For many addicts, lying becomes as much a part of their lifestyle as their use and abuse of addictive substances. Lying is as much a disease in itself as it is a symptom of the addiction disease. Substance abuse and addiction causes structural and chemical changes to an addict’s brain and personality. A person who had been scrupulously honest prior to succumbing to substance addiction will discard that honesty as and when necessary to cover up his addictions and to maintain a sense of normalcy both with respect to his own self-image and to the image he projects to friends and family.
Living in Denial
Denial is the predominant motivation for a substance abuser’s dishonesty. An addict’s self-esteem will cause him to deny that he did not have the strength to repel the early lure of drugs and alcohol, and he will continue to deny his problems even as he sinks deeper into his addiction. The structural changes that his brain experiences from repeated ingestion of drugs and alcohols allow the addict to perceive a false reality that excludes all evidence and recognition of a drug or alcohol problem. From this perspective, the addict’s propensity to lie does not make him a bad person. Rather, the drugs or alcohol that he craves have taken control of his logic and moral reasoning and have obscured his ability to separate truth from the fiction he creates.
Addicts also resort to lying to avoid confrontations and conflict. It is easier for an addict to lie about a substance abuse problem than it is to engage in an argument with a friend or loved one who tries to convince the addict that he or she has a serious problem. In many cases that friend or loved one may not believe the lie, but he or she will be equally motivated to avoid conflicts and will accept the lie rather than expend the energy to carry the confrontation forward. The addict lies, and his or her friends’ acceptance of the addict’s lies further enables his addiction in a downward spiral of greater substance abuse and continued lies. The lie also pleases friends and loved one who want to believe that an addict is working to overcome his addiction, and the addict receives positive reinforcement in response to his lies.
Many addicts experience a dissociation of their addicted selves from the outward personalities that they display in normal social interactions. Deep down, an addict may want to and have every intention to overcome a substance abuse problem, but not even the best of the addict’s intentions are strong enough for him to overcome his chemical and physical addiction to drugs and alcohol. The dissociated self lives the lie that the addict’s regular personality will deny. The regular personality may feel shame over the lie and fear the truth of the addiction. Shifting blame for the lie to a dissociated part of his personality allows an addict to escape the truth and to maintain some sense of a normal personality.
If you are struggling with your own substance addictions and are resorting to lying about your problems, or you suspect that someone close to you is suffering from substance abuse problems but will not admit those problems to himself or to you, the least effective course of action is to allow the lie to continue. To overcome any substance addiction, addicts need to admit and accept responsibility for their problems. Friends and family members need to stop enabling addictions through their acceptance of those lies.
If you have fallen into patterns for lying about your drug or alcohol abuse or you believe that someone close to you is lying about their own substance problems, please call the staff and counselors at Hired Power at 800-910-9299 for assistance and advice on how to address that dishonesty. We understand the addict’s forfeiture of his or her will power to drugs and alcohol and the attendant lying that often goes hand-in-hand with that loss of control.