Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Let's Talk About Relapse - Day 12 - The Mask of Denial !

Last week, I blogged about the 3 Masks of Relapse.  As an introduction, I wrote, "I believe that the very moment we are triggered and are tempted  into relapse, we are presented with three masks.These masks seduce us into further relapse and they extend our stay there." And I went on to say that we have a choice - either to adorn the masks and re-enter into the dance of destruction or to leave the masks behind and continue embracing the dance of discovery.Today, let's start learning about the 3 Masks of Relapse and how understanding them can indeed help us sustain our recovery!

We will begin with the Mask of Denial - probably the one we are most familiar
Mask of Denial
with; and, in my opinion, probably the one that is the toughest to deal with.

Although the 3 Masks can present themselves in any order, I find that typically it is the Mask of Denial that rears its ugly face first! This is important.  Think back for minute about what was going on with your thinking as soon as you were triggered and started to 'fall back' or 'slip into' a previous unhealthy pattern of behaving or feeling. Whether it was being tempted to fall off of a healthy eating plan, or picking up the phone to call a toxic partner, or driving by a familiar bar, or starting to rescue someone who continues to injure you - our minds are immediately tricked and trapped by the Mask of Denial.

Have you ever heard yourself saying or remember your mind playing these messages from the Mask of Denial?
  • It's ok. One drink won't hurt me. Besides, I've proven myself.  I can quit again if I want to.
  • It's just this once.  I'll go back to him.  If it gets bad -well, I can leave any time.
  • Who is going to know?  She needs my help. I don't need other people telling me what to do.
  • I've gone so long without seeing my old friends. Even though they are still using, one night isn't going to hurt! 
  • I know I probably shouldn't go there. But, I'll be ok. I'm stronger now.  How could they hurt me anymore than they already have?  
Once we allow ourselves to begin, even for just a moment, to put on the Mask of Denial and to entertain these messages, we are setting ourselves up for relapse. And, if we don't acknowledge and address this 'stinkn thinkn' (as is said in AA), we will slip right into a full relapse episode. These messages are forceful! They are relentless! And most importantly - they are deceptive. Let me explain.

Personality of Truth
Many years ago, I had the privilege of participating in a week long professional training at the Betty Ford Center in California. One of the workshops that I attended has stayed with me to this day.  It was called the "The Personality of Truth versus The Personality of Lies". As I learned about the presence of "The Personality of Lies", it awakened me to the power of self-deception that overcomes us when we adorn The Mask of Denial. What do I mean? Read on, carefully. When we are triggered into relapse or when we are tempted to regress into unhealthy patterns of thinking, behaving, and feeling, a 'war' begins in our minds. It is a battle between The Personality of Lies - a voice screaming the justifications for the return to an unhealthy self - and The Personality of Truth - a voice fighting to reclaim and sustain the healthy self.  As the voices of war rage on, going back and forth, and back and forth, it is crazy making! If The Personality of  Truth is to have a fighting chance, we must retreat from the battle field, even momentarily, and grab hold of this reality...

The Mask of Denial is A Mask of Lies  -  Self-Inflicted Lies!

Personality of Lies
Therefore, when that voice enters our mind that lures us away from our healing truths, we must immediately recognize it for what it is - self-inflicted lies. If we choose to listen to them, they take us over and then they becomes us. We slip further into full relapse. And as we reside there, the Mask of Denial conforms to our false self, camouflages our intense shame and pain, and catapults us more deeply into relapse. These self-imposed lies continue, smothering out any residual truths and further sabotaging our recovery paths.  

However, we have another choice. With awareness and knowledge about the Mask of  Denial, we can prepare ourselves for war! As soon as a message of self- deception or a voice of lies enters on to the mind-field, we must employ this 5 step a battle plan!
  • Recognize the voice or message as a self-inflicted lie! Call it out!
  • Remove it! Relinquish it!
  • Replace it with a message of truth!
  • Return to a healthy choice.
  • Repeat the process, as many times as necessary.

Don't get me wrong!  This is hard work!  But each time you discard The Mask of Denial, you defeat the self-imposed lies. Each time you listen to the Personality of Truth, you fortify the healthy self. As the layers of shame fall away, you will breathe more freely and fully. And, most importantly, you will continue to...

                                                    Reclaim Your True Self
The Healthy Self - Breathing More Fully and Freely

Next time, we will tackle The Mask of Disguise.

Homework: When you put on the Mask of Denial, what lies do you tell yourself?  This is hard, I know. But this is important. We need to take a brutally honest inventory of our self-imposed lies if we are going to have a fighting chance against them. Name these lies. Write them down. Know them. So, the next time they invade your peaceful, truthful recovery mind-field, you will be armed and ready to go to battle and to defeat them! 


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