When addiction strikes a loved one, lies and deceit generally follow suit. When this happens, it is important to have an understanding of why an addict feels it necessary to lie. This will allow you to better handle the lies in a way that will aid in recovery instead of enabling their addiction.
The following are the top 6 reasons why addicts feel it necessary to hide the truth:
1.Preserve their Addiction
If an addict were to fully acknowledge the seriousness of the situation at hand, and the people they were hurting in the process, they’d be hard-pressed to find a reason to continue their lifestyle. However, whether consciously or unconsciously, all addicts believe they need their substance of choice, and are willing to do anything in order to continue using – including lying not only to others, but to themselves as well.
2. Fear of Reality
Growing up, everyone has goals for themselves, and it never includes being dependent on a substance. When addicts reflect on who they have become, they often no longer recognise themselves as the person they used to be. Instead of facing the reality of the situation, they set up an alternate reality in which they can be the person they want to be. They will tell their friends they’ve got a new job, when they are still unemployed. They’ll say they’ve been clean for two weeks, when they just used that afternoon. This allows them to avoid facing the real path they are on.
3. Avoid Confrontation
Many addicts lack well-developed coping mechanisms when it comes to negative experiences and emotions. Often, the addict relies on their addiction to deal with these feelings and situations, in an effort to numb the pain of the negativity. When a loved one begins to ask about their behaviour, or confront their addiction in any manner, the stress of conflict can be overwhelming for the addict. Thus, the addict will do or say anything in an effort to avoid disappointed looks, contemptuous tones, or full blown arguments with people close to them.
Even when faced with dire consequences of their addiction (such as loss of job, ruined relationships, medical emergencies, etc.), addicts are not quick to accept the fact that their addiction is to blame for these negative effects. While denial can be used in a positive manner for some people – for example when a person needs some time to come to grips with a grave situation – in the case of an addict, denial simply serves as negative reinforcement for their behaviour. If they simply don’t accept that their addiction is causing negative consequences, they can continue using without guilt or shame.
In moments of sobriety, most addicts feel extremely shameful, guilty, embarrassed and/or regretful of things they have done while using, and even about their addiction in general. These negative feelings will often cause the addict to delve further into their addiction by looking to their substance as a release from these emotions. And to the people who love them, they will paint a picture of who they wish they were, instead of who they currently are, in an effort to tame these feelings of shame and guilt, and to cover up the activities they regret.
6. Everyone Around them Ignores their Addiction
Many times, the addict’s friends and family tend to be as strongly in denial as the addict himself. Often friends and family members do not want to come to terms with the fact that their loved one is in serious trouble due to his or her addiction. Many close friends and family offer their own denial responses such as “it’s not too bad yet” or “when something really bad happens, I’ll talk to him”. This type of thinking does not help the addict in any way, and actually reinforces the addict’s belief that lying and keeping things a secret is the best route to go, as it causes the least negative reactions from loved ones.
Unfortunately, lying becomes second-nature for those suffering from addiction, which makes it incredibly important for you – as a friend or family member – to understand the reasons behind the lies, and to handle them in a way which will lead the addict to accepting they need treatment rather them enabling their addiction.
See Is an Addict Lying to You? How to Deal With Lying Behaviour for the proper way to handle these lies in a way that is mutually beneficial for you and the addicted person.