Confronting Lying in Recovery | Counseling | Therapy

Confronting Lying in Recovery

Jennifer , MS, LPC, PHD — Clinical director

In the thick of your compulsions, you likely engaged in lying to everyone on a regular basis. You likely engaged in lying so frequently that lying is now a regular habit that is impacting your recovery. Habits can be difficult to break, but by allowing lying to continue in your recovery, you are putting your recovery at risk. This tip will cover how to address lying to keep it from impacting your recovery.

How many times do you think that you lied during the time that your compulsions were unregulated? If you are like most individuals with a compulsion, it was numerous times. Everyone has lied and some people lie often even without having an issue, so it is not an uncommon human behavior. However, lying is a destructive behavior for relationships and everyday life. Lying destroys the trust that is needed amongst friends and family. When you have lied regularly, it becomes an automatic behavior and can be hard to let go in recovery as a result. Now is the time to work on breaking this habit. Truth telling, no matter how ugly or uncomfortable the truth is, will ultimately allow trust to develop.

  • Write down all the times that you lied. Try to write down as many lies as you can remember. Then write down the consequences that occurred. This process will help you to see how ingrained the habit is for you. You may discover that you recall telling lies that appeared to have no consequences because they were never caught. Getting caught in those lies would have been awful and having them believed was a positive at the time since you were able to continue your compulsive behavior(s). So, these lies actually did have consequences because they kept you from being in recovery sooner. It is important to takes some time with this step and to also list the lies that were never caught. Letting go of your lying behavior creates integrity. Taking ownership and responsibility for your lies is a part of the recovery process.
  • Keep a record of every time that you lied or felt the urge to lie in 1-2 weeks. Write down the situation and what occurred. Ask yourself these questions: did you lie without realizing it or did you lie to cover something up? If you didn’t realize it, when did you? If you were trying to cover something up, what was it and what were you concerned would happen if you told the truth? Imagine if you were to tell the truth, what feelings or self-judgements would you experience? It may be necessary to keep track longer than 1-2 weeks.
  • Now that you have gained awareness, work on catching yourself and telling the truth. If you lie, challenge yourself to go back to the person, tell them you made a mistake by lying and then tell them the truth. For example, you could say something like: “I am working on telling the truth as part of my recovery and I realized I just lied to you. I’m sorry I lied and want to be truthful.” Or “I just lied to you because I am afraid to tell you the truth. I know it may hurt but I want to be truthful”. You will need to practice this step until being more truthful is automatic which may take some time. It is best to work on this step with close friends and family. Until you have broken your lying habit, it may be difficult to understand when not telling the truth is appropriate. For example, it may be a bad idea to tell your young child that you were away for 60 days because you have compulsive drinking behaviors, or that you can’t stand their mother. Or telling a customer that they look bad or are rude. Sometimes telling the absolute truth can cause more harm than good. However, since you engaged in some much lying through your untreated compulsions, your judgement for the situations where the truth is important and necessary is off.

Example: In recovery, Jack started paying attention to how much he lies and has noticed that he lies regularly to his spouse. He notices that he lies for all sorts of reasons: to hide that he made a mistake, to hide a feeling he has, to keep the peace, or to just avoid having a discussion at all. Jack will need to work on recognizing the urge to lie and intervene by telling the truth. In addition, he may need to address some fears that he has about telling the truth in certain situations with a therapist, sponsor, or both.

Breaking the habit of lying can be difficult especially if you have a long history of engaging in it during compulsive behavior. If you need help, schedule an appointment with one of our therapists at 215-922-5683 x 100. We have offices in Philadelphia, PA, Mechanicsville VA, Ocean City NJ, Santa Fe NM

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