Spencer, Kelli and Erika discuss denial. We started with a reading that said, in part “Living with alcoholics, many of us coped with an ever-shifting situation in which our sense of reality changed from one minutes to the next. We adapted by taking whatever part of reality suited us and ignoring the rest. Again and again we were devastated because reality didn’t go away just because it was ignored.”
We didn’t really understand the concept of denial before coming into the program. Now, we are able to look back through our recovery glasses and identify times when we were ignoring the parts of reality that we didn’t like. Spencer shared that he denied his loved one’s alcoholism for years, at least in part because he had a particular vision of what alcoholism was, and it didn’t fit their situation. Erika talks about denying her fears and feelings when they didn’t fit with her vision of how her life should be.
We each talk about circumstances when we were in denial, how we recognized it. Erika shares that when she finds herself in unmanageability, and trying to justify her actions or feelings, that she is likely denying some aspect of reality. Spencer had to be jolted into recognizing reality by evidence that was undeniable. He was ignoring all the clues that might contradict his expectations and wishes, until “reality crashed in” on him. Kelli might be in denial when she becomes really logical and controlling over a situation, rather than accepting it. She usually gets “a clue” when she starts trying to explain it to her sponsor or someone else in the program – their reaction makes it clear that she’s not living in reality.
Spencer shares that sometimes he is reluctant to use the tools of the program. He knows that these tools can help him reach serenity and acceptance. When he is not willing to use those tools, he is probably not accepting reality, and he is afraid to face whatever reality he is denying. When he can bring his fear into the open and share it with others, then he can break through his denial and start to work on solving the real problem. The reading continues with “When we share with other members about what is really going on, we cut through our denial and anchor ourselves in reality.” He shares a recent experience, where finally being able to share a fear began the process of recovering from the paralyzing effect it had on his life. Erika agrees that just saying something out loud, even to herself, has power. She likes that the steps teach us a way to move into self-acceptance and out of denial. Kelli hears that we are talking about trusting the process. She does not like sharing at meetings, though.
We each share our difficulties in accepting the reality that loved ones in our lives are aging, that their health is failing, and that they are mortal. Denial can be really strong here, especially when we don’t have the reality in our face. We are grateful that our program gives us ways to move through the denial into acceptance, so that we can continue to enjoy the time we have left with them, and not to be paralyzed by anxiety and fear.
We close with another bit of the reading, “I can’t cope with something unless i acknowledge its reality. When I am willing to look at the whole picture, I take the first step toward a more manageable life.”
The music in the show
This Spotify playlist includes the two songs we played in this episode, along with a third that didn’t make it in. All 3 touch on denial. Fire and Rain is James Taylor’s reaction to the death of a friend. He sings “I always thought that I’d see you again.” Cleopatra, Queen of Denial is a humorous look at denial of a loved one’s failings. In Trouble Sleeping, Corinne Bailey Rae is denying that she might be in love.
James Taylor – Fire and Rain:
Pam Tillis – Cleopatra, Queen of Denial:
Corinne Bailey Rae – Trouble Sleeping