Why do alcoholics lie? Is there a way to detect their lies and get to the truth?
Are you living with a problem drinker? If so, you are very likely very familiar with the alcoholic personality. At first, in the early stages of alcoholism, and before you understood what was going on, you may have wanted to believe things that you knew to be untrue.
When your loved one left the house to go to the store, you believed they would be right back with a carton of milk. Even when you knew that they would probably be gone for hours, or even days, drinking all night at a bar or in a hotel room, you wanted to believe that this time would be different.
Why would someone who loves you look you in the eyes and tell a lie? How can you relate to their thinking and understand why they do not tell the truth?
Would you tell a lie if your life depended on it?
First, think about what you would do if you had to lie to save your own life. What if you were a prisoner of war, locked up in a jail cell in an enemy prison camp for months, without hope of rescue.
Your captors ask you to sign a written confession to war crimes that you know is completely untrue. If you do not sign, they will take away your food. You will slowly starve to death. With your life on the line, you will most likely sign the document, even if it is full of lies.
In learning to understand typical addict behavior in relationships and why alcoholics lie, it is helpful to explore the changes that occur in the addicted brain. We all have a reward center in our brain that has evolved over many thousands of years. It is part of the survival mechanism that helps humans, and other living creatures, to survive in the world.
When we eat good food, or engage in activities that promote survival, our brains reward us with positive signals, including endorphins that stimulate opioid receptors that give a positive feeling of pleasure and euphoria. However, drugs and alcohol short circuit and reprogram this reward center to respond in the same way to drugs that it would normally respond to the things in the world that keep us alive.
As a result, the alcoholic feels as if their very survival depends on continuing drinking alcohol. While they may not believe this on a logical reasoning level, they feel it deeply and emotionally that they must not give up their alcohol-seeking behavior.
Alcoholics and lying: The painful truth of the life of an alcoholic.
Imagine what it would feel like if you wanted to tell the truth and you were physically unable to? It would feel as if you were trapped in your own body with no control, as if you were possessed and controlled by another entity.
You might look into the eyes of your spouse, parent, or child, and want to cry out for help. You want to say, “please help me and make me stop. I am going to go out and hurt myself again and I know I can’t go on. Please help!”
However, you cannot speak, because you are trapped in a mind controlled by addiction. You are forced to hold two opposing thoughts in your mind simultaneously. You believe that you must drink no matter what and, at the same time, you want to stop and you want to ask for help.
Why do alcoholics lie so much when they know they are harming themselves and others around them? Because addiction infects the mind like a virus, undermining the brain’s defenses of logic and reason.
Addiction takes over and uses a person’s own best thinking against them. The addicted brain becomes a weapon and tool of survival for the disease of addiction, leaving its victim helpless.
Alcoholism and habitual lying.
So, is it wrong to be angry about the lies that your loved one tells you to cover up their drinking? Of course, you are justified in being upset by the lies. However, there is nothing wrong with having empathy for what they are going through.
While alcoholic behavior in relationships can tear apart families, it is not the fault of the victim of alcoholism. Addiction is a mental health condition that undermines a person’s ability to make appropriate decisions in situations related to feeding their addiction.
If you are living with a problem drinker, you have probably become very good at detecting lies. You know when your loved one is lying to you about drinking. When alcoholics lie, we don’t have to react as if we have been betrayed.
We can choose to interpret what is happening differently. In the life of an alcoholic, lying can be seen as a cry for help. Your loved one does not want to lie to you. Yet, they feel an overwhelming compulsion to protect their ability to continue drinking.
Alcoholics and lying: how do doctors feel about being lied to?
On the television show, House, the main character, Dr. House, often stated that all patients lie. While he accepted it as normal patient behavior, to cover up important health details and possible clues to their current illness, he was also not happy about being lied to. In real life, there are doctors who get very upset when their patients lie, even addiction specialists.
I was once in a meeting where the moderator asked a room of doctors who treat addiction what bothers them most about treating patients. One doctor immediately volunteered that the thing that bothered her most was the lying. She found it very disturbing that her patients would lie to her.
While there are doctors who feel this way about addiction, alcoholism and habitual lying, ideally, doctors should take a step back and not get so personally invested in this behavioral trait of active addiction. The same goes for therapists and family therapists who deal with alcoholism and family dynamics. While doctors and therapists should encourage their patients to be truthful, especially in the safe place of private therapy or a medical visit, they should also understand that it is not easy to overcome this learned behavior.
What responsibility do grown children of alcoholics have when it comes to living with an alcoholic parent?
