Denial, Dishonesty and Deception: Why Addicts Lie

Friends and family members of addicts are often surprised to find themselves lied to repeatedly and habitually, over and over. The addict looks them in the eyes, appearing sincere, truthful and convincing, but a few days or weeks later, the truth comes out and we’ve been conned again. If we knew the addict before the addiction, we remember that he or she wasn’t always like this. We no longer know what to believe. It’s unsettling, not to mention hurtful and saddening. 

But as personal as it feels, this dishonest and deceptive behavior isn’t personal at all. For a person struggling with addiction, lying is simply a natural fixture on the landscape. As the 12-Step literature puts it: the deception of others is nearly always rooted in the deception of oneself. The addict is not necessarily trying to deceive others, but addiction thrives in denial and self-deception. Thus addiction and lying go hand and hand and the addict condition perpetuates.

The denial begins with the deception of oneself. In order to keep using, the addict develops a strong system of justification in which he or she comes to believe there is no real problem. And as the addiction continues, the addict’s brain gets progressively fuzzy and the line between truth and lie, false and real blurs. In the end it is this blurry perspective that becomes the addict’s frame of reference and personal guide. The addict is living a lie.

The addict’s life becomes one of fundamental dishonesty. Living and existing in the space of lies, denial and self-deception, it is nearly impossible for him or her to offer any kind of objective truth to friends, family or coworkers. Truth has lost it’s meaning and life becomes more about securing the fix, getting high and obtaining whatever the addict believes he or she needs to survive.

The self-deception translates into the deception of others because the addict no longer has a firm concept of what is true. This is not an intentional act of defiance, nor is it intended to betray or injure. The addict simply no longer has any grasp on truth or reality; all of life is cloaked in dishonesty.

This is endlessly frustrating to the addict’s family and friends – those who are so concerned about the progression of the addiction and who are taking great pains to come to the addict’s aid. They want to reason with the addict, they want to know the truth of his or her condition; they want to know where things stand. The addict, however, has no frame of reference for answering these questions truthfully, living as he or she is, in a cocoon of denial.

The situation, however, is not as hopeless as it appears. For family and friends, it begins with understanding the mechanics of dishonesty in the life of an addict. Knowing that one is likely to be lied to, one can approach the addict with a bit more savvy and stop believing the lies. In order for recovery to take place, the walls of denial must be shattered. An addict still living in denial, and unable to admit the truth of his or her condition, will not achieve sobriety.

The addict needs help and Christian rehab can be the place to get that help. Not only is the substance abuse issue addressed, but also the underlying causes and motivations. In becoming sober, and through the study of the Bible, the addict begins to understand what is true and what is false and how to begin to live in honesty and uprightness before God and others.