Denial among people with substance addiction is common because they often feel the need to hide the depth of their struggles from themselves and their loved ones. Many lies and half-truths they tell themselves are to downplay the harmful effects of substances or minimize the severity of their addiction. If you are supporting a loved one who struggles with addiction, you need to understand these lies and behavioral patterns to effectively help them.
The Causes and Consequences of Lies About Addiction
Many people who live with substance use disorder (SUD) tell lies to protect themselves from the fear and painful truth that they have lost control over substance use. Losing control isn’t something that happens overnight. At first, they may truly have been able to quit if they wanted to, but over time, their tolerance increases, and with it, their dependence. Telling themselves that they still have the power to quit whenever they want is a way to cope with the painful truth that they cannot break free from this addictive lifestyle on their own.
Lying about addiction can cause pain and damage relationships with others. Family and friends of addicts can testify to the futility of trying to help. Their well-intentioned interventions are often met with denial, stonewalling, outright lies, and even deception. Many family members and friends who care about the individual might think they have changed or even that they are too far gone. When you’re in the middle of it, it’s hard to see the end, but there is always hope.
Common Lies and Why They Do Not Stand
The most common false narrative an individual with SUD uses is, “I can stop anytime I want to.” Addiction is, by definition, a brain disease that is near impossible to get rid of on one’s own. This is largely because the use of substances such as drugs and alcohol gradually changes brain structures. Without professional intervention, these changes in the user’s brain are hard to reverse.
Some people use drugs and alcohol to self-medicate. They might not care about long-term consequences and think, “I just need to get through the day.” This mentality is common among people who suffer from chronic depression or past trauma. This is a dangerous lie because, as “getting through the day” becomes “ getting through the week” and so on, they slowly slip into dependence and eventually addiction and cannot break free on their own, all the while thinking they just need one more drink, one more hit, to face everyday obstacles.
Another common self-deception is feeling that one’s alcohol or drug intake is negligible by saying things like, “It’s not much,” or, “I only use occasionally.” Quantity here may be relative, and can slowly increase to account for increased tolerance. Basic science tells us that the human body adapts to ever-increasing amounts of alcohol or drugs, requiring people to use or drink more to reach the same high.
How Family And Friends Can Break the Lies Through Intervention
It is understandable, even normal, to feel frustrated and angry about lies and deception a loved one uses. Your frustration and anger are founded on deep care for their well-being. Unfortunately, deception is a common feature to someone who lives with substance addiction. Understanding that fact can help you see past the immediate hurt and get them help.
The first step is knowing how to tell when they are lying. Do not turn a blind eye or pretend to believe them. Practice “tough love” by calling out their lies and helping them understand they need professional intervention. Knowing that someone you love is lying to you is certainly painful. Just remember that this behavioral pattern is a result of addiction, and is not necessarily a reflection of the addict themselves. Try to avoid getting upset and lashing out at your loved one. Shaming them for these lies only adds to their stress, which can fuel their addiction.
Seek Help From Professionals
Even if your loved one does not want to get professional help, you can use resources from trained interventionists, recovery coaches, and counselors who are experienced in working with such situations and can give you resources. You do not need to struggle alone with your loved one’s issues. Breaking free from the cycle of lies takes time, patience, and a lot of support.
Most importantly, have confidence that addiction is a treatable disease. Millions of people go through treatment every year, and your loved one will need your support if they are to go that route. The early you intervene with professional help, the higher your loved one’s chances are of reaching sobriety and full recovery.
If you have a loved one who is struggling with substance addiction but refuses to admit that it is a problem, you know that denial is a powerful barrier to treatment because it is based on self-deception. You need help to get your loved one to stop shying away from the truth of their issues. At Laguna Shores Recovery, our team of licensed mental healthcare professionals and therapists can coach and counsel you. Most of our staff has been in recovery themselves, so we understand why some people hang on to lies and harm their health. Your loved one needs a compassionate and effective team that can support their recovery journey. Whether your loved one is ready for treatment or you need pointers to help get them to that point, call us at (866) 906-3203. Our full medical residential facility offers a range of treatments, including diagnosis, behavioral therapies, and 12-step programs to help your loved one.