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Lying & Addiction: Why Compassion Is Better Than Blaming

July 13, 2018 - Blog

One of the critical concepts to when attempting to help addicts recover is understanding fundamental addict behaviors. One of the most pronounced and sometimes difficult to comprehend is the addict’s apparent inability to tell the truth.


So why do addicts lie so frequently? The reasons for the lies can be as obvious as they are upsetting:


Addiction Preservation:

Since an addict will do whatever it takes to preserve the addiction, lying is a way for them to ensure self-preservation within the addiction. Misguided logic causes a breakdown in reasoning and this results in maintaining the addicted behavior, which is mistaken for actual self-preservation.


Reality Avoidance:

The disease of addiction so wholly disrupts and changes the world of the addict and those around them, that the addict creates their own reality to justify their continued use. Facing the truth becomes so painful that the addict constructs an alternate reality that allows them to believe their damaging behavior is acceptable.

Confrontation Avoidance:

One thing addicts fear the most is facing a confrontation over their addiction, and the havoc it has created in their lives. This avoidance combined with inner guilt and shame creates a barrier that is difficult to breach.


On a basic level, all addicts understand that there is a fundamental problem with their behaviors and feel a degree of guilt and shame related to them. During these brief periods of self-awareness, the sense of shame, embarrassment, or regret can become overwhelming. It can be so difficult to cope with these emotions that addicts will usually revert to the only thing they know to numb the pain: lying and drug use.



The ego can often be the last piece of self-worth that an addict can hang on to, the belief that they are still fundamentally a good person. An addict’s dignity and pride are often in direct conflict with their actions, requiring them to continue lying to themselves and to others, to keep their pride intact.


Understanding this dynamic is essential when trying to help or treat an addict. These defense mechanisms are usually so thoroughly entrenched that blaming, accusing, and threatening are rarely beneficial. An addict already feels that they are worthless and unworthy, so anything that may reinforce that belief is pointless. The only real way to approach someone suffering from the disease of addiction is through compassion, understanding, and love. Most addicts believe they are unable to be loved because they do not love themselves. Winning their trust and trying to demonstrate that they are worthy and capable of change is the fundamental precursor to successful treatment.


Author: Ken Smith, LCSW

Clinical Director



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