To understand why addicts lie, we must remember that people lie for many reasons. In fact, new research reveals that many people can’t go ten minutes without telling some lie. Most of those lies are what might be called “white lies.” You love your best friend’s new haircut. The supper is delicious. You just didn’t sleep well last night (not that you binge-watched internet content).
Those lies aim to avoid harm, to ourselves or others, such as the emotional damage caused by something being “too truthful.”
So in that regard, addicts are not unique: they also lie to avoid hurting your feelings or avoid being judged, or as a justification for behavior. Understanding that all people lie at some point in time can also help non-addicts be more understanding of such conduct. Addicts lie to avoid facing the reality of what they need to do about their situation.
Here’s what you need to know (and what you can do about it).
Most of the lying described above is not intended to create harm, but malicious lies still hurt. In fact, lying is a sort of self-preservation mechanism. Young children experiment with variations of reality when they tell lies, but also to avoid punishment.
Drug addiction leads to lying for similar reasons:
Sometimes such lies are knowing and intentional. Often, they are automatic, unnoticed and may even be believed by the addict himself or herself.
Addicts lie not only to themselves but others. Some of these untruths become indistinguishable from the truth. Common addiction lies include:
These lies have countless variations, but most of the lies addicts tell fall under at least one of those general categories.
Most people have a natural reaction to lying—to deny it. When a child says, “my dog ate my homework” we are quick to point out the lack of a dog. When an addict says, “I could quit tomorrow if I wanted to,” we can run down a rabbit hole of arguing… “You’ve said that before!” One yells, or “If that were true, you would have quit by now,” or even, “Then you must not love me because you would want to stop.”
Unfortunately, arguing with a lie can play right into the denial that an addict may have about his or her lies. A less confrontational approach is more effective.
That doesn’t mean that one must agree with a lie! It’s a practiced art: accepting the words of the liar without arguing, but also refusing to act on a lie and thereby enable such behavior. Here’s an example. Addict says, “I need some money for rent.” You suspect the lie, but do not argue. Instead say, “I will help pay the landlord directly, but you are going back to treatment.”
Keep the focus on getting help for an addict, without room to wiggle out with lies. And contact us for professional assistance, to get on the right track. We know some addicts lie because they fear detox and rehab. If you have more questions about why addicts lie, our team can provide the information you require. Call today.