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If You're Defensive About Your Drinking, You Might Have a Problem

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Has anyone ever accused you have having an drinking problem? Perhaps it was a well-intentioned friend or colleague who made a “joke” that felt like it was directed at you, or a family member who outright called you an alcoholic?

How did it make you feel?

meax-6FQ-xtX9E_s-unsplashIt probably felt pretty awful. Thinking, or even knowing, that someone you love or respect thinks your drinking or drug use is out of control and needs to be addressed might make you feel angry, or even ashamed.

If someone has accused you of having a problem with drugs or alcohol and you’ve been defensive or angry about it, however, they might be right.

Most people struggling with problems that they aren’t dealing with will get defensive when confronted. It’s a normal response. If you are worried that talking about your drinking might lead to having to go to rehab or quit drinking, and you’re not ready to take that step, you’re going to find a way to get out of the discussion.

Lashing Out At Those You Love

As hard as it is to talk openly about your substance use, it’s even harder on you and those around you to continue to deny or deflect the topic. When you deny the issue outright, change the subject, or escalate your anger about their concerns, you are creating chips in the foundation of your relationships. You may stay standing for now, but at some point that foundation will collapse.

It is very common for someone who is being defensive to twist the facts to distort reality, or turn everything back on the other person. If you’re trying to ‘win’ the argument by shifting the blame or tying to get sympathy by playing the victim, it should be a warning sign to you that you’re not really addressing the topic at hand. You might stop the current fight, but the war is not over.

Living in Denial

When accusations first start to surface they may seem ridiculous. In your mind, you do not have a problem. Sure you have a few drinks to unwind but who doesn’t? Drinking actually improves your wit, let’s you complete those projects and reach deadlines, and with the stress you face daily, you deserve it, right?

If you feel this way at all, you should stop and reflect on how much you are actually drinking and whether or not it is impacting your relationships with your family, your friends, or your colleagues. If you’ve ever denied that you have a drinking problem, you may be in denial of the impact that your substance use is having on your life and the lives of your family.

This is especially difficult for people who function well in spite of their drinking habits. They can hold down a job, excel in academics, and provide for their family, all while still over-consuming alcohol. According to Psychology Today, a high-functioning alcoholic's success feeds their denial that they may have a problem. "They believe that their drinking only impacts themselves, that they deserve to drink because of their hard work or stress, and that if their life appears 'put together' on the outside that they are entitled to keep drinking."

Is it Time to Reach Out?

If this sounds even remotely familiar, it might be time to talk to an unbiased addiction treatment specialist for a no-commitment consultation. There is no shame in reaching out to ask for help or to talk about what some options might be to quit or cut back drinking. It might be the most important call you’ll ever make.