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Elephant in the Living Room

Acknowledging Alcoholism Can Begin Recovery

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Updated July 12, 2013

Bobby: "Psssst. Don't tell anyone. It's our secret! There's an elephant in the living room, but we're pretending it's not really there and it's not really an elephant."

Billy: "But it smells and it's enormous!"

Bobby: "Just ignore it. Maybe it will go away."

Sounds pretty silly, doesn't it? Ignoring an elephant in the living room. How could anyone ignore an elephant in the living room?

Just think for a minute what it would be like. An elephant would take up most of the room. It would be difficult to see the television, out the windows, or each other. Carrying on a conversation with an elephant in the living room would be tricky. And think what an elephant could do to the carpet! If the floor would even hold it, that is. And if it didn't rear up and knock a hole in the roof.

How can you think of much else except how to clean up the mess the elephant makes? What do you do when company comes -- put a doily on it? How can you even have a telephone conversation when there's an elephant trumpeting in the living room? And how do you convince the children, your friends, your family, and yourself there's not an elephant there?

Okay, so no sane person would have an elephant in their living room.

But, now think about living with alcoholism in the home... isn't it just like having an elephant in the living room?

Try as you may, it won't be ignored. It continues to make messes, continues to dominate the house, and continues to drive you crazy despite all your best efforts to ignore it.

The elephant's there. It's real and it's not going away. So why tell the children it's a secret? Alcoholism screws children up. Lying about it makes it worse.

Admitting the elephant is there is what we in recovery call getting out of denial.

Admitting we're powerless over it and need help can start us on the road to recovery.

Instead of it being the end of the world, acknowledging the elephant is often the beginning of a new life.

And, ironically, once you admit the elephant is real, you'll probably discover everyone around already knows about it anyway.

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  6. Denial - The Denial of the Elephant in the Living Room

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