Recently, one of our guest bloggers at Vertava Health, Lorelie Rozzano opened up about her behaviors while in active addiction in her blog “Confessions Of An Addict (In Recovery).” In the article, Lorelie explains, “My words were lies. I even believed the lies myself. When I felt guilty, I lied. When I was afraid, I lied. When I was angry or I felt cornered, I lied. If I was having a good day, I lied.” So often as family and friends, we are lied to and manipulated by our addicted loved one – usually someone who was once honest and thoughtful and considerate. It’s devastating to lose that trust that comes with a close relationship between parent and child, partners, spouses, grandparents and grandchildren. Even when you are armed with the truth, and the evidence to support it, when addiction is involved, there is a good chance that you’ll still be surrounded by lies. Dishonesty is a symptom of the addiction. This is because without lies, addiction cannot live; and without the truth – recovery cannot survive.
The “Feel Good”
A big part of human nature stems from the desire to feel good. For different people, that “feel good” can evolve from different things: Adventure, purpose, affection, security, and appreciation are all examples of things we strive to meet, in order to live satisfied lives. These basic human needs become our foundation for our lives, our personalities, and our actions. For people who are addicted to drugs or alcohol, the “feel good” isn’t typically derived from the normal basic human needs. For people who are addicted to substances, things like a caring family, close friends, vacations, and job promotions aren’t going to bring joy and happiness. Instead, it’s only drugs or alcohol.
Defending The Addiction
Mental defense mechanisms, the manner in which we behave or think in order to “defend” ourselves, are a part of the human mind. We think and do things in order to distance ourselves from unpleasant feelings, thoughts, and behaviors. John M. Grohol, Psy. D explains that some of the most common defense mechanisms include:
- Acting out
- Projection (misattributing a person’s undesired thoughts, feelings or impulses onto another person who doesn’t have those thoughts, feelings or impulses)
- Displacement (taking out thoughts, feelings and impulses on a person or object that isn’t the cause of those thoughts, feelings or impulses.)
When a person is addicted to alcohol or drugs, they physically, mentally and emotionally depend on their drug of choice. Addiction causes real chemical changes in the brain to directly affect the user’s conscious and unconscious behavior. When the thing that makes them feel good (or keeps them from going through painful withdrawal) is threatened, the addicted person’s mental defense mechanisms will kick in. Defending the addiction to himself or others, your loved one will deny and justify his behavior – and fully believe the lies. He will lie to anyone who may threaten his heroin use – and she will lie to anyone who may question her alcohol use. That includes him or herself.
The Common Lies
“I need to use cocaine in order to continue to be successful.” “I need to drink in order to be social.” “Everyone drinks and uses drugs – so I should, too.” “If you knew my childhood, you would take pills, too.” “I had a hard day, I deserve to drink.” “I had a great day, I should celebrate with a drink.” “I don’t really use or drink as much as other people.” “I’ve never gotten a DUI.” “I have a job, alcoholics don’t have jobs.” “I take my kids to school every day, addicts don’t do that.” “I could stop if I wanted to.” “I’m not hurting anyone but me.” The list could go on and on.
Ending The Lies
It’s important to recognize that your loved one isn’t being dishonest because he or she is a bad person or has moral failures. Lies are a symptom of addiction – as well as one of the biggest contributors to our anger and frustrations we feel with them. There isn’t a light switch to flip on honesty in addiction – but there are things that loved one can do to bring truth to the table:
- Realize that lies aren’t a personal attack on you. Any time I find out I was lied to – I’m furious. I feel like it’s a personal attack on my intelligence: that the person who lied to me thinks I’m dumb enough to believe it. However, with addiction, your loved one isn’t lying to you because he or she thinks your dumb – they’re lying because they are sick with a disease that lies to them.
- Don’t accept the lies. Your loved one’s dishonesty is keeping him or her trapped in addiction – and it’s keeping you sick, too. Don’t look the other way when you’re lied to – letting them know the truth can help them face the consequences of their actions. Refusing to accept the lies means refusing to enable or “rescue”. Refusing to accept the lies means getting help for yourself through a therapist or meetings for friends and family. Refusing to accept the lies can take your loved one another step closer to accepting the help he or she needs.
- Drop the excuses. If you’re covering for an addicted loved one, you’re also caught up in the disease of addiction. Lies on top of lies won’t help anyone.
- Encourage a supportive environment. Threats and power struggles are commonplace in homes dealing with addiction. Instead of resorting to arguments, create a supportive environment that promotes honesty.
The truth is, with addiction comes lies. These lies are only a distraction from the real problem – the addiction, and the underlying issues of the addiction. Don’t let dishonesty get in the way of helping your loved one find his or her path to addiction recovery. After all, with truth comes healing.