People with substance abuse disorder lie not only to their loved ones but also to themselves. They may feel obliged to cover up their conditions and to deal with guilt and shame because telling the truth about their illness has consequences. That is why many struggle with dishonesty, thus perpetuating their addictions. Lying becomes normal, necessary for preservation of their current state because they don’t think they can survive without drugs or alcohol.
Addictive substances affect the parts of the brain that regulate mood, behavior, and emotions. Drugs and alcohol increase dopamine levels in the brain, so as the drug use continues, the brain adapts to unusually high levels of dopamine. When the substance wears off and the dopamine reduces, the deflated feeling triggers the need for more of the addictive substance to achieve the desired effect, leading to dependence and addiction.
Addiction can change your loved one’s behavior from being honest and caring to becoming an accomplished liar. With time, people with addictions engage in riskier behaviors as they go to greater lengths to cover their illnesses. However, most addicts do not realize how much their addictions affect their friends and families who are left in a constant state of stress and fear.
Watching your loved one destroy his or her life from an addiction can be very difficult since, in many cases, addicts are not willing to give up their addictions, or are in denial one exists at all. When addiction takes over your loved one’s life, it is okay to feel shocked, betrayed, and devastated, but it is also essential to understand that most of the time, addicts do not differentiate between truths and lies. With their inabilities to be objective and make rational decisions, people dealing with addictions fail to even recognize the truth themselves.
Addiction goes along with physical, emotional, and psychological components, which may impact why addicts lie. As their capacities for objective thought become diminished, addicts become serial liars, saying or doing anything necessary to access more of the addictive substance and to avoid the adverse consequences of their actions, such as withdrawal symptoms. These are some of the reasons that may cause an addict to lie.
With time, addicts become aware of how much pain they are causing to themselves and to their friends and families. It is at this moment that they experience intense feelings of regret and guilt. As a result, addicts say or do whatever it takes to avoid experiencing the anger, frustration, and devastation expressed by their loved ones.
People with addiction will lie to hide their shame by pretending to be fine and in control of their lives. Since there are few visible signs of early addiction, many friends and family members do not quickly notice their loved ones suffering from addiction. For addicts, no amount of shame can overpower their needs for addictive substances. Thus, the easiest way to combat shame is to lie about their addictions.
In reality, addiction is like any other disease, and the people suffering from it have nothing to be ashamed of. It is essential to understand that people with addictions do not want you to think about them differently, so they lie about their health to maintain their statuses and to protect their egos. By presenting a better version of themselves and their realities, addicts give themselves a chance to continue using drugs and to keep their loved ones in the dark.
Many addicts find it difficult to process uncomfortable emotions such as guilt and anger toward their loved ones, especially when they know that their behaviors are unacceptable. To avoid the stress associated with uncomfortable confrontations, addicts will say whatever it takes to cover their substance use disorders. Therefore, when tackling a complex topic with a loved one suffering from addiction, instead of blaming him or her, use language that reflects your perspective.
To Keep an Addiction Going
Almost every lie an addict tells is designed to keep the addiction going. People with addiction logically know that quitting is the right thing to do, but due to the changes in their brains, their urges to use the drugs typically overcome their logical reasoning.
Once a person develops dependency and addiction, his or her need for substance use overtakes all other priorities. The underlying cause of lying is to keep using, whether the lie aims at procuring funds or avoiding confrontations. In other words, most addicts will never disclose their addictions to anyone since they do not want to be forced to quit.
Choosing a State of Denial
People dealing with addictions convince themselves that they can handle their substance use just fine and that their usage is not a problem for them. Addicts may accuse their loved ones of trying to control how they should behave and of being unable to see their substance use. Once addicts admit their conditions to themselves and to everyone else, then they know they will have to take steps to get help and to receive treatment. As a result, the addicted brain turns to deception to keep the addiction going.
Many addicts feel the overwhelming need to get and to take their chosen addictive substances to a point where they may believe they cannot survive without those substances. With time, lying about their addictions becomes an act of self-preservation. Due to their dependencies, individuals with substance use disorder may feel forced to deal with more problems or stresses than other people, and for them to function, they must have access to drugs or alcohol.
