Learning how to support your son or daughter through their teen drug alcohol addiction can be very challenging. It can be difficult to not get your feelings hurt when you feel like you’re constantly being lied to, and that’s perfectly normal. It’s important to try and remember to not take it personally, as the lying is not actually about you, but the addiction itself.
Lying is so common among people with addictions that it is often thought to be part of the process of addiction.
Stopping lying would mean that the addicted individual would need to own up to the addictive behavior which can serve as a huge deterrent. The best thing you can do is to be open and honest with the addict while also giving them the clear message of support and encouraging them to face their demons of addiction. Lying is so common among people with addictions that it is often thought to be part of the process of addiction.
Why do people with addictions lie?
They Feel Ashamed – In sober moments, teen drug or alcohol addicts may feel extreme shame, embarrassment and regret. Unable to work through these emotions, addicts cope in the only way they know how: by using more drugs. To keep up appearances, they paint a picture of themselves to others that is far more flattering than the reality.
Avoiding Confrontation – Loved ones rarely sit idly by as an addict self-destructs. They ask questions, get angry and inevitably wonder: “If you love me, why do you keeping making choices that hurt me?”
The stress of interpersonal conflict can be overwhelming for an addict. Without mature coping skills, addicts may do or say whatever it takes to avoid that disappointed look in their loved ones’ eyes or the contemptuous tone in their voice. Or they may become increasingly defensive, dishing out complaints of their own in an attempt to draw attention away from their addiction and toward the other person’s vulnerabilities.
Escaping Negativity – Often they see their behavior as a kind of holding pattern, hoping that things will work themselves out and they won’t need the addiction any more. A good example is the gambler who believes he will quit after one big win.
The last thing someone with an addiction wants is to be reminded of negative aspects of their behavior, especially if it is presented in an accusatory way. Relationships can become very negative experiences for them if they’re feeling constantly criticized by their loved ones, and so, they cover up their behavior with lies.
Lies are a root cause of the isolation most addicts experience, as well as the anger and disillusionment loved ones often feel. While loved ones can’t force an addict out of denial, there are steps they can take to illuminate their reality.
Steps to take to help teens recognize that they are lying
Don’t take it personal – Understand that lies fulfill a purpose for the addict and are not a personal affront. As frustrating as they can be, lies are a common part of the disease.
Don’t let the lying consume you – While it is important to understand the purpose of the lies, it is equally important to push past them. The lies are keeping your loved one trapped in addiction. In some cases, addicts are forced to face reality by hitting rock bottom, but loved ones can help “raise the bottom” by staging an intervention, refusing to enable or rescue, contacting a therapist or addiction treatment program, and pointing out negative consequences in real time (e.g., after a driving under the influence charge).
Let them know you know – If you catch the addict in a lie, don’t look the other way. Letting them know what you see will help them face the consequences of their actions.
Make them feel safe talking to you – Create a supportive environment that facilitates honesty rather than engaging in a power struggle or making threats. The lying will stop when the addict feels safe telling the truth and has the support they need to get well.
Gently suggest to them about going to meetings – Encourage involvement in support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous, which replace the automatic response – lies – with rigorous honesty and making amends. In these groups, peers hold addicts accountable for their lies and encourage them to face the unpleasant truth about themselves without shame or blame.
It’s true, addicts lie. And while the lies can’t be ignored, they are actually a distraction from the real problem – the underlying issues that contribute to addiction – and a diversion from the solution: finding a path to recovery.
Only by breaking through denial and seeing the truth can the addict begin to heal.