The Most Frightening Thing About Addiction


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? 

  1. Families should make sure all who are supportive are present and reiterate bottom lines (for more on bottom lines click here.
  2. Seek profesional and legal advise on involuntary petition for substance abuse treatment (known as Marchman Act in Florida)
  3. 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).

3 thoughts on “The Most Frightening Thing About Addiction

  1. I have been in this state a great many times. For me, it came as an aftermath of being rejected when seeking help, ie. not being heard about what was bothering me.
    Friends and family are the absolute worst, because they believe the society standard about addiction, and don’t buy into accusations of an addicted person over something personal, as we lash out from a weakened mind, making it look crazy. Mental health workers have been exceptionally dismissive and stuck to a fifteen minutes long diagnosis made by a non-doctor.
    AA people are just too edgy and religious for my weary mind and really hawk away at my co-dependency, you know, trying to break me into submission, not understanding that’s the core to my issues.
    The rehab people only talked about weed, and while going clean there, I had most of my relapses after meetings.
    And so on. By becoming more or less completely isolated, I have had the most success. My biggest challenge now, is to live with the consequences of long term social isolation. I still do intentional relapses to give my brain a break from itself and to be able to handle adult socialization.
    The welfare staff have also been quite oblivious about what it takes for me to get some work done.
    What I regret most of all, was to seek help and believe I couldn’t do it myself. I should have gone solo a very long time ago and have more faith in myself.
    It was easier last time, but as a lifelong co-dependent, one really only makes friends whom treat me like I need to be bossed around to get a better life.
    That’s my story anyway. The best help I’ve gotten has been on the internet, where I can take my time digesting various options.
    The best therapy I ever got, was actually while being high, to take a break from the world, and to analyze down to the core why I liked and/or needed to get high. Tons of nasty things came up and thanks to Marijuana, I could look at it objectively.
    Having that said, it would be awesome if society caught up with reality, as my method is extremely lonely and would be acutely suicidal if I hadn’t intentionally gone through hell, just to see if I would actually try it once more.
    If people can’t fx. enjoy a horrible panic attack, don’t do what I’m doing.


    1. Zombie, it sounds like it’s been a very long and challenging road for you. Unfortunately, we tend to form relationships and ties that mirror our early childhood relationships, sometimes it not being the healthiest kinds. It’s important to get involved in a healthy therapeutic relationship not to make you more social, but this is the context in which we change. Our patterns and perceptions only change with the feedback and interactions we have with others- in isolation they only fester and sadly become worse. When we don’t connect with people we connect to a substance. The first step is admitting you can’t continue this way and seeking others for help. No one does recovery perfectly but as long as there is acceptance of your condition and the flaws of others, you can get passed the barrier of forming healthy connections.


      Liked by 1 person

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