Having Patience with Denial

They TELL me that denial is a less pathological form of a delusion – like when the guy on the subway looks at me and screams, “Stop that! Stop reading my thoughts like that!” That’s my idea of a delusion. I can have compassion for him because I know he is afraid of me, even though I mean him no harm. I know that I am certainly not capable of nor want to read his thoughts, and I know that he is sick. Oh, but if it could be that easy to respond with patience and compassion in response to my daughter’s denial!

She really does believe that I am the crazy one. She thinks that I just need to chill out and trust that she will get her life together when she’s ready. She wants me to trust her, even though her actions do nothing to instill trust. Sometimes I feel like I’M the one GOING crazy! That’s when I know that I need to talk with another parent or a counselor who really understands addiction to get some perspective. I need to run the situation by them to confirm that my expectations are reasonable, to help me catch myself when I’m falling into the enabling trap, and to help me tolerate the test of time until my daughter can see for herself what I can see so clearly. Just like the guy on the subway, she really believes it.

One thing I have learned about denial is that there are moments when her thoughts clear for just a little while — moments of clarity when she can see what I can see. In those times, even she can’t help but see because the pain is so powerful that it breaks through the denial. I have come to know that those times are both my best opportunity AND my best threat. In those moments of clarity, I can invite her to share, show compassion for the pain that yielded the moment of clarity, and have a plan of action to offer her (aka a treatment center all picked out and ready to admit her). But if I fall into the other trap — the “I told you something like this was going to happen! trap — then I run the risk of sabotaging that opportunity through my actions.

Today’s Reminder: I must remember that addiction is a brain disease, therefore it is not a surprise that my daughter’s thinking is affected. When I encounter her denial, I will do my best to remember the guy on the subway, trust that the moments of clarity will come — almost certainly wrapped in the gift of a gut-wrenching crisis – and be prepared with a plan of action to offer her. Until that time, I will work with professionals to identify the right treatment center for her, strive to minimize my own enabling, and actively work to take care of myself.

You can listen to an audio of this devotional at our podcast A Dose of Hope.


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