The Role of Denial in an Adult Child’s Life

Denial is a defense mechanism used to fight or minimize the danger to which a individual is exposed and exists as a dynamic in both the alcoholic and the adult child who’s created following an Affair with him.

Should you teeter on the outside ledge of a 100-story building, as an instance, you may enhance your chances of scaling into it if you refuse the danger and prevent the terror associated with that.

Denial is the cloud which surrounds an alcoholic or dysfunctional family. A storm rages on the inside, but that is largely concealed or distorted when seen from the exterior.

The Alcoholic:

Alcoholism is the only malady that fools someone into thinking that it is not a disorder and, even when he believes it’s, his denial of it just further nullifies it.

Why, it might be wondered, can a family suffer intolerable mental and emotional pain and abuse because of a dad’s drinking, however he himself seems to suppose no responsibility for their anguish?

Perhaps the single most frustrating characteristic of the alcoholic is his or her refusal or inability to admit that he has such a problem, even when his family is falling apart, his job is at stake, his drunk driving convictions are accumulating, and his wife is suing him for divorce.

“Much has been written about denial,” according to Kathleen W. Fitzgerald in her novel, Alcoholism: The Genetic Inheritance (Whales’ Tail Press, 2002, p. 191). “The alcoholic only cannot see and comprehend what is happening to him. The household also suffers this denial.”

“Slowly, painfully, the fabric of family life has been picked away,” she also wrote (p. 177). “There are large holes , even craters and gorges in that family. The household members are truly the walking wounded.”

“It is the very character of this disorder which self-awareness is dim, blunted, absent,” according to Fitzgerald (p. 55). “Even in recovery, all that is left is a memory of bizarre occasions and of painful, confused emotions. Recovering individuals, sober many decades, suddenly remember a forgotten incident, a buried conversation, something that has been seen or said or felt while drinking”

An alcoholic is not consciously, by the definition of the term, lying. He truly does not believe that he has a drinking problem, much less that he belongs in the “alcoholic” category.

So true is this aspect of the disease, that one adult child recently recounted that, after his father was flagged by police because of his erratic driving, given a breathalyzer test, demonstrated a high blood alcohol level, and issued one of many DWI’s, the adult child himself was blamed for the incident because he had purchased more economical tires for the car and they had caused the erratic driving. “Alcohol!” “I never touch the things,” despite the heavy smell of it still escaping his mouth.

“The blind spot is the cornerstone of the alcoholic’s method of defense,” according to Fitzgerald (p. 57). “This is what’s meant by ‘alcoholic denial.'”

“For a lot of reasons,” she later writes (p. 57), “that they are unable to keep track of their own behaviour and begin to eliminate contact with their emotions. Their defense systems continue to grow, so that they can endure in the face of their problems. The greater the pain, the higher and more rigid the defenses become; and this whole process is unconscious. Finally, they really become victims of their own defense systems.”

“The alcoholic does not have conscious access to understanding of the sum he drank, how he ate, what he was like, the effect he had on others, how he looked, (or) the way he seemed,” Fitzgerald wrote (p. 59).

His actions bypass the subconscious and go directly into the unconscious part of his mind, causing him to fully believe that they are not there. He cannot connect with what he does and he therefore has no regret, remorse, empathy, or even conscience about the harm he inflicts on himself or others.

“When a person is left with no marvelous defense of jealousy, guilt and shame wash over him, drowning him into self-loathing,” according to Fitzgerald (p. 175). “This can’t be avoided and functions to knock down the last vestiges of his refusal; the level to which he’s still able to disown his alcoholism is the degree to which he will not recover. All the refusal must go. He doesn’t need it anymore.”

In the end, it is the alcoholic’s blindness to his excessive and dangerous drinking levels, and his seeming unwillingness to take ownership for them, that causes more rage in the families affected by them than the act of drinking itself. How do the adult children who ultimately emerge from such upbringings deal with all of this? Ironically, with denial of their own.

The Adult Child:

Ignorance is an early form and foreshadows of denial. The former implies “do not understand.” The latter can be considered “refuse to understand.” Those raised in alcoholic, dysfunctional, and/or abusive families quickly and ironically learn that the only thing that holds them together is to not see the truth that otherwise causes others to fall apart-that is, the dysfunctional family’s truth is a lie–that everyone must deny what they see and experience in order to continue living within it. Get more information¬†click here

Alcoholism or dysfunction hardly occur in isolation or only to the imbiber or abuser, and those affected use the same brain mechanism as those who affect.

What, then, is denial to an adult child?

“Denial for an adult child has many different definitions that have blaming others and minimizing memoires,” according to the Adult Children of Alcoholics textbook (World Service Organization, 2006, p. 454). “There is also an outright rejection of truth. Some aspects of adult kid denial involve recalling abusive or neglectful behavior as ordinary.”

Alcoholism is a disease, not a liquid.

Despite what may be apparent, based upon behavioral transgressions, the presence of alcohol itself, and various forms of abuse, that alcoholism exists to others, some two decades of exposure to it ironically fail to provide the necessary clues to those who are exposed to it during their upbringings.

An estimated 50 percent of adult children of alcoholics refuse or can’t comprehend alcoholism among their own families,” according to the Adult Children of Alcoholics textbook (p. 124). “By growing up in a dysfunctional home, we become desensitized to the effects of alcoholism, violent behavior, and lack of trust”

“We utilized refusal to overlook… the fact that we had internalized our parents,” it further states. (p. 22). “Denial is the glue that holds together a dysfunctional home. Family secrets or disregarded feelings, and predictable chaos are part of a dysfunctional family system. The machine enables abuse or other unhealthy behaviors to be tolerated in harmful levels. During reproduction, the misuse is deemed normal by people in the household. Because dysfunction appeared tolerable or normal, the mature child can deny anything unpleasant occurred in childhood.”

But there is hope.

“By working the twelve steps with a host or knowledgeable counselor,” again according to the Adult Children of Alcoholics textbook (p. 96), “the adult kid realizes the denial and secrecy which were necessary to endure this kind of upbringing. Denial, which fosters a lack of clarity, is the glue that allows the disease of family dysfunction to thrive. Cloaked in denial, the disorder is passed to another generation with excellent consistency. The basic language of jealousy is ‘don’t talk, don’t trust, don’t feel.'”

Exacerbating this dilemma is the fact that some are so dissociated from their feelings, that, even if incidents are recallable, there is no connection to the pain or negative emotion that existed at the time of their occurrences, leading a person to delusionally recount a childhood that was less traumatizing and impacting than it actually was.

With or without these feelings, the behavioral characteristics exhibited by adult children are recordings, if not out-and-out downloading, of their parents’ actions.

“Much of that behavior mirrors the actions and thoughts of the dysfunctional parents, grandparents, or caregivers,” continues the Adult Children of Alcoholics textbook (p. 23). “Once we come out of denial, we realize we have internalized our parents’ behavior. We have internalized their perfectionism, control, dishonesty, self-righteousness, anger, pessimism, and judgmentalness.”

Another sort of refusal is a selective recall or the remembering of those events which were either less threatening or that sanitized upbringings so they may be recounted as more respectable and presentable to others later in life who don’t seem to discuss their adverse childhood experiences.