Why Do Alcoholics Lie?

Why Do Alcoholics Lie?

It's frustrating, you can smell the booze, see the effect but when you mention drinking he denies it

You come home to find your partner unsteady on her feet. The smell of alcohol is overpowering. Every time she opens her mouth another wave of boozy smell washes over you and her eyes are glazed. However when you say “You have been drinking!” quick as a flash back comes the reply “No I haven’t”.

It is frustrating, its infuriating, its insulting, its stupid. No wonder there is a saying in AA, how do you know an alcoholic is lying - his lips are moving. So why do they lie so often, so badly, at all?

You know that he stopped at the pub on the way home - he denied it.
You can smell the booze and it is strong - she says she has had one drink.
(You probably have many other examples of your own that you could add here.)

The unfortunate outcome of the continual lies may be that you stop believing everything that he says. Your trust may start to die, in fact it may even become contempt. However, let’s look a bit more at the kind of lies and why she lies.

If you look at the type of lies that drinkers tell, you find that they are all (or nearly all) associated with alcohol. Did they drink and how much. Also they are mostly in response to a question, or an accusation, about their drinking. If you ask them about other, non-booze related things, most drinkers don’t lie.

So, for drinkers, lying seems to be quite selective. That is drinkers tend to lie to protect their drinking and escape the possibility of having to admit that alcohol is a problem.

Some people suggest that lying is part of a disease of alcoholism. However the notion that the lies could be so specific is fairly implausible. It would be a fairly strange disease that would make a person lie only when he talks about one subject and be truthful when talking about anything else. Instead it would seem to be functional, what that means is that lying is used, consciously or unconsciously to protect the drinking.

Remember that the drinker gets some benefit from drinking. Mostly the benefits are found in how it makes the drinker feel. Research on what drinkers expected when they drank alcohol have found that they expected to be more sociable, that it would be easier to talk to people, they would be sexier, more powerful, more relaxed, be able to say what they want, generally feel better and the world would be a better and less boring place. That is only part of the list but, if these are their expectations, it is easy to see why people would want to drink.

Alcohol is a powerful drug. It can change how we feel about ourselves and the world. The same research found that the more positive things that people expected to get from alcohol then the more they tended to drink. More importantly research found that the more people valued these positive things, the more likely they were to drink heavily. In other words, if she believes that drinking alcohol can help her talk to people and be more popular at a party then it is easy to see why she might drink to excess. Or if a young man believed that alcohol made him sexier and more attractive to females then he might drink more to help him pull.

An important fact found by the research was that the expectation does not need to be true, as long as he believes it is true he will still drink more heavily. Indeed most of the beliefs we have about alcohol are untrue. Alcohol is not actually capable of producing these effects. For example do you think that alcohol makes you sexier, or a better driver?

The danger is to treat the drinker as a pathological liar in all areas of life and distrust anything he says. In actual fact he may be extremely honest, and, ironically, may even pride himself on that honesty. However when it comes to alcohol, the truth may be in short supply. Why should that be?

As we suggested above, the lies are less about misleading and more about avoiding having to answer, or face, tough questions. Alcohol is a valuable ally and it needs to be defended. The lies tend to be the kinds that are aimed at closing down a conversation rather than opening one up. The subtext of the lie is "Go away and stop asking me difficult questions, I don't want to answer these questions"

He may not even realise that he is doing it sometimes, although other times clearly he does. You may want him to admit that he has been lying, but emotionally it may cost you more than you gain. If the drinker is lying and has been drinking, then to pursue the "truth" is pointless. They will become more entrenched and stubborn and you could end up in an argument. Besides, if you can smell it, see him stagger, slur her speech or his eyes are glazed, you probably know all that you need to know already. Their words may lie but all these other signs are telling you the truth.

If you live with an alcoholic and have been affected by these issues then come and visit us.  We understand that you are looking for ways to live with and love your alcoholic.  So for more information visit Bottled Up.

This article was originally published at Bottled Up Lou Lewis and John McMahon. Reprinted with permission from the author.