When I was active in my addictions, almost every time I spoke, I was lying.

At the same time, I know I started lying before I was an active addict. I can trace my lying back to before I took my first drink.

But WHY?!?!

Lying was a survival technique. Just like my addictions were. It saved me from the horrible truth of my existence. Things I could not stand to shine the light of reality on.

Why would I tell the truth when a lie would save me from being hit? Or punished? Or disliked? Or abandoned? Or…less…than…perfect?

Truly, in the end, that was my goal. I wanted to be perfect. After I was out of harm’s way and under my OWN control, I lied when the truth just didn’t seem to be good enough. I lied to LOOK GOOD while acting out in my addictions.

No…I lied to look better. Better than you, better than everyone.

I wanted to be skinnier, smarter, faster, funnier.

Just better.

I lied when the truth would have sufficed.

I lied about my lies!

Lying became its own addiction. 

It got to the point where I was lying about my lies and couldn’t keep track of them anymore than I could keep track of the amount of drinks I had, or the amount of days I went without eating a meal, or the amount of guys I was stringing along, and so on and so on and so on.

My integrity, conscience, and self-esteem were gone. While I thought I was building my GREAT, BIG EGO, I was tearing it down, lie after lie. I thought people believed me. Maybe they did….until I hit my bottom with drinking. Then, the old friends had fallen away…except for the one that wasn’t putting up with my crap anymore. Smart girl!

Even sadder, I tried to pull off my lying behavior in sobriety. That didn’t go over so well. The people in recovery were onto me. They would patiently listen to me (Bless them!), smile, nod, and then say things like, “Keep coming back.”, or “You’re in the right place.” They weren’t being jerks. They weren’t condescending. They were being honest! They knew I needed to keep hearing other peoples’ stories to see myself for what I truly was…

…a liar.

It took me a long time to address this addiction. It hurt my ego immensely. It was also difficult for me to be told the following, by one of the strongest women I’ve EVER met:

“Shut the fuck up and think before you speak. Everything that comes out of your mouth is a lie.”

I honestly don’t know how long I avoided her after she said that to me. I can still feel the sting of that one. Ouch.

It was like a professional hit.

And. like with most things that burn me to the core, she was right.

So, I took her advice and I practiced not opening my mouth until I thought about what I was going to say before I said it. I practiced “…restraint of tongue and pen” 12&12 Step Ten, p.91.

I will tell you, I was very quiet most of the time for awhile.

I had heard in recovery meetings – and from caring individuals over the years – the value of “taking the cotton out of your ears and putting it in your mouth”. I didn’t understand until those few weeks how powerful that statement was. I didn’t understand until I thought about what I WANTED to say how much of it was going to be a flat-out lie or an exaggeration. Which is when I also learned that exaggerating is a form of lying.

Imagine that! I could no longer say I walked 2 MILES to the store when I only walked 2 BLOCKS! The horror of it all!

(To this day my Sponsor has to work with me on my tendency to exaggerate. I know by my use of capital letters, italics, bolding, and different colored fonts that you could not relate to her at all…right?!?!)

Hey…don’t hate.

So, how have I “grown up” and “sobered up” in the “lying addiction”? GOOD NEWS: I began to “… practice these principles in all [my] affairs.” BB How It Works, p.60. As I stated right before this, I am not perfect. Thank goodness! Unlike alcohol consumption, this addiction does not take perfection in order to maintain my sobriety. I can be flamboyant and exuberant without exaggerating and lying. This was very important for me to learn! I didn’t have to give up my energy for life in order to find my truth in life.

In addition to apologizing to those I have lied to in the past, I also have to do a “living amends” today. This means that I repair the harm I’ve caused to others by living an honest life today. And, I get to make an immediate apology if I catch myself making up bullshit or exaggerating. I don’t get to “set up” my relationships with people based on a false interpretation of myself. I don’t get to make them feel inferior by making myself look superior.

Like with any addiction, it’s critical to first admit there is a problem. Once that’s done (which is really hard to see if you’re so used to doing it!), it’s important to ask for help from friends, family, any recovery program you want to become or are currently involved in, and counseling services that will get to the root of the problem. I needed to see why I was lying. Where did it all begin? Why was my self-esteem so low that I thought I needed to lie so much? What on earth did I gain from lying to people? All of this work started about 25 years ago, so I’m grateful that I can nip the lying/exaggerating in the bud right away now.

It all goes back to what I wrote about in the Sober Spiral of Recovery post. We revisit our addictions – our wounding – again and again in recovery. That’s a good thing. That’s how we grow. The important thing is to do our best to not JUDGE ourselves, or each other, when this “revisiting” happens. Observe that we’re doing it, stop it, apologize (to ourselves and/or others), and don’t do it again – with the help of our HP, Program, sober friends…whatever works.

Lying worked to save our lives. It helped us at one point in our lives. Now it’s time to stop.

I found that when I surrounded myself with esteemable people who were doing esteemable acts, I wanted to become an esteemable person who lives an esteemable life.

Lying no longer serves me or the greater good. I hope you can find this for yourself to.

With Love.

2 Comments

  1. Liz

    Thank you so much for you comment, Emily.

    I hope you can let go of the guilt/shame you feel as the result of the lies you told when you were using/drinking. If you’ve made amends and you’re practicing a sober way of living today, there’s nothing more you can do…that I’m aware of. Every person on this planet has made mistakes and caused harm. It is the human condition. You are one of the precious humans who actually owned up to it and is willing to not do it anymore. Congratulations!!

    I’m with you on the “easy to slip when my ego is threatened” thing. UGH! That’s why it’s so important to watch myself…and my ego. I don’t have the luxury of taking a day off, Vigilance is key!

    Sharing your truth is admirable. You have helped others to know they are not alone through writing here. Thank you again.

    I wish you all the best!
    With Love,
    ~Liz

    Reply
  2. Emily

    So very relatable!
    I am still so ashamed of all the lies I told & lived while in active addiction. Making living amends certainly helps, so thank goodness for that.
    But it’s scary how easily a “minor” lie/exaggeration can slip out when my EGO feels threatened, if I’m not being vigilant.
    Thank you for this honest and hopeful piece.

    Reply

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