It's not a river in Egypt
Denial hides our using from ourself
"Denial ain't just a river in Egypt."
We use denial to shield ourselves from the terrible truth of our disease. In Earth People, denial is a useful way to keep away the pain of reality when it becomes too much to bear. But for us, denial becomes an essential tool to keep the reality of our addiction hidden from ourselves and others.
It becomes a mountain of impenetrable lies that prevents the recognition of our powerlessness. It helps us turn a blind eye on the consequences of our using on others.
You may hear your own denial in these words.
The same mechanism protects us from our disease, from its intolerable consequences, and from our own fear.
I don’t have a problem—you have the problem.
No, I didn’t forget where I parked my car. I’m sure I’ll remember in a minute.
I don’t need to drink, I just like it.
Sure I drink Scotch every day, but you drink iced tea every day. What’s the difference?
I know you don’t understand this, but I need to drink. I’m special like that.
Yeah, I drink a lot, but not all that much really. Certainly not as much as my brother
If you had my wife, you’d drink, too.
He arrested me for a DUI, but I only had two beers.
Yeah, I have a drinking problem, but it doesn’t hurt anybody but me.
I know I have a problem with drugs, but so did my mom and she lived to be ninety-six
Sure I’m an alcoholic, but I can handle it.
Am I addicted? Sure, but I’m going to quit tomorrow.
The story of Bill, the anesthesiologist
Bill, an anesthesiologist from Augusta, was not an alcoholic. He was here in rehab, he said, “just to be sure". My friend Mike and I were talking with him about his problem.
“Well, I’m definitely not an alcoholic,” said Bill.
“I mean, I love you guys, but I’m not like you at all. Sure, I drink some, but the Hospital Board overreacted when they sent me to rehab.”
Mike and I both groaned. Mike got up to make another pot of coffee. It was getting late, but morning was not something we had to worry about tonight. Bill was turning out to be a hard sell.
“So, you’re not an alcoholic?” I asked Bill for the umpteenth time.
“Me? Heck, no. I can quit any time I want. They thought they smelled it on my breath in the operating room, that’s all.”
“But we all agree it would be a real problem if an anesthesiologist showed up in the operating room drunk, right?” I asked.
“Of course, but I’d never do that,” said Bill.
“Never,” quipped Mike.
“Bill,” I said, “my patients dying of cancer would come up with the most elaborate schemes to deny the fatal nature of their illness. We’d talk about going to Disney World or Jamaica when it was all they could do to go from bed to chair. A man who knows he’s about to die still needs to get out of bed, pull on his pants, and prepare for the day. For Earth People, denial is a useful tool. But for us, it’s poison.”
“I’m not dying of cancer,” said Bill. “I just drink too much.” The first hint of understanding and acceptance settled on his face. “You know I’d never compromise the safety of a patient. Never.”
“We know,” said Mike, “but you’ve got to quit drinking.”
“I know,” said Bill. “But I don’t know how.” He looked helplessly at Mike and me. “A river in Egypt, huh?”
“A river in Egypt, called denial,” said Mike.