It can be hard for the loved ones of alcoholics and drug addicts to understand how this person can do what they do. It can seem like substance abusers are completely oblivious to the reality of their situation, and this is not far from the truth. The reality is that in order to continue with the addictive behaviour, the individual has to exist in a type of fantasy world. It is only by recognising the truth of what is happening to them that those in this position can learn to break free.
One of the most damaging delusions for those caught up in addiction is that alcohol or drugs are their friend. Instead of seeing the substance abuse as the cause of their problems, the denial means that the individual sees it as an effective coping strategy. The person in this situation is far more likely to blame bad luck, the government, the weather, or their genes for their problems rather than to consider that it might be due to alcohol or drugs. This delusion means that the individuals in this situation see any attempt to help them break free of addiction as a threat to their well-being.
One of the other common elements of the fantasy world of addiction is the idea that those who do not engage in this behaviour are unhappy. The alcoholic might not believe that it is possible to enjoy life without alcohol, meaning that sobriety appears as a living death-sentence. People caught up in this level of denial don’t realise that the substance abuse has made it impossible for them to really enjoy positive emotions – that thing they now refer to as happiness is really just the feeling of not being ill due to the substance abuse. The person believes that sober life is boring and fails to see how addiction is like living in a prison.
The most treacherous part of the fantasy world of those caught up in addiction is the belief that the good days are going to return. This means that even when these individuals are able to acknowledge how dire their situation is, they continue drinking or using drugs in the hope that things are going to improve later on. Many individuals die because of this hope, and it is the most common reason why individuals relapse after a period of sobriety.
Breaking away from addiction is difficult because it is not just a matter of stopping drinking but also about learning to see things in a new light. The individual needs to be able to see the lies that have acted like the bars on a prison cell. In order to escape the fantasy world the person needs to:
- accept that the good days of drinking and drug use are never going to return and all that this behaviour has left to offer is pain
- become willing to give up on the idea of ever being able to drink or use drugs safely
- understand that it is not going to be possible for life to improve until the addictive behaviour is successfully overcome
- believe that life is going to be better without alcohol or drugs
- understand that it is not possible to be happy while caught up in addiction
- accept that sobriety is the path to happiness and inner well-being.
Breaking free of the fantasy world of addiction requires a high level of self-honesty; the process can be hurried along with the help of a therapist. One of the benefits of entering a rehab programme is that it is designed to help the person escape the lies of addiction.