Contributor: Rachael Mattice is the Content Manager for Sovereign Health Group, an addiction, mental health and dual diagnosis treatment provider. Rachael received her bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communication from Purdue University.
“You’re only as sick as your secrets.”
There’s a reason why this is a popular Alcoholics Anonymous saying: Dishonesty is essential to the whole addiction experience. Dishonesty is the protective wall that addicts construct to keep away prying eyes and maintain their drug habit.
If addiction were a castle, dishonesty would be its moat.
The lies might start small. “I only had two drinks – not four.” “I only use cocaine socially.” “I don’t even know where to find a meth dealer.” But the lies always escalate. “I’m always missing work because I’m weirdly susceptible to stomach bugs, not because I’m hungover.” “Those drugs don’t belong to me – I’m pretty sure it’s just my crazy ex trying to frame me.” “I don’t know what happened to that money.”
Why Addicts Lie
Addicts lie because it is their life support. Lying keeps their friends from abandoning them; lying keeps their family hopeful. When addicts lie, they are not only protecting their addiction, but they are also protecting themselves from negative consequences and shame.
Addicts know that honesty might result in widened eyes or disappointing looks. They might be so fearful of confrontation that they don’t even notice when their lies are obvious. Their aim is to keep up appearances, to pretend they’re the same person they were before they started using drugs – no matter how unbelievable that is.
The Overwhelming Number of Lies
For people suffering from chemical dependence, the number of lies they need to keep track of can be overwhelming. Different sets of people might get different sets of lies; addicts might have lies specific to their family, their significant other or their friends.
Addicts might also develop a set of lies for themselves, a soothing cloud of denial that keeps them from realizing the true extent of their substance abuse. Thinning that cloud is frequently the first step during recovery: admitting there’s a problem.
Why Honesty Leads to Recovery
Honesty is what brings a person to seek treatment in the first place, so it should be no surprise that honesty is essential throughout the entire recovery process. Unfortunately, however, shifting from a dishonest life to an honest one is not as easy as turning off a light switch.
Lying is a habit. People struggling with chemical dependence might lie about their drug use as well as mundane things that don’t matter, because dishonesty can become automatic, reflexive to the point where addicts tell lies even when it would be easier to tell the truth.
How to Practice Honesty
Think of honesty as a muscle that has atrophied from lack of use and needs to be exercised little by little each day. Here are four ways in which a person recovering from drug addiction can practice honesty.
Attend support groups
Support groups have many advantages and can be an excellent way to combat drug addiction. In 12-step groups, people are often encouraged to share personal anecdotes about their struggles with addiction. For those who are not ready to share their story, listening to others and seeing that honesty does not lead to negative consequences can be helpful.
Don’t get discouraged by imperfection
It can be tempting to give up on honesty after the first reflexive lie, but it’s important to understand that living honestly is a journey and not a destination. The best way to account for the occasional misstep is to recognize it, acknowledge it and work to correct it as soon as possible.
Keep a journal
Putting experiences and feelings into writing can provide helpful insight. When thoughts are restricted to the brain, they can easily get tangled and confused. Writing things down is an excellent way to combat self-deception and might allow recovering addicts to evaluate their situation in a new light.
Evaluate the motivation behind the lies
When addicts still use, they employ lies to cover up the negative effects. Why would people in recovery lie? Are they tempted to use again? Are they worried their friends are judging their recovery? Are they comparing themselves to other members of the support group?
Figure out why the lie is tempting, then work to correct that motivation. Dishonesty often opens the door to relapse, and so each lie should be intercepted at its source.
Equating Honesty with Freedom
Honesty can be frightening. Complete honesty might feel like complete vulnerability – and sometimes it is. But honesty is also liberating. Giving up lying frees the brain from having to keep the lies straight.
Addicts no longer need to toss and turn all night and wonder if they’ll be found out. When someone asks them how their day was, they can actually, genuinely tell the truth.
Remember: “You’re only as sick as your secrets.”
Community Discussion – Share your thoughts here!
Have you struggled with dishonesty in your addiction? How did you get back to a place of honesty in your recovery?
About the Author:
Rachael Mattice is the Content Manager for Sovereign Health Group, an addiction, mental health and dual diagnosis treatment provider. Rachael is a creative and versatile journalist and digital marketing specialist with an extensive writing and editing background.
Her portfolio includes numerous quality articles on various topics published in print and digital formats at award-winning publications and websites. To learn more about Sovereign Health Group’s mental health treatment programs and read patient reviews, visit http://www.sovhealth.com/. Follow Sovereign Health Group on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.
The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of addiction. These are not necessarily the views of Addiction Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.
Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on March 31st, 2015
Published on AddictionHope.com