Denial: The First Deadly Sin of Parenting

I couldn’t believe it when I walked into my living room and saw a marijuana pipe lying on the couch.  You’ve got to be kidding, I thought. I knew that my children Lauren and Ryan, then 15 and 13, had been acting out. Calls from the school, neighbors, and the police regarding their behavior were escalating. Still, I didn’t want to believe they were into drugs. But now there was evidence. When my kids told me the pipe belonged to someone else, I bought right into it. The denial part was easy. Unfortunately, this made uncovering the whole story that much harder.

Over time I learned that things were much worse than I could have ever imagined. I eventually discovered that Lauren had been on a constant high of marijuana, alcohol, acid, cocaine, and PCP thanks to the generosity of a 30-year-old neighbor who happened to like girls half his age. 

“Parent Denial” is a major factor in the substance abuse epidemic that is happening with our children.  In 2007, the National Institute of Drug Abuse reported that half of all high school seniors in America have experimented with illegal drugs, and about three-quarters have tried alcohol.

According to, denial is an unconscious defense mechanism characterized by refusal to acknowledge painful realities, thoughts, or feelings. I know first hand how easy it can be to reject the truth despite overwhelming evidence staring you right in the eye.

But hanging onto denial can be deadly for our kids. The intervention I conducted for my children, as late as it came, was a pivotal moment in our family’s steps toward healing and recovery.  When I felt the walls of denial that I had been building up to protect me begin to crumble, I felt the sting of reality. Yes, coming out of denial was painful, but it felt good, too. I was finally walking toward the truth, which was the only path to recovery. My willingness to take action was the first step in getting my children the help they needed.
If you’re suspicious that a child might be using, look deeper into the situation. There’s nothing to lose and only our children’s precious lives and futures to gain.   


1) The truth always comes out in the end anyway.
2) Early intervention can help curtail a spiraling addiction.
3) Your child is also in denial if he or she is using.
4) If one of you admits the truth, the door opens for solutions.
5) Things will only get worse if you delay facing facts.