This post is an excerpt from the study guide which accompanies the “Overcoming Addiction” seminar. This portion is an excerpt from “Step One: ADMIT I have a struggle I cannot overcome without God.” To RSVP for this and other Summit counseling seminars visit bradhambrick.com/events.
If this entire journey could be reduced to a single step, it would be this – be honest. Honesty may be more difficult than sobriety. At the risk of being offensive, you can’t be a good addict without being a good liar. You won’t get far enough into the process if you can’t cover your tracks. Once you’re in the addiction, the lies you’ve told become the bars in your personal prison. Honesty is the number one “technique” to emancipate yourself from addiction.
The most dangerous lies are the ones you actually believe. The first person with whom you need to be honest is yourself. When you believe your own lies they become more convincing to everyone else and the lies cripple the motivation necessary to fuel the process of change.
“When lies become your native language, you are in trouble (p. 33)… The more lies you’ve told… the more lies you believe (p. 36).” Ed Welch in Crossroads: A Step-by-Step Guide Away from Addiction
“Self-deception is the red flag here, signaling a discrepancy between what the addicted person had hoped addiction could provide and what addiction does in fact provide (p. 175).” Kent Dunnington in Addiction and Virtue: Beyond the Models of Disease and Choice
Memorize this statement – you will never be more free than you are honest.
“The process of renewal starts with truth, the most healing of all principles (p. 65).” Craig Nakken in The Addictive Personality
Read Numbers 32:23, Proverbs 15:3, Job 34:21, Luke 8:17, and Hebrews 4:13. Chances are you have already experienced the truth of these verses. We lie because we believe we can contain and control the truth; by the stories we tell and the information we do or don’t give. We believe we are larger than the truth rather than believing that truth is the reality in which we live. We can no more control truth than we can control the wind. As you read this section on lying, remind yourself regularly that honesty is not optional, only the timing and willfulness of honesty can be chosen. Truth will be known. The only question is whether your character will grow as you disclose it or whether you will live in fear and darkness until light invades your life against your will and to your shame. Pause and pray again for the courage to be honest, because truth-speaking and sobriety are also two sides of the same coin.
In many ways, this section may be the hardest part of this entire journey for you. You are going to be asked to be honest about all the ways you’ve been dishonest. It will be hard for at least two reasons. First, it will require you to disarm the primary mechanism of protection for your addiction. Second, it will require you to be honest with yourself about how you’ve been dishonest; not just what you’ve misrepresented.
With that in mind, stop and pray before you begin this section. Ask God to give you the courage to be honest. Ask God to show you the emptiness of living with lies. Ask God to give you a desire for freedom more than self-protection.
Fragmentation: One helpful way to think of deception within addiction is fragmentation; telling parts (i.e., fragments) of your story as if they were the whole story and expecting others to respond accordingly.
This is what we do when we ask a friend for financial help, they respond that we need to address our addiction, and we respond, “I thought you were my friend and that I should ask my friends for help when I face hard times. I guess I was wrong.” We take two fragments (i.e., friendship and hardship) and expect our friend to respond as if this were the whole story. When they point to other pieces of the plate/story (i.e., the number of times we’ve borrowed money and not repaid before) we get offended.
As you read through this material on deception and addiction, begin to notice how many forms of deception (i.e., omitted, facts, false emotions, minimizing, blame-shifting, etc…) are in this brief example.
1. Omitted Facts
The story you’re telling is true and there are not false statements in it. However, the most relevant information for maintaining sobriety is omitted. Example – a “I went to the store and picked up a few things. Here’s the milk you said we needed… (but no mention of the 6 pack you bought on a separate receipt using cash).”
As a rule, if there is a question you hope is not asked, then you should voluntarily disclose the answer. People should not have to ask the right question to get the needed information to help you. That is the equivalent of a patient lying to their doctor about “where it hurts” because he didn’t ask, “Are you having chest pains?”
How do you lie by “omitted facts” and what are the most recent or significant examples?
2. False Facts
This is a step beyond omitting facts. Now the story may be true but elements of the story are false. Example – “I got to talk to my sponsor today and he said he was really encouraged by how things were going… (actually, the sponsored called because he was concerned about the lack of recent contact).”
If anything you say is false, then everything you’ve said is self-destructive. We never lie to cover up the things that make our life better. We only lie when what we’ve done is offensive to others or destructive to ourselves.
How do you lie by “false facts” and what are the most recent or significant examples?
3. False Emotion
Now you have to play the part. If your lies are true, then they would require certain emotions. If you are going to remain “free,” then you must become an actor (the role itself implies lying when the “audience” does not know it’s watching a “show”).
Violating this principle is the best way to teach people to mistrust you. When people can tell that not only our words but also our emotions are misleading them, they realize they’ve lost any means to trust anything we report which they cannot directly observe happening.
