Note: This is an excerpt from “Break Free” by Dr. Paul Hardy (2017)

Denial hits us in two ways. First, it leads us to believe lies about our area of recovery. (Example: “I can do this on my own,” or “I’m not really that bad off.”) Second, denial prevents us from accepting the truth about our true state. (Example: “I am only able to triumph over the addiction with the help of my group, my family and God.”.)


Today many treatments for alcohol addiction are available and recovery is possible. The bad news is that in order to become well, the person affected must admit that a problem exists. Denial presents the greatest obstacle to recovery. By it, a person insulates himself or herself from any need to change. The following statements are often used to keep people in a state of denial and prevent them from moving forward. Scale yourself by putting a number in the line provided on the following examples: (0= not at all, 5 = somewhat agree, 10 = Strongly agree).

DEFENSIVENESS: “When someone points out a weakness, I become upset and my first response is to fight back, defending myself and then I get away.” The first form of denial is the refusal to admit that anything is amiss. The person, when confronted with his/her problem using, may insist that drinking is a private matter and therefore none of your business. Frequently, the person will attempt to change the subject in order to halt the conversation altogether. (this is often referred to as a smoke screen).

Circle the answer that most describes you . . . When well-intentioned people call me out for an attitude or behavior I should learn to:

Defend myself no matter what

Listen and evaluate

Thank them for their help

Point out their faults

WHINING: “But . . . I’m doing better than I used to.” Denial can also take the form of rationalization or justifying drinking. The person may speak openly about the potential problem while at the same time feeling his or her own behavior is well within reason. They may attempt to show you how their own drinking compares favorably with someone else’s or they may shift blame for individual instances to anyone else besides themselves.

When someone constantly “commends” (compliments, throws out hints about how great they are) themselves, what does it reveal about them?

They are insecure about their recovery They aren’t acting wisely

They are being competitive with others Other . . .

LYING/SECRECY: “I hide my behavior and lie to cover it up.” If the person does not flatly deny the problem, they may instead try to minimize the problem. This form of denial includes hiding alcohol and lying about how much and how often drinking occurs. The person refuses to own up to the actual amount of drinking they do or attempts to paint other people as overreacting.
Today, I am willing to admit ____________________________________ about my struggle with addiction.

LACK OF SELF-CONTROL: “There are other areas of my life that are also out of control.” They really do believe that their drinking does not rise to the level of addiction. They really believe that others drive them to drink. They really do think that they need the alcohol in order to cope in the same way someone else needs coffee to wake up in the morning.
Other “out-of-control areas of my life are: ______________________________________

A “HOLIER THAN THOU” ATTITUDE: “I constantly point out others’ weaknesses and faults and how to correct them.” They will say they have not hurt anyone, have not lost their job, and don’t have cirrhosis of the liver or any number of other comparisons which make their own issue appear small. They may say that they only drink when their spouse is unkind or their child misbehaves or the boss is unreasonable. They feel they are not that bad off.

A person who criticizes others often is probably:

Too proud to be patient

Guilty of the same things

Trying to help the best way they know how

About to take a fall

Other . . .

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