Addiction and Dishonesty—What’s the Connection?
Which comes first, the addiction or the lying? Do addicts drink or use drugs because they are chronic liars, or do they lie to cover their addictions? Why is this particular behavior so connected to addiction?
Deception of Others, Deception of Self
Families and friends of addicts are the ones often affected by the deceptive behaviors. The combination of alcohol and/or drugs, lies and deceit bleed over into the lives of the addict’s loved ones, often the very people who are trying to be helpful. They want to believe the addict, but time and again the addict gets caught in a lie.
The surprising thing is that the addict is often not trying to be dishonest. But addiction is a disease of self-deception. Because an addict is so deeply steeped in the lies she tells herself, it becomes impossible to be honest with anyone else. She loses her grip on reality and, as the addiction progresses, becomes unable to distinguish between right and wrong or truth and lie. The personal deception is so pervasive that it colors the addict’s view of the entire world.
The addict will tell any number of lies and make all sorts of promises. She sounds sincere, crying out “God help me with my struggle with drug addiction” and vowing to get help. But this too is often a lie. If the addict has not reached a point of true honesty with herself, recovery may still be a long way off. The addict quickly learns what others want to hear and can recite it. It does not mean, however, that there has been a genuine admission of personal powerlessness or that she has the courage to be honest about how desperate things have become.
Pride and Fear
For many addicts, dishonesty stems from pride; they cannot let others see who they are and how they live. Thus they spend their lives trying to uphold a façade of sanity and well-being. Deep down they suspect there may be a problem, but they want others to think they have it together, even if their lives clearly prove otherwise. They believe if they can fool themselves, they might be fooling others as well.
In many cases, an addict has reason to lie. She is practicing an addiction and doesn’t want to be found out. She may fear losing her job, losing standing within her community or church or losing the respect she believes others have for her. Little does she know how ready others would be to support and respect her recovery. If the addict grew up in a family in which love and acceptance were predicated on performance, the personal risk of honesty is even greater. She feels the need to hide in order to protect herself from perceived rejection or ostracism.
Getting Clean, Getting Honest
Christian substance abuse treatment can start the addict on the road to living a life of honesty. But the first step—the honest admission of powerlessness—is the addict’s to take alone. Before she can embrace the principles of recovery, including the ability to be honest, the addict must become willing to see the deception she has been living. This is the hardest step to take, but it starts the road to a clean and honest life. The job of the friend or family member is not to continually seek to expose the lies, but to pray that God would shine the light of truth into the addict’s life and help her to desire honesty.
Choose a better life. Choose recovery.