Chances are that your addiction has led you to dishonesty. Whether that was hiding your mistakes, dodging questions about your whereabouts, or being secretive about substance use, it’s likely it happened at some point in your life. Maybe you didn’t notice you were lying, or you purposely lied to protect and hide your problem. It might have started with small, seemingly harmless half-truths, but before you knew it, you found yourself piling one lie on top of another. This quickly became a tangle of dishonesty. Now in recovery, you may find it a bit challenging to break the cycle of lying that was once so ingrained in your daily life.
Why Do You Lie During Addiction?
Individuals who are addicted to drugs or alcohol will do anything to get their fix, which means unintentionally manipulating or hurting their loved ones. Here are some of the most common reasons why people lie while abusing substances:
- Shame is a huge reason that you may lie while using substances. Being vulnerable about your substance use disorder is challenging, especially when you aren’t being fully honest with yourself or others that you have a problem.
- Oftentimes, you lie to avoid consequences and negative reactions from others. Lying to family members and friends about your addiction is an easy way to continue using drugs or alcohol in peace. You may try to cover up missteps with excuses or make up positive things happening in your life to distract them from what’s really happening. But when your loved ones start asking questions and confronting you about your behavior, this can come off as a threat and you may get more defensive, even aggressive.
- Addiction rewires the brain so that you will do whatever it takes to feel good, or to just feel “normal.” Over time, the part of the brain that controls morality and judgment may become damaged, affecting the ability to make rational choices. Your brain also becomes so reliant on the drug, that you can’t function properly without it. You will lie and say anything to get your hands on the substances to avoid feeling withdrawal symptoms.
- Lying generates short-term outcomes. Let’s say you promised to run some errands and clean up the house for your partner while they’re at work. Instead of carrying out your responsibilities, you spend most of the day drinking at the bar with your friends. When your partner comes home and finds the house a mess, they ask you what happened. Rather than be honest, you lie and say that you spent the day with a family member. Maybe this strategy works for the short-term, and they believe you. But when you constantly give excuses, your partner may get suspicious, and this damages communication in the relationship.
Because honesty is such a vital part of recovery, it is important to take a step back from time to time and ask yourself, “Am I being completely honest?” If you discover that you are not, don’t get overwhelmed or discouraged. This is an opportunity for you to practice being more truthful and improve upon your recovery.
How Do You Become More Honest in Recovery?
Honesty can be hard to bring back into your life because it’s something that you probably avoided at all costs during addiction. Though it requires bravery and self-reflection, stopping the lies in recovery is not impossible to accomplish.
Identify Your Triggers
One of the first things that you can do is to determine why you’re lying. Do your lies seem to happen automatically? When you lie repeatedly, it can be hard to break the habit and it becomes almost like a reflex. Lying gives people perceived control of both the situation and the reactions of others which makes it so tempting to do.
Also ask yourself: are the lies triggered by shame or fear? Triggers are unique to each person and happen when something overwhelmingly reminds you of a past event or memory. Each time you catch yourself lying, there is usually a trigger behind it. For example, maybe recovery is still a raw topic in your life. When someone approaches you and asks personal questions about being sober, perhaps you feel tense and anxious. They might ask, “How are you doing?” and you might quickly say, “I’m fine” when in reality you are struggling with your new lifestyle.
Instead, try being more honest and vulnerable because that person might offer a piece of advice you need to hear or just be a friendly shoulder to lean on. When you start determining the trigger for your lies, you can then address how to stop it from happening again.
Consider the Consequences
Think about the consequences that came after all of your lies as well. Maybe people lost trust in you and relationships were torn apart. You could be in financial debt to others after convincing them to lend you money. Whether the lying helped in the short-term or not, eventually those lies caught up to you. As you try to navigate recovery, it may seem like your past lies are always popping up around you. It’s exhausting trying to fix those consequences. Thinking about both past and potential future consequences of your decisions should motivate you to break out of the cycle of dishonesty.
Have Loved Ones Hold You Accountable
One way that you can start to face your lies head-on is by making yourself accountable to someone. Whether it’s a sponsor, counselor, family member, or friend, choose someone who will support you and provide a safe space where you can be completely open and vulnerable. And if and when you do lie, that person should address it and help you correct the behavior.
Journal Your Thoughts and Feelings
If you do catch yourself lying, try writing down what the lie was and what triggered it. Having a written record of your lies will help identify negative patterns and take personal accountability. The introspection will help keep you honest, both with yourself and with others.
Remember that being truthful in recovery is a work in progress. It is impossible for anyone to be 100 percent honest all the time, and you shouldn’t hold yourself to that standard either. But showing that you are working on your honesty will help you gain the respect of those around you or make amends if that trust was broken. When you stop lying, your life only gets better. The stress and anxiety surrounding your lies will fade, you will form deeper, longer-lasting connections, and you will ultimately become a more authentic and happy person.