The Denial of a Deadly Disease


This is about addiction. Substance abuse is its other name. I know this world well, having been mired in addictions all of my life—either my own or those of others. I am a recovered alcoholic; I’m also certified by Washington State as a substance abuse counselor. I have worked in inpatient and outpatient treatment centers. I have been in private practice for almost thirty years. I know what I’m talking about.

Three of my four fathers were addicts/alcoholics, and one was violent when drinking. My mother was addicted to pills, depressed, and rarely left the couch during my teen years. My gentle stepmother was a late-stage alcoholic, the kind of alcoholic with a bulbous nose and popping veins on her face. My stepbrothers were alcoholics, too; they went in and out of the local jail like kids playing with a revolving door.

My much-loved mother-in-law was an alcoholic, slurring her words as she flipped her gorgeous platinum blond hair over her shoulders and repeated the same words over and over again. It broke my heart to watch—but that was before I ended up drinking the same way. Sloppy and un-ladylike, just another drunk with smeared lipstick.

Her son—my first husband, Joe DiMaggio, Jr.—died of an overdose at age 57. He was living in a junkyard in Northern California at the time; that is where his addiction took him. His beloved stepmother, Marilyn Monroe, died of an overdose as well.

My once kind-hearted son fights for his right to use the drug of his choice while on the merry-go-round of denial, tethered to the bars of rotating prisons and mental wards. Denial is a deadly disease.

To deny means to:

1. Declare untrue; contradict.

2. Refuse to believe; reject.

3. Refuse to recognize or acknowledge; disavow.

4. Create unconscious defense mechanisms characterized by a refusal to acknowledge painful realities, thoughts, or feelings.

Five Myths about Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse

Myth #1: I can stop drinking anytime I want to.

Maybe you can, but more likely, you can’t stop. Either way, it’s just an excuse to keep drinking. The truth is, you don’t want to stop. Telling yourself you can quit makes you feel in control, despite all evidence to the contrary and no matter the damage its doing.

Myth #2: My drinking is my problem. I’m the one it hurts, so no one has the right to tell me to stop.

It’s true that the decision to quit drinking is up to you. But you are deceiving yourself if you think that your drinking hurts no one else but you. Alcoholism affects everyone around you—especially the people closest to you. Your problem is their problem.

Myth #3: I don’t drink every day, so I can’t be an alcoholic; OR I only drink wine or beer, so I can’t be an alcoholic.

Alcoholism is NOT defined by what you drink, when you drink it, or even how much you drink. It’s the EFFECTS of your drinking that define a problem. If your drinking is causing problems in your home or work life, you have a drinking problem—whether you drink daily or only on the weekends, down shots of tequila or stick to wine, drink three bottles of beers a day or three bottles of whiskey.

Myth #4: I’m not an alcoholic because I have a job and I’m doing okay.

You don’t have to be homeless and drinking out of a brown paper bag to be an alcoholic. Many alcoholics are able to hold down jobs, get through school, and provide for their families. Some are even able to excel. But just because you’re a high-functioning alcoholic doesn’t mean you’re not putting yourself or others in danger. Over time, the effects will catch up with you.

Myth #5: Drinking is not a “real” addiction like drug abuse.  

Alcohol is a drug, and alcoholism is every bit as damaging as other drug addictions. Alcohol addiction causes changes in the body and brain, and long-term alcohol abuse can have devastating effects on your health, your career, and your relationships. Alcoholics go through physical withdrawal when they stop drinking, just like drug users do when they quit.

Alcohol has crashed through my life over and over again like a fast-moving summer tornado. Sometimes I have been the victim of their destruction; sometimes I have been the creator of their destruction. Does it really matter what or who causes the destruction as long as we can all hide behind denial? Perhaps it is denial, not the alcohol or the drugs, that’s the disease.



 Five myths about alcoholism and alcohol abuse. Authors: Melinda Smith, M.A., Lawrence Robinson, and Jeanne Segal, Ph.D, (c)– helps you help yourself and others to better health with expert ad free online resources.



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  1. Dawn,

    With a background and perpetual family like yours, how do you maintain sanity? I do understand that, fortunately, everyone in your extended family isn’t in the failure loop.


  2. I don’t drink or I would be an alcoholic. Too many members of my family are alcoholics for me to take that chance with my life. My dad, grandfather and sister were all mean drunks. I have seen how it affects families. I suspect that many more of my extended family are also alcoholics but I don’t spend enough time around to do more than guess. Most of them are in denial that alcoholism runs in our family, that it is indeed genetic. I made sure that my children both know that they have the genes of alcoholism. My daughter doesn’t drink but my son does.

    • Hi Patricia,

      How great that you tried to warn your children of the family disease of alcohol. Sometimes that works while other times our children think they can handle it because they are different, stronger, special, etc. Those are all aspects of the deadly and insidious disease of alcoholism. I have twin sons, one has always been mindful of the dangers and his heritage while the other went head first into the disease.

      Thank you so much for stopping by and commenting. Hope to see you visiting my blog again. Dawn

  3. my mother is a HFA and she is in denial. i just recently found out that my family that stopped speaking to me and my nana ( moms mom) 11 years ago only stopped speaking to us so that they could completely shut my mother out of their and their childrens lives. my mother has had a drinking problem since i was 3. i am now almost 21 and didnt realize she had a drinking problem until i was 15 when my boyfriend at the time pointed it out. i have no idea how to handle this at all. she is in such denial its sickening. we used to be close, when she covered up her problem enough to hide from me in my younger years. then i grew up and realized my whole life i was lied whole family has tried talking to her, dads threatened divorce, etc.etc. now its to the point where i cant handle her drunk texts and calls that follow with verbal and emotional abuse towards my nana brother dad and myself. do i cut her out of my life completely? what about my little brother (11) he lives with her. what if something bad happens to him? i have so many questions. and theres more factors in the story, but i just need help and need to know what to do

    • Dear Wise One,

      I am so sorry that you and your family are experiencing such difficulties. Please have an honest conversation with a Pastor or School Guidance Counselor. See if there is an Ala-Teen in your community. If not, perhaps a friend could drive you and your Nana to a local Ala-non meeting. These problems are way too big for you, or any one person to handle alone. Please believe me when I say, you are not alone. You just need to find the right help. Good luck and God bless.

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