get angry that it is being brought up, and feel blamed by the direction of the conversation.

    You might also find that the conversation will require you to address your own shortcomings and flaws, which can be difficult for anyone to deal with.

    Woman anxious

    The Prospect Of Change: Living in denial about your alcoholism and the extent of your problem means that you don’t have to worry about the prospect of change.

    Once you recognise and admit your alcoholism, people in your life will want to see that you make changes and live differently.

    Perhaps you will be expected to go to rehabilitation services or admit yourself to therapy.

    These can be major changes, which can be both daunting and intimidating.

    Denying your alcoholism means that you can avoid making these life-changing decisions. To some, this might seem like the better option in the short term.

    What Are The Signs Of Alcoholism Denial?

    Man denial

    We understand the reasons why someone might be in denial about the extent of their addiction, but what are the signs which demonstrate that someone is still in alcoholism denial?

    If you notice that someone is drinking away from others and attempting to conceal it, then they are clearly trying to hide their alcohol consumption.

    If they are trying to hide it from their family and friends, they might also be hiding the extent of their problem from themselves.

    Another sign of alcoholism denial is when someone makes it clear that they don’t want to talk about the topic of alcohol or alcoholism in general, or their own specific consumption of alcohol.

    Avoiding these conversations and trying to move on quickly shows that they don’t want to be asked questions about their own use of alcohol, which is an effective way of avoiding accountability and remaining in denial.

    How To Overcome Alcoholism Denial


    For your short term and long-term health, and for the well-being of those around you, one of the first steps out of alcoholism and onto the path of recovery is to recognise that you have a problem.

    This can be more difficult than it seems, however, as an alcoholic in denial may have spent months or even years rationalising their alcohol consumption and avoiding confronting it.

    To reach a point of acceptance, more solid evidence is needed.



    A good option for the first step towards alcoholism acceptance, and out of denial, can be the CAGE questionnaire.

    The CAGE questionnaire is a well-established, short and accessible questionnaire which could give you an indication of whether or not you are living with alcoholism.

    CAGE contains four short questions.

    If you answer yes to two or more of those questions, it is an indication of alcoholism and it is recommended that you go on to speak to a professional.

    Speaking to a professional after the CAGE questionnaire can give you certainty in your diagnosis, and you can begin to act on their expert advice.

    Family Support


    As well as professional advice, you can overcome your alcoholism denial by simply speaking to your family and friends.

    If you can, ask them directly about their opinions on your alcohol use, and whether or not they think it is problematic.

    This will reveal any concerns they have about you, and they will be grateful to you for bringing the topic up.

    This will give you an outside perspective, and make you think about your relationship with alcohol differently.

    If you then try and reduce your alcohol intake on the back of the conversation, look out for any impulsive behaviour or cravings for alcohol, as these can demonstrate to you, once and for all, that you really are living with alcoholism.

    Getting Help Today

    Man with phone

    Sometimes, the simple fact of acknowledging your own addiction can be so overwhelming and intimidating that it is easier not to even think about it.

    Nevertheless, it is vital that you start to overcome your alcoholism denial and work towards acceptance and change.

    That’s where we come in.

    At Rehab Recovery, we are dedicated to providing you with the best possible resources for overcoming and fighting your addictions, whatever they may be.

    Reach out to our support line today for a quick, comprehensive and entirely free introduction into the world of recovery.

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