2. Denial as “Not Thinking About It”

2.Denial as “Not-Thinking-About-It”

Ask a recovering person who feels badly now about something done while drinking. “What did you feel about this incident then?” The answer will so often be “I didn’t think about it.”
“Not-thinking-about-it,” is the essence of denial. And it usually entails heading off uncomfortable questions at the unconscious pass.
To illustrate the role of questions in problem solving:

• I notice my car needs gas and fill it up, vaguely troubled. I ask myself how recently I was last at the pumps and question my log.
• I see it has been less time or fewer miles than usual and check the mileage, asking myself and the numbers if it has dropped.
• I see the mileage has dropped and ask myself what is wrong.
• I wonder if I am losing fuel and raise the hood.
• Everywhere I look — carburetor, fuel lines, gas filter, I look with questions. Does it look as it should? Do I see or smell a leak? When I find my leak, I have answered the question “what is wrong” and, very likely, “what needs to be done?”

The inside of human experience is not a machine. But we still think in questions to face our personal problems, if we let ourselves think at all.

• “What’s bothering me?” (How specifically do I feel? What are my feelings about? What do I want? What are my choices? What is the best thing to do? God, what made me do that again)?
• “When did it start?”
• “What can or should I do about it?”
The addict/alcoholic thinking “One won’t hurt” is already cut off from inner signals.
The last thing I want to do (when saying “One won’t hurt” or the like) is think. To begin with, is that really true (that one won’t hurt)? What happened last time I said this? Did I get “hurt?” Just how many times have I said this and acted on it? What is making me say it again now? Is there something I want to escape from? Am I an addict/alcoholic or not? If I have changed my mind about being addictive, how come? What did they say in meetings and/or in treatment to do when this thought comes back? Where are my phone numbers? Where are my reminder cards?
“F— it” (when picking up that first drink/drug) avoids thinking much more directly, precisely because the two words are so meaningless. One of the “it”s” in “F— it” is clearly the effort of coping instead of drinking. Some of this work is mental and requires deliberate thought. What am I so upset about? What might I have to accept about it? What change? If I resent this, what was my part in it? What makes me think my frustration justifies my drinking? Do I have the disease or not?

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