Denial is not a river in Egypt
It is a mechanism of my afflicted mind that keeps me from knowing myself. In denial, I don’t know that I don’t know. I keep ‘the facts’ from myself like a criminal from a cop. It is a powerful ignorance — to subconsciously hide something from yourself.
If Shakespeare’s maxim were true— “to thine own self be true … thou canst then be false to any man,” it would logically follow that
if you are false to yourself, you cannot be true to anyone.
It took three years in recovery to remember this incident (told below) and to realize that it served as a foundation of denial and ignorance in my life as a drinker and addict. I was a junior in high school at the time.
Early Sunday morning I came loafing in, guilt written in my every movement. I do not recall which alcohol-related consequence this was. There were many in high school, resulting in stitches, or handcuffs, or a groundskeeper finding empty cans next to my wallet under the bleachers. I left a stinking trail wherever I drank.
I was across from my father at the table outside the kitchen. He had my attention. I was serious about the topic of alcoholism because I was determined not to be one.
“Here, answer these questions. I’ll give you some time.” He handed me a pamphlet containing twelve questions that interrogated my relationship with alcohol. Questions like, Has your drinking caused trouble at home and Do you take extra drinks before a party in fear that there will not be enough? I was searching and fearless in my responses. I answered yes to nine of the twelve.
“So how many did you answer yes to?”
Quick math divided the truth by three.
“Well,” he turned the page. “If you answered yes to four or more of these questions, you might be an alcoholic.”
Phew. That was close.
I made two vows that day. The test revealed that I had not taken an ‘eye-opener’ in the morning, and I had not taken a drink alone. No matter what, I was going to uphold these two forbearances. Doing that would keep me from an alcoholic fate.
The affected mind does not see reality, does not see truth. Furthermore, it does not see itself not seeing truth. My father was the one I loved, feared, and respected most in the world. He told me what I was and I took his advice to every hospital bed and holding cell, and I used it to get up, dust myself off, and do it all over again.
I developed firmer deflecting armor in the form of accolades and praise on the athletic field and in the classroom. I kept a stockpile of things to point to when ugly consequences surfaced. Things to make people say ‘oh, he’s doing fine.’ Whatever the penalty, I figured it temporary. If only I didn’t drink alone or in the morning, I would not become alcoholic.
In the last year, I pray, of my drinking and using, I was drinking alone and in the morning before work. I don’t remember when I struck that deal with myself, when I told myself it was O.K., but I know that it involved building one more wall to keep my habit, and keep me from the truth.
Denial is not a river in Egypt. It is our inner-enabler, the disease’s closest ally — our greatest enemy.