Can You Recognize Your Own Denial?

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One of the interesting things about addiction is that most addicts think they don’t have a problem. They think, Sure, if someone else was engaging in the same behaviors that I’m engaging in, that person would have a serious issue, but it’s OK for me because… This is their denial. 

Generally speaking, denial is a series of internal lies and deceits that manifest externally. In other words, addicts lie to themselves first, and then to others. It is lying to themselves that is most important because, based on that imperfect foundation of manufactured truth, their behaviors seem utterly reasonable to them in the moment of their obsession. Outsiders can easily dismantle this house of cards but addicts cannot (or will not). They repeatedly defend their manufactured truth (their lies and deceit) until their world disintegrates into one crisis after another after another. And even then, they don’t give up easily.

With addiction, denial takes several different forms, the most common of which are listed below, each with an illustrative statement of things we hear relatively often with the sex, porn, and chemsex addicts we treat at Seeking Integrity.

  • Blame/Externalization: My partner has gained a lot of weight since we got married, and that’s unattractive to me.
  • Entitlement: I work hard and I support my family, so I deserve to have some fun.
  • Justification: If I was in a relationship, I’d be having sex all the time, so why can’t I be sexual all the time when I’m single?
  • Minimization: All I’m doing is snorting a little cocaine when I have sex. It’s not like I’m using meth or injecting.
  • Rationalization: Everybody looks at porn and plays around with hookup apps. That’s just life in the modern world.
  • Victim Mentality: Everybody wants so much from me. I just feel overwhelmed and at the mercy of everyone in my life. And my only relief, the only time I feel in control, is when I’m using porn.

To combat denial, addicts must first uncover the lies they tell themselves (and then others). Then they must reframe those lies into truth by using responsible language.

Language Without Accountability

  • I only did a few lines.
  • I usually wear a condom.
  • I get sensual massages.
  • One thing led to another. 

Language With Accountability

  • I was high on cocaine.
  • I’ve had unsafe sex four times.
  • I see escorts.
  • I decided to get high and act out sexually.

When denial is uncovered and addressed in this way, it loses power over the addict. Without such work, addicts can (and will) find ways to ignore the seriousness of their addictive behaviors so they can continue with those behaviors. Unfortunately, without intervention, this willful ignorance – this denial – can go on for years.

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If you or someone you care about is struggling with sex, porn, or substance/sex addiction, help is available through the free resources website, SexandRelationshipHealing.com, Seeking Integrity’s low-cost online workgroups, and Seeking Integrity’s residential treatment center.