You’ve probably heard the saying “You can’t help somebody unless they want to help themselves.” But someone with an addiction won’t see a reason to help themselves if they don’t believe that they have a problem. To be successful in addiction recovery, you must be honest with yourself. Being honest with others will also allow you to maintain strong relationships, which fill an essential human need and help you access continual support during and after recovery.
Lying Is a Protective Mechanism
Everybody lies. In fact, Psychology Today explains that perpetuating our own false beliefs satisfies a vital psychological need.
Truth evasion is a protective mechanism. It prevents you from having to face difficult realities and experience the associated emotions, which can be painful.
The human brain perceives difficult emotions as dangerous. They activate your sympathetic nervous system, making you believe that your survival is at stake. Lying, even to yourself, is a way of calming the sympathetic nervous system. It tricks your brain into thinking that everything is ok.
Why Is Honesty in Recovery So Difficult?
People with addiction lie for the same reason that other people lie. They’re protecting their psyche from pain, embarrassment, shame and other unpleasant emotions. They may also be protecting other people from being hurt by their actions.
But addiction also changes the way that the brain functions. People who are addicted to substances may not be able to make rational decisions about their drug use. Their reward systems have been hijacked by chemicals. Reliance on substances to enjoy life can make it impossible for the pleasure centers in your body to activate on their own. Therefore, you might do anything, including lie to yourself and others, to continue to use the drug.
Just like everyone else, people with addiction often have confirmation bias. Confirmation bias is the inclination to favor information that supports your existing beliefs. If you’re in denial about your addiction and believe that you don’t have a problem, you’ll look for proof to support that. You’ll also shut out evidence that highlights your addiction because it doesn’t reflect your beliefs about yourself.
Some of the other reasons for dishonesty in recovery include the following:
- Avoiding guilt and shame
- Fear of change
- Evading getting caught
- Keeping up appearances
Why Honesty Is Important in Addiction Recovery
Most people know that it’s healthier to abstain from drugs than to abuse them. It’s reasonable to assume that your well-being will improve in recovery. If drugs have caused problems with your career, schoolwork, finances and relationships, seeking recovery is the first step toward correcting those issues.
But taking this step can be daunting if your brain has become rewired to rely on drugs. Part of your brain tells you that you won’t be able to survive without using. That part of the brain can cloud your rational thinking, causing you to lie about the drug’s negative effects.
Denial Hinders Recovery From Addiction
People who struggle with addiction are often in denial. Denial selectively blocks your awareness of detrimental behaviors and their negative consequences.
Some lies that people in denial tell themselves and others include:
- I only use drugs in moderation.
- My drug use isn’t affecting my job.
- My addiction isn’t as bad as you’re making it sound.
- I only use because my life is really stressful right now.
- I am choosing to use drugs; I can stop any time.
Evidence shows that denial is correlated with a lack of motivation to seek long-term residential treatment. That makes sense, because if you deny that you have a problem, you can’t access the tools that will resolve it.
Modify Your Confirmation Bias
While denial can make someone resistant to addiction recovery, it can evolve. Maybe a loved one continues to bring up the problems associated with your drug use. Perhaps therapy has helped you gain some clarity about the negative consequences of your addiction.
Transforming the lies that you tell yourself into truths can help you access long-term recovery. For example, reminding yourself that you actually don’t have control over your drug or alcohol use can help you refrain from having “just one drink,” which could perpetuate the problem. If you can admit to yourself that you use substances to cope with other issues, you can address those concerns in a holistic manner in recovery.
Support from others is essential for recovery. You may worry that the people to whom you’ve lied have given up on you. However, they may be willing to have an open, honest conversation. They are likely to reestablish support if you are honest with them.
It takes time to reestablish trust. Every time you’re honest, you move in the right direction. Telling more lies can quickly reverse your progress, though. It’s essential to be honest with your loved ones so that you have the best chances of receiving their ongoing support.
It’s common for people in recovery to ignore their cravings. Perhaps they’re embarrassed that they still want to use or believe that they shouldn’t have a desire for drugs during and after treatment. Therefore, they shove down their feelings and avoid talking about them. Discomfort rapidly becomes anguish, and the individual may feel like their only recourse is to use again.
But cravings are a normal part of recovery. Being honest about them allows you to deal with them using the coping strategies that you’ve learned in treatment. Addressing cravings early can help you seek support in recovery, remain stable and avoid relapsing.
Honesty in Recovery Isn’t Always Easy
Do you remember what we said about confirmation bias? If you can turn the tables in your brain, you can shift the way that you seek support for your health and well-being. Once you admit that you have a problem, potential solutions will present themselves to you.
But admitting your greatest problems and fears is extremely uncomfortable. In fact, it can be excruciating. Therefore, it helps to be surrounded by supportive peers, loved ones and professionals who can guide you as you rediscover your truths in recovery.
At Burning Tree Ranch, we eliminate the judgment that causes so much doubt and fear in those who seek recovery. We understand what you’re going through. At the same time, we recognize that your experience is unique.
Our programs facilitate honesty in recovery and help you develop the skills that you need to thrive. Please feel free to tell us your story. We can work together to raise your awareness so that you can live a fulfilling life.