Why Do Addicts Lie About Everything?

People suffering from alcoholism or drug addiction come to be seen as enigmas by those who are closest to them. This is because substance abusers are such experts at putting up walls and assuming false faces that no one is ever really sure what exactly is going on inside their heads at any given time. Addicts and alcoholics are masters at hiding the truth about what they have been doing and how they have been living, and obfuscation and deceit eventually become like second nature to those who constantly must lie in order to prevent others from discovering the sad truth about their chemical dependency.

Of all the characteristics that addicts manifest, few cause more consternation and grief for their loved ones than their incessant need to lie about their substance abuse. Even when family members or close friends reach out to offer support in a totally sincere and non-judgmental way, addicts will still lie repeatedly about their use of drugs and alcohol, and when the truth finally does come out those who tried to help end up feeling used and betrayed. Lying and addiction are inseparable partners traveling hand-in-hand on the road to self-destruction and ruin, and anyone who hopes to provide assistance to someone traversing that dark trail needs to realize that everything a non-recovering addict says or does must be taken with a huge grain of salt.

Penetrating the Secret World of the Substance Abuser

The simple answer to the question posed by the title of this article is that addicts lie constantly to protect themselves from the consequences of their actions. If it sometimes seems like they are dishonest about everything, that is because their entire existence is centered around one gigantic mother lie that inevitably gives birth to litter after litter of smaller lies, in a process that will feed off itself until and unless an addict finally manages to get clean and sober. Spouses, parents, employers, co-workers, close friends, siblings, probation officers, therapists, and peers in self-help groups are just a few of the individuals to whom addicts must frequently lie to in order to keep the truth from coming out, and the webs of deception and prevarication addicts must spin to keep themselves afloat in their relationships, in the workplace, and in their public lives can reach levels of complexity that are truly mind-boggling.

But there are at least two other reasons why drug addicts and alcoholics tend to become chronic liars. First, it must be remembered that we are dealing here with people who have addictive personalities, and individuals who possess this characteristic are capable of developing all kinds of destructive and uncontrollable compulsions, including an inability to tell the truth. Lying about something you’ve done and not getting caught, or successfully using lies to manipulate others into doing what you want them to do can bring feelings of power and satisfaction to those who feel helpless and out-of-control, and for this reason it can be incredibly easy for an addict or alcoholic to eventually develop a compulsive lying habit.

The second reason why lying seems to be so inextricably intertwined with addiction is something fundamental but easily forgotten. People who are close to addicts naturally tend to focus on the lies that are told to them, but what must always be remembered is that first and foremost addicts are lying to themselves more than they are lying to anyone else. In many instances, the lies that addicts tell are really just a form of self-denial, a manifestation of protective instincts related to ego that will not allow a substance abuser to acknowledge the truth about the mess that his or her life has become. Just like everyone else, addicts had grand and wonderful dreams about what their lives might be like when they were growing up, and it is a sure bet those dreams didn’t include dependency on mind-altering substances.

When addicts look at themselves in the mirror, if they look honestly and without pretension what they will see staring back at them are the faces of underachievers, people who have spent a good part of their existence taking and taking and never giving anything back to anyone except maybe heartache and grief. What they will see are the sad and broken expressions of those who squandered their talents and flushed their potential down the toilet for the sake of something ephemeral and inconsequential. It can take a lot of courage to look in the mirror and really see yourself as you actually are, warts and all, and for most addicts it can take a long time before they finally reach the point where they are prepared to do this.

The Honesty Antidote

Once addicts and alcoholics reach the stage where they ready to confront the ugly truth, the recovery process can begin in earnest. However, as long as they are still using and still living in denial about how pathetic their existences have actually become, addicts will have no choice but to keep up the charade by lying to everyone, including themselves.

Anyone who wants to help an addict break their lying habit can only do so by refusing to be an enabler. Once you catch an addict or alcoholic in a lie, you must call them on it immediately, and if you know he or she has been lying to someone else you have to make sure that person finds out the truth as quickly as possible. This kind of no-nonsense approach may not be the best solution in every circumstance, but when addicts lie they are attempting to hide the truth about a deadly and destructive secret that must not be allowed to remain obscured in the shadows for even a second longer than necessary. Only when lying is no longer effective will addicts have an incentive to stop, and if they can finally be forced to reveal the truth about what has been happening in their lives their chances of ultimately defeating their drug or alcohol addiction will be enhanced tremendously. Addicts may think they are protecting themselves by lying, but in fact all the lies only prevent them from getting the kind of help they so desperately need.