The elephant in the room is a good nickname for alcoholism. Probably no other affliction is surrounded by so much denial, from both the sufferer and those around the alcoholic. It can take decades for the alcoholic to realize they have a drinking problem and the majority never realize. Even though their life collapses around them, they cannot see the elephant in the room.
Friends and family also have a vested interest in the denial of alcoholism, especially if they also suffer. To recognize that your boyfriend or best friend is an alcoholic means to recognize that you are also an alcoholic. Those close to the alcoholic also protect the alcoholic by covering for him/her, paying bills, or rescuing him/her from tangles with the law. Most of society still sees addiction as a moral failing, so it’s natural to want to protect loved ones from the stigma and shame too.
Alcoholism is the only ‘disease’ that tells you don’t have a disease. Years of drinking change the way you think, your brain doesn’t function properly. Your ability to make the correlation between the disaster that is your life and your drinking is impaired. Denial is one of the most serious symptoms of alcoholism, the belief that we are not alcoholics when all the evidence points to the contrary.
For the alcoholic, there is finally a freedom and relief when you realize you are an alcoholic, an explanation for your whole life. The way you think, the things you do, finally make sense. The lying can finally stop. “I drink because of my wife”. “I don’t drink as much as my neighbor, so I am obviously not an alcoholic”. “This is my last drink”. So yes, going through life sober knowing the truth is a damn relief after years of denial.