21 Dec Why do Addicts Lie?
Photo by Mitchell Hollander on Unsplash
I’ll never forget my first AA meeting. I was in a room full of people that I could 100% relate to, and they were all sharing openly about themselves. Like, they were telling the truth about all the crazy sh*t they’d done in their lives in active addiction with zero apologies, and I couldn’t believe it. It seemed so liberating. Never in my lifetime, however, did I think I’d ever be able to speak my own truth so honestly. I carried around far too much guilt and shame, and assumed just about every single “drunk-a-logue” of mine was coming with me to the grave. By the way, this isn’t a twelve-step plug. The twelve steps just happened to help me get clean (and they continue to keep me sober). I presume that there are others reading this who attend twelve-step meetings as well. But, twelve steps aside, one of the things that the vast majority of effective recovery programs have in common is the element of honesty.
For anyone who has struggled with addiction, telling the truth has historically been an issue for most of us. Of course, I can really only speak for myself, but based on what I’ve heard shared and what I’ve spoken to my fellow addicts about, difficulty with honesty is a recurring theme.
There are many reasons why addicts lie. Here are some of the most common:
- To avoid facing reality. I know that when I was in active addiction, the truth was always too difficult to face, so I lied. I lied to others about how much I drank or used and I lied about what I did on a daily basis (in terms of things like what I did for work, how I spent my days, etc.). Many addicts don’t want other people to know how much they drink or use, or what they’re doing for work (or lack thereof) for fear that people may try to convince them to get clean, get a respectable job (or a job, period), etc. In active addiction, it often feels so much easier to lie about our lives just to avoid uncomfortable conversations and, in general, to avoid reality.
- Denial. Denial is another major reason why a lot of addicts lie. I know that for me, personally, I could never admit to anyone, including myself, that I had a problem prior to getting clean. Deep down, however, I think I was truly aware that I needed help because I couldn’t stop on my own, and Lord knows I tried. The lie, once again, is easier to face than the truth and I know that this takes (or keeps, rather) so many active addicts down.
- Shame. Shame is a biggie. And let’s just throw guilt in here for good measure as well. When we’re having a sober moment (in active addiction), it’s easy to look back on drunken or drug-fueled episodes and feel intense amounts of guilt and shame. These aren’t pleasant emotions to face, and one of the easiest ways to escape these feelings is by drinking and using some more, thus perpetuating the cycle. In the long term, however, it’s not any easier at all because it only wreaks havoc on our lives. It keeps us in active addiction, leading to more dangerous lies – we lie to ourselves, we lie to others about the embarrassing things we did while we were drunk or high, and the list goes on.
- We lie so that we can keep drinking or using. For just about any true-blue addict, one drink or drug is too many and a thousand never enough. When we’re in active addiction, we need drugs or alcohol (or whatever compulsive behavior it is that we’re effectively abusing), and in order to keep up the habit, we also need lies. Lies to keep anyone or anything from attempting to prevent us from drinking or using – to keep people off our backs. These lies are essentially for survival and self-preservation, and we “need” them to continue drinking and using.
When all is said and done, however, most of us in recovery have discovered that beginning to tell the truth is what really has set us free from our addict ways. Lies are at the root of our isolation and are, in fact, a distraction from the root causes of our addiction. It takes time to learn to tell the truth in recovery if we’ve come to rely on lies to get us by, but we can start with one small and very honest admission – that we’re powerless over our addiction. This truth is a great place to start, and breaking out of denial allows the healing process to begin.
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If you or someone you know and love is struggling to get or stay clean, Kembali Recovery Center can help. Contact us today to learn about our four week Residential Treatment Program and our Recovery and Beyond Program. You never have to do this alone.