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Why Do Alcoholics Lie? 8 Most Common Reasons

Last Updated: August 28, 2023

Editorial Policy | Research Policy

People may lie about their alcohol addiction to keep their drinking a secret or to avoid consequences. However, this often only creates harm to those they’ve lied to.

Understanding why people who struggle with alcoholism lie can be a crucial step in helping them on their journey to recovery. To do so, we must first understand the most common reasons individuals suffering from alcoholism may resort to dishonesty. This can provide valuable insights for loved ones to better confront these behaviors. 

Article at a Glance

  • Alcoholics often lie about their drinking behaviors to maintain an illusion of control over their addiction.
  • They may lie to avoid confrontation, fearing negative reactions from their loved ones.
  • Lying can serve to protect their addiction, ensuring continued access to alcohol.
  • Shame and societal stigma associated with alcoholism can lead individuals to lie about their addiction.
  • Lying can also be a means to escape the consequences of their actions, obtain money for alcohol, shift blame or hide a relapse.

1. Lying About Drinking Behaviors

People struggling with alcoholism often lie about their drinking behaviors to maintain a semblance of control. They may construct a reality where their excessive drinking is not causing issues, or they may create rules for themselves to prove they can control their use. This could include vowing not to drink in the daytime or to drink only certain types of alcohol. However, these rules cannot keep alcohol use disorder (AUD), which is progressive by nature, under control.

2. Lying To Avoid Confrontation

Avoiding confrontation is another reason why people struggling with alcoholism lie. They may fear that their loved ones will react with disappointment, anger or blame if they learn the truth about their drinking behaviors. Lying might seem like the best method for delaying or escaping conflict. However, this avoidance can lead to further misunderstandings and damage in relationships.

3. Lying To Protect Their Addiction

Drinking can become the center of a person’s life as alcoholism progresses. Once the addiction has overtaken a person’s reason for living, they will lie to keep drinking. This might mean lying about how they’re spending money, their whereabouts or who they’re associating with. The lies serve to protect their addiction and maintain access to alcohol.

4. Lying Because of Shame and Stigma

Those with an AUD may be ashamed to reveal that they drink heavily. The negative connotations and stigma associated with mental illness, alcohol misuse and addiction can create an unsafe environment for individuals to be honest about their struggles. Therefore, people dealing with addiction may try to hide their disease to avoid judgment and mask their shame.

5. Lying To Escape the Consequences

People struggling with alcoholism often lie to escape the consequences of their actions. They may fear that admitting to their addiction will lead to negative evaluations at work, serious conversations with their doctor or interpersonal problems. However, lying doesn’t prevent a person from experiencing the consequences of heavy drinking; it only delays them.

6. Lying To Get Money

Alcohol is expensive, and people who have developed a tolerance to or physical dependence on alcohol may lie to obtain the money to buy it. They may borrow money under false pretenses or use money intended for other purposes on alcohol. This can result in serious financial problems and deepen the cycle of addiction.

7. Lying To Shift Blame

Sometimes, a person with an addiction might claim that they only drink in certain situations or to deal with specific problems. They may describe themselves as a “social drinker” influenced by their partner or friends. However, honesty and accountability are an integral part of recovery. During treatment, patients let go of excuses and blame, moving forward to make recovery-focused choices.

8. Lying To Hide a Relapse

Relapse is a common feature of substance use disorders. If someone with an AUD has relapsed, they might feel embarrassed, ashamed or discouraged. They may worry that they’ll lose the respect of their recovery community or that their loved ones will be disappointed in them. However, lying creates an atmosphere of secrecy and shame, which can increase the risk of future relapses.

What To Do if Someone Lies About Their Alcohol Use

If you suspect a loved one is lying about their alcohol use, it’s important to approach the situation with understanding and compassion. Remember, underlying issues often contribute to addiction and must be exposed, acknowledged and treated. Don’t let the lies of your alcoholic loved one keep you from seeking help. Approach them and offer them the gift of substance use treatment and recovery.

Sources

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. “Alcohol Use Disorder: From Risk to Diagnosis to Recovery.” April 3, 2023. Accessed July 12, 2023.

Melemis, Steven M. “Relapse Prevention and the Five Rules of Recovery.” The Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine, September 3, 2015. Accessed July 12, 2023.