A popular joke among addicts goes:
How do you know that an addict is lying?
Their lips are moving.
Addicts lie. Addicts know that. Some people that participated in one of my therapy groups last week asked me to write about lying. They learned about why addicts lie and want to share the information with people that they have lied to. They want people to know why they lie. But to understand why addicts lie, we need to understand how they lie. So here is the truth about why addicts lie.
Addiction lives in the bowels of the brain. In the unconscious parts of our brain. It lives where the urges for hunger, thirst, and sex live. So addicts crave drugs like they crave food, drink, and sex. And they develop strategies to meet that urge. Strategies like lying, stealing and manipulating.
This presents them with a problem. The problem of a conscience. It’s hard to meet the urges of addiction and not become despicable to self and others. And, what feelings do despicable people experience? According to research, the predictable ones are depression, guilt, shame, and self-disgust. Hard to live with.
So here is where another part of the mind comes to the rescue. A part of the mind that I call the Mental Public Relations Agent.
The Public Relations Agent makes stories that minimizes bad behavior. This helps the addict avoid negative feelings. It’s job is to protect the addict from the blows of reality. Blows that can paralyze them with depression, sadness, and regret. But coming up with stories is not enough. The Agent also completely convinces addicts that the stories are true. That the lies are true.
So addicts lie to themselves because their lying keeps them alive, as much as it keeps them sick. Their lies protect them from despair. They lie to themselves and tell themselves that they can be better. That there is hope. That there is another day. And that is why addicts lie.