Addicts know the consequences of their addictions, and admitting their conditions means they will have to face the consequences. They may be afraid of quitting and want to avoid the long and challenging road to sobriety. However, most addicts do not realize that despite the journey to recovery being very difficult and overwhelming, it is usually worth the trouble in order to regain control of their lives. Addicts are also afraid of losing their jobs and of driving their loved ones away after disclosing their conditions. Life without addiction can feel frighteningly empty, boring even.
Desire to Escape the Negativity
Addicts often lie to themselves that their addictions will disappear and that things will work themselves out. An addict will pretend and insist that everything is fine, avoid negativity, and continue using drugs or alcohol. People with addictions dislike being reminded of the adverse effects of their behaviors. As a result, addicts lie to cover up their behaviors and to avoid being blamed and criticized by their loved ones. When talking to an addict about his or her condition, it is advisable to focus on the good things that will happen after treatment, and not the worst if they do not.
Loved Ones Make It Easy for Them to Lie
For some reason, friends and family pretend to believe a love one’s fabricated story even though they know what happened. Many people allow addicts to lie since they fear confronting the pain, suffering, and emotions of their loved ones’ conditions. This is often called enabling, and though it feels supportive, it is quite the opposite.
People with addictions assume that it is okay to lie to prevent their loved ones from confronting and checking their addictive behaviors. Allowing an addict to lie does more harm than good. It is important to be honest and to let him or her know that you are aware of what’s going on.
How to Know Someone Is Lying
When attentive and careful, it is easy to realize when someone is lying due to body language and vocal tone changes. Some common signs that show an addict is lying include:
- Offering a few details
- Repeating questions before answering them
- Saying too much
- Changing speech patterns
- Itching and fidgeting
- Speaking in sentence fragments
- Using non-congruent gestures
- Grooming behaviors while talking
If you find out that your loved one is lying due to addiction, it is crucial to seek treatment. Choosing to play along with the lie and leaving addiction out of your conversation will only enable the addict and fuel their addiction further.
How Do You Help an Addict?
Until you learn more about addiction as an illness, you might never understand why your loved one cannot simply stop the destructive behavior affecting everyone. Addiction is a disease, and when your loved one is lying about his or her behavior, it is easy to feel frustrated, betrayed, and hurt. However, it is vital to understand that addiction ruins the brain, and as a result, your loved one’s actions are controlled by the addictive substance. For this reason, many addicts are incapable of making rational decisions and of stopping substance use on their own.
Many addicts may refuse to get treatment, and that is why they need your help to recover from their addictions. Below are some possible steps that you can take to help your loved one suffering from addiction.
Offer a supportive and non-judgmental environment to make the addict feel safe enough to be honest. When an addict lies, try not to take the lying personally since the lies are often part of the addiction. The lies are not designed to hurt or to punish you but to fulfill the addict’s needs and to protect him or her from the pain, shame, and fear that life is meaningless without addiction.
Do not entertain the lying by pretending to believe a lie. While you do not have to accept a lie, you should always remain calm and non-judgmental. It is advisable to encourage an addict to seek treatment instead of enabling him or her to lie. For friends and families, loving an addict means living in a state of fear, stress, and chaos. However, the family members can create loving and supportive environments to help their loved ones feel safe enough to talk about their conditions.
Consider meeting with an addiction specialist to guide you on the effective treatment options, how to stage an intervention, and obtain educational resources. Begin attending the family support groups and encourage others to attend to get support and encouragement. You can also encourage your loved one to attend the local 12-step meetings offered by Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA). These groups emphasize honesty, accountability, and making amends.
Seek Professional Treatment
Successful treatment programs often include cognitive behavioral therapy, treatment with medication, a long-term follow-up to prevent relapse, and treatment for co-occurring disorders such as depression, stress, and anxiety. If your family member is struggling with substance abuse, they should know they have options to get help.
For over 10 years, Granite Recovery Centers in New England has been saving and transforming the lives of those dependant on alcohol and/or drugs. Our addiction treatment center uses psychotherapies and a 12-step curriculum to support addicts in their efforts to recover and regain control of their lives. Granite Recovery Centers provides medical detoxification for people who do not need immediate medical intervention, are not a danger to themselves, and are capable of self-evacuation in the event of an emergency.
In our approach to substance use recovery, we also employ medication-assisted treatment to ensure that addicts regain their health within a reasonable time. If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, contact us today for more information.