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.

7 Responses to “Denial is not a river in Egypt

  • “Know thy self, know thy enemy. A thousand battles, a thousand victories.” Sun Tzu

    I have learned that my false self is so afraid of my true self shinning through. When things got really tough. I worried about losing my son, our business was in trouble and my husband and I struggled, I felt like I had nothing to lose. Nothing.

    That’s when I looked myself in the eye. I looked at every deep dark scary thing, because none of them were as scary as losing my son. That is when I got better. And, you know what? My true self is so much better than some lame mask that I’ve created to hide who God created me to be.

    Hang in there. Look the devil in the eye. It’s easier than carrying around a mask. Any day of the week.

    • Great thoughts. Thanks Jean!
      What strength in your response to this. I’m glad it triggered something elightening for you. I’ll say a prayer for you Jean and your son and I hope for the best for both of you on your spiritual path.

  • I remember my mom, telling me, a little girl, “Im not an alcoholic, you know. Alcoholics drink in the morning.” My poor momma….we have long since worked through those things, but yes, that was her denial. Her desperate hope that things weren’t really as bad as they seemed. I have had plenty of my own denials….I think they were my cushions from looking at what was so painful to see. Until all of a sudden one night, they were all stripped away and there I was, with my broken family that I had worked so so incredibly hard to be perfect for. crumpled in a chaotic heap at my feet. That was the night of my spiritual awakening, the night I received grace and compassion that changed me forever and released me from needing to be perfect…like I ever could! lol What transpired that night was the beginning of a process that has stripped away my facades, humbled me, taught me that I don’t have all of the answers, that I NEED other people and God in my life. That I can’t do it all alone. Thank you Mark. An awesome and unique perspective on denial.

    • So great to hear from you Annette. It seems woven into our thinking. It can be deadly if we realize it too late. Crazy to think that we can’t trust ourselves, but I agree, we should be trusting God above all. God shows us the truth, and the truth sets us free.

  • justinpote78
    2 years ago

    I never thought I was an alcoholic. They quere the bums on the street drinking hooch out of a bottle. Then I lost everything around me. First my job. Then my girlfriend. And finally my house, pets, and self-respect.
    Addiction doesn’t have favorites and nearly every person gets affected in one form or another.
    But it is by grave that I am sober today. That I have a job. And that I’m engaged to a woman I don’t de serve.

    • I’m so grateful you posted a comment. And that you stopped by and read. I did eveything in my power to convince myself I wasn’t alcoholic. I don’t think non-alcoholics have to do that. I don’t deserve my wife. Or this second life I’ve been given. Let’s stay grateful for these gifts my friend. And keep spreading the message. I hope to connect with you better. Come on back and drop in any time!

  • I love this post! I was also deep in trouble as a teenager already. Stepping out of Denial and into truth is a gift not everyone gets. xxx

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