Addiction is a disease and lying is a part and parcel of it. The Lying happens to the spouse, children, to business colleagues, to employers, to employees, to friends and most importantly to one’s own self. Lying becomes second nature. It reaches such an extent that the lying happens even when it is just as easy to tell the truth.
The reasons why those who suffer from addiction lie are:
To Protect their Drinking/Using.
The lying is to protect oneself from facing the fact that the drinking and drugging has become a problem , that their will power and control no longer work …for ,admitting it would mean that one has to do something about it and one does not know How to. Hence anything that is perceived as a threat to their using is lied to and anything or anyone challenging this has no place in their lives.
Hence , the lies “ I had such a difficult childhood hence I drink” “ My marriage is in the dumps , how can I not drink?” “You don’t understand the amount of stress I have at work, this only relaxes me."
To Avoid any Confrontation or Conflict with a loved one
Avoidance of conflict is one of the core issues in addiction
“ I will stop from tomorrow , I swear on you” And the next day the same story repeats itself, and the next day and the next. The family is filled with anger, feeling cheated and frustrated over this lying, and this erodes whatever shreds of trust they have about the individual, that , if nothing , the lying is the only reliable thing about the person.
“ I am sorry” becomes three meaningless words. Being confronted with their addiction and seeing the disappointment and disgust on their spouse’s face is something that the addict is unable to cope with , it creates tremendous anxiety and guilt, as there is no ability or maturity to deal with one’s emotions. This makes them bend over to please the family, Material things are provided for and their minds distracted into not addressing the issue at least for a time. Gifts, toys , clothes are showered to compensate for their absenteeism from their lives. Avoidance and escaping from the situation happens whether physically or by drinking/ using more.
The other mannerism adopted is Offense is the best defense and in order to deflect attention from one’s drinking /using, the other person’s vulnerabilities are pointed and picked upon and extolled, many times making the family feel guilty about themselves thereby enabling the addict to continue their using.
To Not face reality
“ I am not an addict”. “ I drink /use only on weekends so I do not have an addiction” The weekend benders might extend to absenteeism from work on a Monday and planning for it begins on the Wednesday of the week. There are some people who go on a binge of a month , take another month to recover and then go on another bender.. without realising that their lives are revolving around using or planning to use and the process has isolated them from their family , friends and work. The family remains on the other side of this invisible glass wall through which their expressions, their words, their emotions - anger or love, do not seep through .
“ I can handle it” is another classic lie to oneself – that proves to be a death knell . The belief here is that one can use socially , one can stop at 2 drinks or a few hits though every experience of the same proves otherwise. It is like looking for a banana peel to fall on every time expecting a different result. “ I can handle it “ continues even when the individual is in hospital dying of liver failure after vomiting blood by the buckets .
Because they are in Denial.
“ I run my business well, my job is not affected , I am earning fantastic money, so what if I drink or use? “ The functional alcoholic/addict – who is high functioning thus deluding themselves and family to justify their drinking /using.
The individual would be visibly drunk swaying on one’s feet and yet deny vehemently that “ I am not drunk “
Despite health being grossly affected, financial losses due to wrong decisions made due to using/drinking , relationships breaking down “ I don’t drink as much as …. “ “ That man cheated me in business, he made me sign the deal”
They think they are different from the rest
“ I don’t drink in the morning so I am not an alcoholic” Usually an alcoholic needs a drink to wake one up and be functional for the day called an “utara” in Hindi The unmanageability that needs to be recognized is that one cannot stop drinking or loses count after a few drinks.
“ I don’t fall into gutters or on the road , so am not an alcoholic”. The person could be tripping and falling at home in the bathroom so many times” Caught in a DUI “ That pole was not there yesterday, it was not my fault! “ “ I only drink beer /wine , you cannot call me an alcoholic” We have had clients who were addicted to wine and came down with cirrhosis of the liver, and addicted to beer , downing crates of the same.
The shame and remorse is intolerable
Every morning one wakes up in remorse and guilt over the previous night’s binge . The decision is made that they won’t drink /use today … Soon enough the emotional turbulence appears unbearable , so the lie told to oneself is “ If I have one drink or one drag , I will feel better and then I can face the world better” and another day of addictive using continues.In order to get out of the shame and guilt, there is a portrayal of one’s own achievements in the past that are boasted upon and exaggerated to deflect attention from the current situation “ I am a self -made man, I brought up this family from scratch.. so I can do and behave as I want”
Enabling attitudes and behaviors of the family.
The lies that the family tells themselves is primarily the denial that my loved one does not have an addiction to drinks and drugs .
Protecting the loved one and saving them from consequences whether legal or otherwise prevents them from facing the consequences of their drinking actions .
How to deal with the lies
The lies trap the addict into isolation and emotional spirals and fuels further drinking/ using. Likewise that is what breeds and furthers the growth of anger, disillusionment and grief in the family or co- dependents.
The lies should not be covered up but care fronted so that the dependent faces reality.The lies need to be gotten beyond. The family can create unmanageability by seeking intervention from an addiction counselor, undergo counseling themselves , stop enabling. He needs to be spoken to when he wakes up sober and encouraged to go in for a voluntary, residential treatment program.
There has to be a supportive environment created so that the person addicted feels safe to speak the truth.
The lies act as a hindrance to get into recovery and it is essential to break through the denials and undertake voluntary , non-medical residential, client specific programs that involve counseling , self -disclosure and meditations as core therapeutic systems. We at Anatta provide such a safe space , in a luxurious ambience.