Why addicts lie and how to deal with it

Dealing with the lies of a loved one struggling with addiction is hard. However, it can be made a little more bearable once you gain a better understanding of why this behaviour occurs.

Having a loved one struggling with addiction is a mentally and emotionally taxing experience, to put it mildly.

Drug and alcohol addiction can turn perfectly reasonable human beings into erratic, volatile messes; in fact, no part of a sufferer’s existence is left untouched by their addiction – and their treatment of friends and family is no exception.

Constant lying is only one of the many challenging behaviours addicts exhibit, but it is the one that is most frustrating to friends and family.

Most addicts are habitual liars; however, they are not necessarily skilled liars – in fact, most lies addicts tell their friends and family aren’t fooling anyone.

Let’s look at some reasons why addicts lie.

#1 To keep using

Almost every lie an addict tells is designed to preserve their addiction. Once a person develops a substance dependency, the need to keep using overtakes any other priorities they might have held.

Whether the aim of a lie is to procure funds, free up time or simply get rid off friends and family ‘hassling’ them, the underlying cause is always to keep using.

#2 Shame

Every addict has moments of clarity when they become aware of just how much they are hurting not just themselves, but also those closest to them, and experience intense feelings of shame and regret as a consequence.

However, as no amount of shame is going to overpower the need for drugs, the easiest option to combat shame is often to simply lie about what is going on.

By creating a more palatable version of themselves and their reality, addicts enable themselves to continue using.

#3 To avoid confrontation

Addicts are usually not good at processing emotions and dealing with conflict, especially when they know deep down that their behaviour is unacceptable.

Consequently, most addicts tend to say whatever it takes in order to end an uncomfortable conversation; they might swear that today is the day they will quit drugs or simply refuse to admit that they have used at all – and they will stick to their story until their friends and family either believe or are so frustrated they leave them be.

Addicts don’t just lie to others, they also lie to themselves.

#4 Denial

Once a person admits to themselves that they are addicted to drugs and everything in their lives is going downhill as a result, they will need to take steps to get help; so the addicted mind turns to self-deception in order to be able to keep using.

#5 To create an alternate reality

This may sound unlikely, but many addicts lie to their friends and family in order to experience a reprieve from their desperate situation.

Insisting that everything is fine, the bank account is full, the rent paid and that social life revolves around actual social interaction rather than scoring and using, can be oddly therapeutic.

When others believe their tales of normalcy – or are too stunned to argue – addicts get to feel ‘normal’ for lack of a better word, which is a feeling many addicts crave.

How to deal with the lies addicts tell

Now you have a better understanding of why addicts lie, let’s look at some of the best ways to deal with the lies.

#1 Don’t take it personally

We understand that this is much easier said than done. Being lied to is an offensive experience with an astonishing amount of layers.

When we are lied to, we feel disrespected, disappointed, affronted at not being trusted, worried that something in our behaviour is causing our loved one to lie to us… the list goes on.

However, addicts very rarely lie with malicious intent. Their lies are not designed to hurt your feelings or to punish you for something they feel you might have done; they are in fact completely disconnected from you.

Lies are a symptom of addiction. This does not make lying okay; however, keeping this in mind can reduce the negative emotional impact.

#2 Don’t become an enabler

There is very little point in engaging an addict in an argument when they are set on sticking to a lie; however, that does not mean you should pretend to believe them.

While you don’t need to get into a fight, it is perfectly acceptable to let your loved one know that you are aware they are being untruthful. When they begin to argue, don’t engage, simply remove yourself from the situation.

This is not easy to do, but it is preferable to both a full-on altercation and enabling them in their lying behaviour.

#3 Encourage truth

No, your behaviour is not the reason your loved one is lying to you.

That said, your reaction to moments of truthfulness can encourage or discourage an addict from confiding in you.

The best strategy is to be as non-judgemental as you can be, refrain from making threats and try to keep yourself from emotional blackmail.

When you are in a relationship with an addict (whether you are their partner, parent, friend or child) it can often feel as though they are persisting in their substance abuse because they don’t care about you.

It is important to keep in mind that addiction is an illness and once it has taken hold, the sufferers have very little control over their actions.

If you stay away from dramatic reactions, you are doing the best you can to foster a supportive atmosphere which may eventually lead your loved one to the road to recovery.

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