My Addicted Loved One Lies All the Time

Lying Is Part of Addiction

Couple fighting
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Addicts lie to cover up their addictive behavior for a variety of reasons, so don't take it personally. Here are some of the reasons why addicts lie and how you can try to deal with this behavior effectively.

Addicts Lie to Avoid Confrontation

Addicts often want to avoid confrontation because they've used their addictive behavior as a coping strategy for so long, they often don't have other well-developed ways of dealing with the stresses of life.

 

When tackling a difficult topic, try to stay matter-of-fact about it. Use language to reflect your own perspective, rather than blaming the addict.

People With Addictions Don’t Like Forced Change

Addicts tend to have a stubborn streak. They know their behavior isn’t in anyone’s best interests, especially their own, but have decided it works for them, and they are sticking to it.

Eventually, addicts can and do change when they realize the consequences of their behavior will continue to worsen unless they do something different. Addicts often lie about the extent of their addictive behavior, because they want to avoid you pressuring them to change.

Try to provide information that might influence the addict in your life to make up their own mind to change, instead of trying to persuade them to change.

Addicts Want to Escape Negativity

Addicts often see their behavior as a kind of holding pattern, hoping things will work themselves out and the addiction will disappear.

They don't want you to remind them about the negative aspects of their behavior, especially if it is in a blaming way. When an addict feels constantly criticized by loved ones they lie to cover up their behavior.

Try to focus on what will be better if things change, not what will be worse if they don’t.

Loved Ones Enable Lying

You know your loved one just lied because you know what really happened. But for some reason, you allow them to lie without letting them know that you know.

This sends one of two messages:

  • "You told a lie and I didn’t notice – so if you lie again, I might not notice next time either."
  • "You told a lie and I did notice, but I’m pretending to believe you – so if you lie again, I’ll pretend I believe you that time as well."

In this case, either avoid discussing the subject completely or simply state what you know happened, rather than going along with the lie.

Life Without Addiction Can Seem Like a Void

An addict's life revolves around their addictive behavior. Although they plan to quit “one day,” for today, life without their addiction seems frighteningly empty. If you don’t understand how this emptiness drives people back into their addictive behavior, they will tune in to that, and lie to shut you up.

Mention in a kind and positive way what you would like to see happening instead of the addictive behavior, preferably before addictive behavior becomes part of your routine.

Addicts Feel Ashamed

Addictions often make the people around them behave in ways that cause them embarrassment and regret. When you point this out, they lie to avoid feeling ashamed.

Going along with an addict's lie is a form of enabling that may avoid outward embarrassment, but will do nothing to relieve your loved one’s inner emotional pain.

Sources:

Bradshaw, J. Healing the Shame That Binds You. Deerfield Beach, FL: Health Communications Inc. (1988) 

The Weltanschauung of Untreated Heavy Drinkers: A Reassessment of Control, Dependence and Change. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Birmingham. (2000)

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