Denial is a very interesting thing. How do we know we are in denial if we are in denial? The definition of the word denial is written below.
de·ni·al [dih-nahy-uhl] noun
1. an assertion that something said, believed, alleged, etc., is false: Despite his denials, we knew he had taken the purse. The politician issued a denial of his opponent’s charges.
2. refusal to believe a doctrine, theory, or the like.
3. disbelief in the existence or reality of a thing.
4. the refusal to satisfy a claim, request, desire, etc., or the refusal of a person making it.
5. refusal to recognize or acknowledge; a disowning or disavowal: the traitor’s denial of his country; Peter’s denial of Christ.
These are great definitions of denial but don’t clearly fit my idea of denial when it comes to addiction so I choose to look at Wikipedia for their description:
Denial (also called abnegation) is a defense mechanism postulated by Sigmund Freud, in which a person is faced with a fact that is too uncomfortable to accept and rejects it instead, insisting that it is not true despite what may be overwhelming evidence.
The above is a much better description of the type of denial to which I am referring. When a person enters real recovery, they leave the state of denial that left them in their addiction. However, for some who believe they are in recovery, they continue to deny or minimize the addiction to certain sexual behaviors allowing them to prolong or feed the addiction. Until the sexual addict fully steps out of denial, practicing rigorous honesty, and accepts their compulsive sexual behavior as fact, they will not find help, freedom, or sobriety from their addictive behaviors.
The concept of denial is important in twelve-step programs, where the abandonment or reversal of denial forms the basis of the first, fourth, fifth, eighth and tenth steps. The ability to deny or minimize is an essential part of what enables an addict to continue his or her behavior despite evidence that—to an outsider—appears overwhelming. This is cited as one of the reasons that compulsion is seldom effective in treating addiction—the habit of denial remains.
To remain in denial is to remain in the addiction. Making excuses or defending the use of pornography, for example, is a great case of denial for a sexual addict. Until the addict realizes how addictive the chemical high produced by the brain during the viewing of pornography can really be, they will continue to slip and slide in their recovery (although deny that they have slipped or relapsed). Quite a few have made excuses for the occasional use of pornography in their “recovery” or acceptance of such material as “allowed” in order to not feel shame or guilt because of viewing the material. It is my opinion that this mentality, does not, and will not lead to sexual sobriety and instead will lead the addict back into compulsive sexual behaviors. Another point of denial is the recovering sex addict that believes they can visit an adult oriented business, such as a strip club or adult book store, with “look but don’t touch” mentality. This, again, is an example of making excuses and living in the addiction and in denial. It is very important to be connected with a sponsor or someone else in recovery who can review our sexual behaviors especially if we use the “three circle” method used in Sex Addicts Anonymous (SAA).
In using the three circles, we might feel that we are “ok” by living in middle circle activity when in fact we should not even be engaging in that type of activity! A sponsor can carefully evaluate the activity and see if we are in denial about our acting out and whether the activity needs to be moved into inner circle behavior. Remember, the middle circle is for our protection to keep us away from compulsive sexual behaviors. However, no activity in the middle circle should be “acceptable” and engaging in behaviors in the middle circle should sound alarms that something is not right in our recovery or life! A more thorough analysis of the three circles will be made in a future blog post.
One of my favorite explanations of denial is an acrostic/acronym I once heard in a recovery meeting.
DENIAL – Don’t E ven kNow I Am Lying
When we work our Steps 1 and 4, we can see where we consistently lied to ourselves about issues concerning our compulsive sexual behavior to the point that we didn’t even realize that we were lying! Compulsive sexual behavior became so ingrained in our lives that we saw it as truth and excused our actions with “everybody does it,” regardless of how insane our behaviors became. In working a Step 5, we receive help from our sponsor and the Holy Spirit in further stepping out of any denial that may remain in our addictive sexual behavior. Our sponsor and conviction by the Spirit can help point out parts of our lives where we may still live in denial of certain character defects or activities. Then, we can step out of denial and realize that we had been lying to ourselves the entire time; we can begin to live in the truth!
It isn’t until we step out of our denial of our addiction and compulsive sexual behaviors and all activities associated with the behavior that we can fully enter a manner of living honestly and fully enter recovery as a lifestyle. When we fully enter recovery, we relocate; we not longer live in the great State of Denial!
Take what you like and leave the rest.