Most people with children hope that when they get older, their children will be there to help them through difficulties that arise with advanced age. Yet, if a parent was an abusive alcoholic, they should not be surprised to find that their adult children keep their distance. When it comes to alcoholism and family, children may harbor bitterness and resentment for many years.
When a wife wonders how to help an alcoholic husband with his problem, she must also consider the effect of his behavior on their children. Sometimes, extensive therapy is needed to overcome the emotional neglect and abuse. While the recovering alcoholic may try to find answers in the Alcoholics Anonymous big book, their children may be looking for solutions to issues of codependency for years to come.
One important responsibility of the sober spouse in a marriage that involves one alcoholic spouse is to make certain that their children understand that it is not their fault. They are not responsible for the actions of others, including their alcoholic parent. By impressing this upon them, they may be spared from becoming codependent in relationships in the future.
Can the Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book help with alcoholics and lying?
In an alcohol detox center and most holistic alcohol rehab programs, clients are introduced to Alcoholics Anonymous through 12-step facilitation (TSF). TSF is considered to be evidence-based therapy in rehab programs.
When the patient with alcohol use disorder is referred to AA, they are exposed to the literature of the program, including the main text book which is often referred to as the Big Book of AA. In this book, they learn about the 12 steps, and they learn about the condition of being an alcoholic from the founders of the program, Bill W. and Dr. Bob.
A foundational principle of AA and the first of the 12 steps is honesty. This means being honest with others and also with yourself. If you are recovering from alcoholism, you can use the steps as a way to move beyond the life of an alcoholic to living a life of honesty in recovery.
Should you expect the sober alcoholic to make amends to you?
One of the steps is intended to help the recovering alcoholic to make amends to people whom they have wronged. This is somewhat controversial with some experts because it is not clear that this is beneficial or even a good idea in many cases. Yet, many people who have worked the steps claim that this step, the ninth step, is critical for success in getting the greatest benefit from the 12 steps.
The act of making amends is supposed to help clear the conscience of the recovering alcoholic, not to make the recipient of the amends satisfied that they have finally received an apology. If you have a loved one who is now attending AA meetings, you may be aware of the 12 steps, and particularly the ninth step.
Please, do not expect your loved one to come to you apologizing as part of a ninth step process. In some cases, their sponsor, the AA member who guides them through the 12 steps, will recommend that they do not make certain amends in person.
Saying your sorry for being sick.
When it is determined that making amends to a particular person may be harmful in some way, the recovering alcoholic can make amends in some other way. Either way, you should not expect an apology or even necessarily feel that you are owed an apology.
Do we expect apologies from cancer patients after a successful round of chemotherapy? Do we expect parents with diabetes to apologize to their children after they get their blood sugar under control?
Alcoholism and addiction are mental health conditions that are associated with specific behaviors. When the condition is brought under control, often with medical assistance and therapy, the behaviors resolve over time.
What can we learn from an alcohol recovery podcast?
If you have listened to a good alcohol recovery podcast recently, you may have been surprised at how much great information that is available in a quality recovery netcast. Most podcasts on the subject of addiction recovery and addiction treatment feature interviews with various experts and also with people who have overcome alcoholism or addiction.
One of the key points to take away from many interviews on a strong alcohol recovery podcast is that there are many paths to successful alcohol recovery as well as addiction recovery in general. While some would have us believe that the AA and NA way are the only way, the fact is that many people who have incredibly inspirational recovery success stories have recovered in ways other than the 12-step way.
In addition to alcoholic podcasts, another great source of recovery stories is the many high quality sobriety blogs. When you bookmark and subscribe to on of these sober blogs and alcohol blogs, you will likely find strong sources of motivation and inspiration to move forward with a solid determination to achieve success.
Changing the alcoholic mindset.
People who have not experienced alcoholism do not know what it is like to be an alcoholic. And, they do not know what not to say to an alcoholic. For example, calling a loved one a “dry drunk” can be demeaning and offensive, especially when they are making every effort to stay sober and be successful in recovery.
The alcoholic personality can change. The alcoholic mindset can be replaced with a sober mindset with a focus on success and fulfillment in life. In fact, the sober alcoholic has an incredible propensity for success.
The key is to first remove the obstacle of active drinking or drug use. With a clear mind and freedom from alcohol or drugs, the sober alcoholic can now move forward and work to change their mindset.
They can develop into a person known for integrity and honesty, helping others to find success in their own lives. After all, helping others after overcoming significant life obstacles is one of the most rewarding activities of all.