7 Honest Reasons Why Addicts Lie

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  • 8/12/2019 7 Honest Reasons Why Addicts Lie


    7 Honest Reasons Why

    Addicts LieBy DAVID SACK, M.D.

    Addicts tell liesmore often thanthey tell the truth. Im not hurting anyone. I can stop any

    time. Deception becomes so second nature, addicts will lie

    even when its just as easy to tell the truth. any dont even

    reali!e theyre fibbing or that other people see through thefa"ade. #iving a double life is e$hausting, so why do addicts


    #1 To Preserve Their Addiction

    An addict will do whatever is necessary to maintain their

    addiction. If they ac&nowledged the seriousness of the

    problem or the harm theyre causing themselves and others,they would be hard'pressed to continue this way of life. (heir

    logic, whether conscious or unconscious, is) I need drugs, and

    I need lies to &eep people off my bac& so I can continue using

    drugs. (hus, lying becomes a matter of self'preservation.

    Anything, or anyone, that is going to hinder their drug habithas no place in the addicts life.

    #2 To Avoid Facing Reality

    Addiction reorgani!es the addicts world and consumes their

    identity so that the person becomes unrecogni!able to

    themselves and others. *ince the truth is too painful to face,

    the addict constructs an alternate reality where drugs andalcohol arent a problem and the addict is doing e$actly what

    other people want and hope for them. (hey say theyve been

    clean for wee&s when, in truth, they got high just a few hours

  • 8/12/2019 7 Honest Reasons Why Addicts Lie


    ago. (hey say they landed a great new job when theyre

    actually dirt poor and homeless.

    #3 To Avoid Confrontation

    #oved ones rarely sit idly by as an addict self'destructs. (hey

    as& +uestions, get angry and inevitably wonder, If you loveme, why do you &eeping ma&ing choices that hurt me% (hestress of interpersonal conflict can be overwhelming for an

    addict. ithout mature coping s&ills, addicts may do or say

    whatever it ta&es to avoid that disappointed loo& in their loved

    ones eyes or the contemptuous tone in their voice. -r theymay become increasingly defensive, dishing out complaints of

    their own in an attempt to draw attention away from their

    addiction and toward the other persons vulnerabilities.

    #4 They Are in Denial

    ven in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary,denial compels the addict to disavow their problem and ignorethe conse+uences of their behavior. Although denial can serve

    a valuable protective function, allowing people to process

    information and come to terms with it, in addiction denial can

    become pervasive. /or e$ample, addicts may truly believe thattheir family and friends have become the enemy or that their

    addiction is not only an acceptable but necessary part of their

    life. (he disease uses denial and other sophisticated defenses,

    such as rationali!ation, projection and intellectuali!ation, toensure its survival.

    #5 They Believe Theyre Different

    If the addict ac&nowledges that drugs and alcohol havebecome a problem but wants to continue using, they must

    convince themselves that they are the e$ception to the rule.

    (he delusion that Im not li&e the others, I can handle it

    allows the addict to live outside normal standards of behavior.

    #! They Feel Asha"ed

    In sober moments, addicts may feel e$treme shame,embarrassment and regret. 0nable to wor& through these

    emotions, addicts cope in the only way they &now how) by

    using more drugs. (o &eep up appearances, they paint a

    picture of themselves to others that is far more flattering thanthe reality.

    # Beca$se They Can

    *ometimes friends and family match the addicts denial with

    an unhealthy dose of their own. (hey turn a blind eye to

    worrisome behaviors and ma&e e$cuses for the addict because

    the truth is simply too painful or theyve tolerated as muchsuffering as they can bear. #oved ones who ignore, enable or

  • 8/12/2019 7 Honest Reasons Why Addicts Lie


    rescue send the message that lying is acceptable, thus

    perpetuating the addiction.

    %o &ore 'ies

    #ies are a root cause of the isolation most addicts e$perience,

    as well as the anger and disillusionment loved ones often feel.hile loved ones cant force an addict out of denial, there aresteps they can ta&e to illuminate the realities)

    1ecogni!e that lies fulfill a purpose for the addict and are

    not a personal affront. As frustrating as they can be, lies

    are a common part of the disease. hile it is important to understand the purpose of the

    lies, it is e+ually important to push past them. (he liesare &eeping your loved one trapped in addiction. In some

    cases, addicts are forced to face reality by hitting roc&

    bottom, but loved ones can help raise the bottom by

    staging an intervention, refusing to enable or rescue,contacting a therapist or addiction treatment program,

    and pointing out negative conse+uences in real time

    2e.g., after a driving under the influence charge3.

    If you catch the addict in a lie, dont loo& the other way.

    #etting them &now what you see will help them face the

    conse+uences of their actions. 4reate a supportive environment that facilitates honesty

    rather than engaging in a power struggle or ma&ingthreats. (he lying will stop when the addict feels safe

    telling the truth and has the support they need to get


    ncourage involvement in support groups li&e Alcoholics

    Anonymous, which replace the automatic response 5 lies5 with rigorous honesty and ma&ing amends. In these

    groups, peers hold addicts accountable for their lies and

    encourage them to face the unpleasant truth about

    themselves without shame or blame.Its true, addicts lie. And while the lies cant be ignored, they

    are actually a distraction from the real problem 5 the

    underlying issues that contribute to addiction 5 and a diversionfrom the solution) finding a path to recovery. -nly by brea&ing

    through denial and seeing the truth can the addict begin to


    David Sack, M.D., is board certified in psychiatry, addictionpsychiatry and addiction medicine. He is CEO of Elements

    Behavioral Health, a network of mental health and addiction

    treatment centers that incldes !romises, "he #anch, "he#ecovery !lace, "he Se$al #ecovery %nstitte, #i&ht Step,

  • 8/12/2019 7 Honest Reasons Why Addicts Lie


    Clarity 'ay, (orney Healin& Centers and )cida "reatment



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