Overdoses, homelessness, contracted illnesses chronic conditions, broken homes and families, loss of employment and loved ones, isolation, degradation, demoralization of self, declining physical and mental health, and an unceasing sense of hopelessness are the few but common dark realities of addiction. They are usually the frightening experiences of many who say they have hit bottom and are fortunate enough to have another opportunity of recovery. Yet, while these situations may be intensely shocking to witness second hand, the scariest situation is subtle in nature but surpasses any of the horrors mentioned above. It quietly lurks within the addicted person’s mind but is responsible for many of the destructive consequences brought upon by continued drug use.
The scariest thing about addiction is when the affected person takes on a Democratic Disease State (also known as Denial by Right) a term coined by Terrance Gorski to describe a form of denial and rigid mindset bordering delusional thinking that conveys “I have the right to destroy myself, it’s my life and my body and no one can stop me.” The attitude the addicted person takes on is a defensive but detached one where passive interventions are ineffective and dismissed. Often, this form of denial precedes a relapse resulting in drastic circumstances such as overdose. Denial by Right is often the last resort of tactics used by the affected person to escape the responsibility of getting help- a last ditch effort to avoid confronting the discrepancy of believing they are in control and the contradiction of their current reality. The addiced person becomes uncomfortable with this contradiction when confronted by loved ones or professionals and rationalizes his addiction to alleviate psychic tension (cognitive dissonance) as one would a ‘bad tattoo’ through declaring “it’s my life, it’s my body.” This form of denial is what fuels chronic relapse leaving everyone confused and helpless. Denial by Right signals to everyone that there is a need for a more direct and well thought out plan to get the person help-it is equivalent to a medical team in a crisis unit doing everything they can to keep the patient alive.
So what can be done?
- Families should make sure all who are supportive are present and reiterate bottom lines (for more on bottom lines click here.
- Seek profesional and legal advise on involuntary petition for substance abuse treatment (known as Marchman Act in Florida)
- Seek professional help for guidance and suggestions on how to handle the person refusing help or demonstrating this form of denial. Professionals specializing in addictions use interventions aimed towards reducing denial and other defense mechanisms.
Irving Cabarcas, LMHC, MCAP, ICADC
Gorski, Terrance. (1999). http://www.tgorski.com/clin_mod/dmc/denial_checklist.htm.