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Are you lying to yourself?


Denial leads to relapse
Have you ever heard the expression, "Denial is not a river in Egypt"? It's also the name of a funny book of sayings for people in recovery, and denial is the theme of this month's blog posts.
Alcoholics will often minimize their consumption and say they're drinking less than they actually are. Meanwhile, because of the changes that happen in brain chemistry in addicts, the more they drink the more they need to drink in order to feel normal, let alone good.
The exact same thing happens in people with food and weight obsession. Whether it's how long they exercise or how much they eat (either restricting or overeating), they need more and more of the behavior – but will still under-report what they're actually doing. Tolerance continues to grow, and so does denial, until soon they're in full-blown food addiction. Usually, it's someone else who recognizes it before the person with the food addiction – a friend or counselor may be the one to point it out.
Complacency is a form of denial
People get excited and enthusiastic at the beginning of the recovery process. They're in therapy, a support group or a 12-step program, and they're taking actions. Inevitably, something happens in life, or they just wake up a little tired one day, or that "high" of early recovery wears off and they become complacent.
Complacency becomes a form of denial. In addiction recovery, we talk about something called euphoric recall – people dwell on remembering the "good old days" of indulging in their addiction, and completely deny that there were any harmful, unpleasant or life-threatening effects.
Being in recovery can seem boring compared to a fantasy of life with excess food. That's why in 12-step recovery, the first step is often to write out a history of all of the ways that food, weight obsession, over-exercising, etc. made your life unmanageable. Please contact us at White Picket Fence Counseling Center if you would like to try a journaling exercise like that.
Denial is a definite path to slips and relapse. Let's say someone has long-term abstinence from binge eating. She has a slip, one binge, but gets right back in the saddle. She may decide, "Hey, I can handle a binge once in awhile," and it happens again, and again, until all of a sudden (but it's really not) she's face down in the food again.

In the next post, we'll look at how denial can affect relationships, and some of the ways we address denial in the therapy process.