How do you lie by “false emotions” and what are the most recent or significant examples?
4. False Story
False facts produce false emotions. Together they require a false story. Your lies are starting to create their own world in which they could be true. You are forced to try to live between these two worlds; reality won’t bend and your lies can’t break without you being found out. You and those that know you (those that are left anyway) are forced to live stretched between these two worlds.
Telling the truth now means more that correcting facts. Initially this form of lying feels the most powerful, because you’re playing a God-like role. But acknowledging this type of lying is the most shameful, because we realize how much we have manipulated everyone around us.
How do you lie by “false story” and what are the most recent or significant examples?
Maybe you are “smart enough” not to take the false route. Everyone can see how that would inevitably blow up in your face. The “better” route is to not change the facts but the significance of those facts. Minimizing is one of the more popular methods of lying (to others and to yourself).
As a rule, you should not “weigh” any addictive behavior until it has been fully disclosed to someone acquainted with your struggle. The significance of “two beers” is different when you’re in addiction than when you haven’t been. You should be more concerned about any setback until someone who knows you, your struggle, and is committed to your sobriety tells you to be less concerned.
Avoid language that “sizes” a concern as small: slip, mishap, setback, mistake, etc…
How do you lie by “minimizing” and what are the most recent or significant examples?
What vocabulary represents your most prevalent phrases of minimization?
Maybe you accept the facts and admit how serious the problem is, but you lie by shifting the responsibility. It’s true and it’s bad, but it’s not my fault. Some of the favorite targets for blame-shifting are: your spouse, your friends, your history, your personality, your emotions, or “it just happened.” Engaging your addictive behavior is always a choice. Focusing on anything other than your choice as the cause of re-engagement puts sobriety in jeopardy.
As a rule, explanation comes after ownership. If you are trying to explain why something happened or remedy the influences that contributed to the setback before fully owning your choices, you are blame-shifting. How do you lie by “blame-shifting” and what are the most recent or significant examples?
Who or what are your favorite targets for blame-shifting?
7. “I Don’t Know”
It is legal to “plead the fifth” in a court room, but it is deceitful to do so in life. Laziness in response is not an exception clause for omitting important information. “I don’t know” is often used as a way to buy time while preparing to do a “better” job at one of the other forms of lying. “I don’t know” is also used to force the questioner to nag or badger so their action can become the focal point of the conversation.
If you know the answer but are not proud of it, share it any way. If you are tempted to blame-shift, be honest about it – “Right now I’m having a hard time answering your question because I can tell I’m wanting to blame others.” If you are genuinely uncertain, allow the person to hear how far you can identify an answer – “I know this won’t completely answer what you’ve asked, but here is how far I can trace my motives or explain my actions…”
How do you lie by “I don’t know” and what are the most recent or significant examples?
8. Late Truth
Post-discovery confession is not honesty. But often we want points for admitting what people already know. When we add to “late truth” the “false emotion” of being offended that “our best is not good enough” or “I’ll never be able to please you” we only compound the situation.
Expecting trust to be built based on merely acknowledging truth that had already been discovered is manipulative. It is like expecting to be paid for someone else’s work. Remember, you only “earn” trust for truth that you voluntarily contribute to the relationship.
How do you lie by “late truth” and what are the most recent or significant examples?
9. Changing Definitions
Altering the definition of words is one of the most prevalent tactics of manipulation. How many times has someone said, “I thought you were my friend?” as a way to assuage a situation where their sin was being put on the spot? Here “friend” is being defined as “someone who wouldn’t give me a hard time about offending them or living in a self-destructive manner?” Forgiveness and trust are other frequently mis-defined words during manipulative-addictive conversations.
Be very cautious when you are hinging your defense or a request on an emotionally-loaded word like friend, forgiveness, or trust. There is a strong probability you are using these words, intentionally or not, in a manipulative manner.
How do you lie by “changing definitions” and what are the most recent or significant examples?
This is deception by magnification. Unlike other forms of lying which seek to shrink or hide the truth, exaggeration makes truth larger than it really is. Truth moves from being an enemy to being a weapon; when it should always be a friend (even when it hurts; Proverbs 27:6). Example – use of words like: always, never, only, etc…
Exaggeration places the emphasis on your perspective or experience more than truth. Exaggeration is an attempt to force people to live in your world rather than join them in the real world. Addiction creates a proclivity for all-or-nothing thinking. Living between minimizing and exaggerating is both the essence of honesty and the remedy for one of addiction’s primary impacts on your thinking processes.
How do you lie by “exaggeration” and what are the most recent or significant examples?
“In addiction, as in all of life, we overcomplicate things in order to avoid facing the truth (p. 179).” Gerald May in Addiction & Grace