addict in denial

How to Help an Addict in Denial

Having a loved one who is struggling with an addiction is a painful process to witness. Often, family and friends feel helpless and wonder how they can support this person effectively. You may be watching someone you care about continue to make harmful decisions and desperately want to intervene. Many times, this person will refuse to believe there is anything wrong with their behavior. So how do you help an addict in denial realize the issue at hand? And why is denial so common in addiction?

Why Addiction Denial is Common in Substance Abuse

Addiction usually starts as a means of coping with a troubling experience or emotion. People who turn to substances to manage challenges may justify the action. They do this by saying they have the substance use under control and could stop whenever they want. It’s not uncommon for those with an addiction to try to lessen the severity of their issue by comparing it to other people and insisting that it’s not as bad as it could be. They could also defend themselves by pointing out how they are still able to complete necessary life commitments. 

Addiction denial is a common practice for anyone who struggles with substance abuse for a few main reasons. The first is that there is a stigma often associated with substance use disorders. They may fear judgment or view this as a weakness. Because of the stereotypes related to addiction, they may not feel like they fit the typical mold and don’t want to be associated with this population. For this reason, it’s important to help your loved one understand the truths about addiction. By providing information based on research and fact, you can help reshape their view of substance use disorders.

How Do You Help Someone Who Doesn’t Want to Change?

Addiction recovery begins when a person recognizes that they have a problem and is motivated to make a change. However, when someone doesn’t yet want to change, this poses a dilemma for those who love this person. The hard truth is that you can’t force someone to want to change their behavior. The best thing you can do is help them recognize there is an issue that warrants change. Conversations about what you are observing and presenting your concern to your loved one through an intervention can help them begin to see the issue and begin motivating them to make changes1. So what does an addiction intervention look like, and how do you go about combatting addiction denial? 

Addiction Denial Intervention Techniques

An addiction intervention can be intimidating, especially if you aren’t sure how to start the conversation. The challenge with an intervention is knowing what information to bring up and how to do so. Here are a few tips and techniques to help you begin this discussion:

Emphasize Concern Over Condemnation

To help ensure your loved one is receptive to the conversation, begin by letting them know this is something you are bringing up out of concern. Emphasize that you are not passing judgment on their behavior. By framing the conversation around your desire to see them well, they will be more willing to hear what you have to say.

Leave Room for Them to Talk

This is a key component of a successful intervention. No one wants to feel like they are being talked over and can’t say what they are feeling. This should be a conversation where they have the opportunity to participate. Be prepared for them to defend their behavior, but resist the urge to interrupt or argue.

Highlight the Facts

Feelings will naturally come up on both sides of this conversation, especially for those in denial about their addiction. Try to focus on the facts of the situation as much as possible. A conversation that is emotion-focused can distract from the intervention because it may seem like this is about your feelings rather than your loved one. You don’t need to hide your emotions but make an effort to balance those with tangible observations.

Help from an Addiction Intervention Specialist

An intervention is a tricky conversation that needs to be handled with care in order for it to be effective. Whether you have previously tried to have an intervention with a loved one that was unsuccessful, or you need help staging this conversation for the first time, Whitman Recovery Service is here to help. Our Texas intervention specialists will help guide these discussions in a productive and effective manner. The goal of these meetings is to help your loved one come out of addiction denial and recognize the issue at hand. We then work to get them to agree to receive treatment for their addiction. By trusting our intervention team, you help ensure your loved one gets the help they need to set them on a path to recovery. We understand how difficult these conversations are, so we handle each meeting with care and compassion. If you have a loved one who is in need of an intervention for their addiction, contact our team today. 


1. Meredith, L.R., Grodin, E.N., Karno, M.P. et al. Preliminary study of alcohol problem severity and response to brief intervention. Addict Sci Clin Pract 16, 54 (2021).