Lying (to myself)
Distorted perceptions result in choices and actions that are self-limiting at best and destructive at worst. Addiction turns a person’s worldview into a black and white kaleidoscope. Everything is either completely good, bad, or insignificant. There are no shades of gray. The thing that comforts me is killing me and I must deny this conflict to continue.
Active addiction is nearly impossible without constant self-deception. If I convince myself that the lies I tell myself are true, am I lying? Those who love me are torn. They want to trust me. My disease preys upon their dis-ease.
- “I can walk away anytime.”
- “I’ll stop after I get through this.”
- “I can handle it.”
- “It hasn’t cost me anything so far.”
I said those things often, not to reassure others, but to convince myself. Minimizing, rationalizing, justifying – they’re all nice words for lying. The biggest lies of all: “I’m okay. I’m in control. I’m fine.”
Lucid moments are disturbing. Music gets past my defenses. Perfect metaphor: I’m driving 100mph in my car and crying because of a song on the radio:
“I’m not okay. I’m not okay. I’m not okay.” – My Chemical Romance
Delve deeper. Frantically search for evidence that I’m still successful. Find the thing that hasn’t crumbled yet. Focus on it. Amplify the minor victory. It all turned out okay in the end. Overlook the cost. I lie to myself by omission with the help of a “built-in forgetter” (recovery adage for losing track of things that hurt and/or scare me). I twist inconvenient truths into things I will figure out once things slow down a bit.
I woke up one day with an image I couldn’t erase and some proof I couldn’t deny. Hitting bottom is usually not a singular event. It’s only one arrest, one jail sentence, one DUI, one divorce…
Addiction takes away everything good. The closer I came to rock bottom, the more I came to believe that there’s just nothing I could do. I saw myself as a lost cause – hopeless. F-it. F-me. Nothing left to lose anyway.
“It’s been a while since I could say that I wasn’t addicted…” – Staind
Kaleidoscopes spiral because that’s what they do. I couldn’t separate the truth from the lies anymore. I wasn’t even sure which way was up any more. Then the lies start with: “I just want…”
- To be happy
- To feel normal
- To get back to where I was before
- To have my job/car/license/place to live
Self-pity distorts perspective. Poor me. Poor me. Pour me another drink. Relapse. Doing it different this time. I can handle it now. I’ve learned from my mistakes. New friends, new job. Geographical remedy. Fall in lust. Take a hostage – an enabler or co-conspirator. Three and a half weeks later, get engaged. Why wait?
Maybe live to tell the tale. Maybe become another example of what not to do. Find a new bottom. Remember – not everyone gets to try again. Most of my favorite people today were once written off for dead.
I experienced the best thing that can possibly happen to an active addict – the lies stopped working. I became sick and tired of being sick and tired. I received the gift of desperation – lost and broken, I experienced a newfound willingness. I went to any lengths to stop suffering and start living.
Living doesn’t always feel good, but it’s honest and it’s real and you’ll be able to remember it later. The truth is the most powerful means by which to combat addiction. As an addictions counselor, my living is largely made by looking folks in the eye and repeating what they’ve just said to me. The lies are easier to spot when you hear someone else speak them.
Maybe you’ll become the power of example. You’ll stand before those who are unsure of anything, but being broken. You’ll be able to say to them, “If I can do it, anyone can.”
Folks in recovery are the very best storytellers. Maybe we’ll embellish just a bit in explaining how you’ve transformed. No harm in that. Poetic license is creative and benign lying.
Jim LaPierre LCSW, CCS, is a recovery ally, clinical therapist, and addictions counselor. He publishes weekly for the Recovery Rocks section for the Bangor Daily News and welcomes your questions and concerns via firstname.lastname@example.org.