Denial is a common feature of addiction. It is the tendency of individuals to deny or minimize the severity of their substance abuse, even when faced with evidence of the negative consequences it is causing. 

Denial can make it difficult for individuals to seek help and can impede the recovery process. SMART Recovery is a self-help program that offers tools and strategies for individuals struggling with addiction. 

In this article, we will explore the nature of denial in addiction, the SMART Recovery program, and how it can help individuals overcome denial and achieve lasting recovery.

The nature of denial in addiction

Denial is a psychological defense mechanism that individuals use to protect themselves from the unpleasant reality of their addiction. It can manifest in various ways, including rationalization, minimization, and projection. 

Rationalization

Rationalization is when individuals justify their addictive behavior with reasons that sound reasonable but are actually excuses. A person struggling with alcohol abuse might say, “I need to drink to relax after a hard day at work.”

Minimization 

Minimization is when individuals downplay the severity of their addiction. For example, a person might say, “I only drink on weekends.” 

Projection

Projection is when individuals blame others for their drug or alcohol use, or the consequences of their addiction. As an example, a person struggling with alcohol and drug use may say, “If my spouse didn’t stress me out, I wouldn’t need to use so much.”

Negative consequences

Addiction denial can prevent individuals from acknowledging the negative consequences of their substance abuse on their life, relationships, and health. It can make them believe that they are in control of their substance abuse, even when the overwhelming evidence suggests otherwise. 

Denial can also make individuals resistant to seeking help, as they may not see the need for it.

Person holding their hand out representing denial

The role of denial in preventing recovery

Denial can be a significant barrier to recovery. It can prevent individuals from seeking help or complying with treatment. If individuals do not acknowledge the severity of their substance abuse, they may not be motivated to change their addictive behaviors. 

They may also resist the advice of healthcare professionals or the support of loved ones. They may see these interventions as unnecessary or unwanted.

Denial can also contribute to relapse. If individuals do not address the underlying causes of their alcohol or drug  abuse, such as emotional distress or trauma, they may continue to rely on addictive substances or behaviors to cope with these issues. 

They may also be more likely to relapse if they encounter triggers or stressors that remind them of their alcohol or drug addiction.

SMART Recovery

SMART Recovery is a self-help program that offers a different approach to addiction recovery than traditional 12-step programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)

SMART stands for Self-Management and Recovery Training. It is based on the principles of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and motivational interviewing (MI).

The program aims to empower individuals to take control of their recovery by providing them with tools and strategies to manage their addictive behavior.

SMART Recovery differs from traditional 12-step programs in several ways. First, it does not require individuals to accept the concept of powerlessness over their addiction or to believe in a higher power. Instead, it encourages individuals to take responsibility for their behavior and to develop their own sense of meaning and purpose

Second, it emphasizes the use of evidence-based techniques, such as CBT and MI, to help individuals change their thinking patterns and behaviors. 

Finally, it provides a non-judgmental, supportive environment where individuals can share their experiences and learn from each other.

The SMART Recovery 4-Point Program

The SMART Recovery program is based on a 4-point program that provides individuals with the skills and tools they need to manage their addiction. The 4 points are:

  1. Building and maintaining motivation: This point helps individuals to identify the reasons why they want to change their addictive behavior and to develop a plan to achieve their goals. It includes tools such as decision-making matrices and cost-benefit analysis.
  2. Coping with urges: This point provides individuals with strategies for managing the urges and cravings that can lead to relapse. It includes tools such as distraction techniques, deep breathing exercises, and assertiveness training.
  3. Managing thoughts, feelings, and behaviors: This point focuses on helping individuals to identify and challenge the negative thinking patterns and behaviors that contribute to their addiction. It includes tools such as the ABCs of REBT (Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy) and thought-stopping techniques.
  4. Living a balanced life: This point encourages individuals to develop a balanced and fulfilling life that is not centered around their addiction. It includes tools such as goal-setting and problem-solving techniques.

How SMART Recovery addresses denial

SMART Recovery provides several tools and strategies to help individuals overcome denial and accept the reality of their alcohol or drug use. These tools include:

  • Cost-Benefit Analysis: This tool helps individuals to weigh the pros and cons of their addictive behavior. It asks individuals to consider the short-term and long-term benefits and drawbacks of their addiction. By doing this, individuals can gain a clearer understanding of the impact of their drinking or drug use on their life and relationships.
  • ABCs of REBT (Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy): This tool helps individuals to identify and challenge the irrational beliefs that contribute to their addiction. It asks individuals to identify the Activating Event (A), the irrational Belief (B) that they hold about the event, and the Consequence (C) of that belief. By challenging irrational beliefs, individuals can change their thinking patterns and behaviors.
  • Brainstorming: This tool helps individuals to generate new ideas and strategies for managing their addiction. It encourages individuals to think creatively and to consider a range of options for managing their addiction.
  • Role-playing: This tool helps individuals to practice new skills and behaviors in a safe and supportive environment. It allows individuals to try out new coping strategies and to receive feedback from others.
  • Goal-setting: This tool helps individuals to set and achieve realistic goals for their recovery. It encourages individuals to focus on the positive changes they want to make in their life and to take concrete steps towards those changes.

I small plant growing between rocks, signifying a breakthrough

Breaking through

Denial is a common feature of addiction, and it can be a significant barrier to recovery. SMART Recovery is a self-help program that offers tools and strategies for individuals struggling with addiction. The program is based on the principles of cognitive-behavioral therapy and motivational interviewing and aims to empower individuals to take control of their recovery. 

By using tools such as the Cost-Benefit Analysis, ABCs of REBT, Brainstorming, Role-playing, and Goal-setting, individuals can overcome denial and develop a clear understanding of the impact of their addiction on their life and relationships.

Through SMART Recovery, individuals can learn to manage their urges and cravings, challenge negative thinking patterns and behaviors, and develop a balanced and fulfilling life that is not centered around their addiction. 

Help is available

Retreat at Sky Ridge provides a supportive and non-judgmental environment where individuals can share their experiences, gain new insights and strategies, and receive support and encouragement from others.

With the right tools, support, and encouragement, individuals can learn to manage their addiction, develop a sense of control over their life and future, and create a fulfilling and satisfying life in recovery.

Conclusion

Denial is a common feature of addiction, but it does not have to be a barrier to recovery. SMART Recovery offers a range of tools and strategies to help individuals overcome denial, challenge negative thinking patterns and behaviors, and achieve lasting recovery. 

By using these tools and accessing the support and encouragement of the program, individuals can take control of their recovery and create a fulfilling and satisfying life in recovery.

For more information on addiction treatment services, please give us a call at (877) 693-6010 or complete or short inquiry form at the bottom of this page.

adapt & transform. overcome.

If you or someone
you know needs help,
contact us.

Get started today! Ask a question, inquire about insurance benefits, or request that someone from the admission's team contact you. Complete the short form or call us anytime at (877) 693-6010.

Fill out my online form.