How You Could Be Lying to Yourself about an Addiction
You hear people say that they can, barely, if at all, recognize their loved ones after addiction takes hold of them. The addict, themselves, often cannot understand how or why they continue to do what they do. Lying, cheating, manipulating, and denial can leave an addict morally bankrupt and deception becomes a way of life when you are continuously trying to minimize the forces that would interfere with ongoing use and maximize those that would encourage it. You could be lying to yourself about an addiction in many different ways without ever realizing it.
From the time we are born, we have natural tendencies to protect ourselves. As we grow older those tendencies become ingrained with the things that keep us satisfied. Children behave in ways that may or may not be healthy including deception to avoid punishment or to gain acceptance. As we mature, we are expected to be able to control negative tendencies through the interplays of development, experiences, and learning.
Addiction changes everything. As a chronic and relapsing brain disease that changes the way the brain functions through a variety of stress and reward motivators, addiction helps to suppress or enhance thoughts, emotions, and behaviors causing an addict to become a different person than who they really are. According to the Scripps Research Institute, “Understanding the role of the brain stress and anti-stress systems in addiction not only provides insight into the neurobiology of the “dark side” of addiction but also provides insight into the organization and function of basic brain emotional circuitry that guides motivated behavior.”
Defense mechanisms automatically “kick in” to maintain the addiction habits despite consequential harms and the willpower to change gets lost along the way. Some common ways you could be lying to yourself through defense mechanisms include:
- Blaming others or your circumstances for your addiction
- Denying that a problem exists
- Making excuses or rationalizing use
- Minimizing consequences or suppressing the negative aspects of addiction
- Sublimation: including switching from an undesirable substance or behavior to what may be considered more desirable ones to keep the addiction going such as switching from whiskey to beer, from heroin to opiate prescription painkillers, or from IV injection to snorting
- Isolating yourself to avoid criticism or other social conflicts
Thinking That You Have Some Control
One of the saddest ways that you could be lying to yourself about addiction is thinking that you have some control over how much you will use, how often, and where you will be able to minimize harms and other risks. According to the Scripps Research Institute, “From initial, positively reinforcing, pleasurable drug effects, the addictive process progresses over time to being maintained by negatively reinforcing relief from a negative emotional state.”
Eventually it becomes more and more difficult to balance the pleasurable or rewarding experiences with the unpleasant or punishing experiences that occur. As tolerance increases and you become sensitized to both the rewarding and negative aspects, addiction rears its ugly head. Repeated administrations can result in addiction defined by the Institute of Medicine (US) as: compulsive drug-seeking behavior, loss of control over drug use, return to drug use despite repeated efforts to stop, interference with social functioning, and often, impairments to health.”
Disregarding Harms to Others
One of the foremost goals in addiction treatment is harm reduction and this is not limited to the harm you may be causing to yourself, but, also to others. It’s common for an addict to lie to themselves by thinking that their problems belongs only to them and has little if no impact on others.
We’re all familiar with the burdens to society from crimes, IV use and the spread of diseases, and other immoral behaviors associated with substance abuse, but, for the most part, family and friends suffer right along with the addict. Although they may keep their distresses hidden at times for fear of pushing the addict away or initiating other disasters, there is significant proof that these individuals suffer higher rates of mental health and substance abuse disorders as a result of their loved one’s addiction.
According to the Institute of Medicine (US),”Drug abuse leads to reallocation of economic support away from the family; lack of participation in family activities, including caregiving; lack of emotional commitment and support for parents and children; and the inability to provide a reliable and adequate role model for other family members, especially children.”
No Need for Treatmient Haven’t Hit “Rock Bottom” Yet
According to the SAMHSA, ” For both men and women, substance abuse can lead to social isolation and loneliness, reduced self‐esteem, family conflict, sensory losses, cognitive impairment, reduced coping skills, decreased economic status, and the necessity to move out of one’s home and into a more supervised setting.” The SAMHSA also states that “One of the oldest, yet still surviving, misconceptions in the substance abuse treatment field is the notion that people have to “hit bottom” before they can be helped.”
Lack of recovery motivations remain high on the list for addicts who need help, but, don’t get it. If you are waiting for that time to hit “rock bottom” or think that you will not be successful in recovery until it happens, you are dead wrong. The sooner you get the help you need the better off you will be. Through advanced research and improved treatment programs, even those who are ambivalent about getting help, have had successful recovery rates comparable to the most willing of candidates.