Substance abuse, particularly the use of opioids, has become an epidemic in the United States. For most addicts, self-deception is the biggest obstacle to wellness. Because you can’t change something you can’t admit. This guest blog, written by Constance Ray (one of the creators of Recovery Well), offers us two stories that exemplify the interconnections between self-deception and addiction. Honest, brutal, but also inspiring, these personal accounts demonstrate how the journey of overcoming addiction requires admitting the truth to yourself.
As addicts, we often try to convince ourselves that we don’t have a problem. I’m not addicted. I don’t use that much. I’m not really hurting anyone, to name a few of the most common deceptive lies. For those struggling with addiction, self-deception is a constant battle. Almost always, it fluctuates between denial of the addiction and recognition of the truth that something needs to change. In fact, deception is a key component of addition. Like these two recovering addicts demonstrate in their stories below, it isn’t until you are truly honest with yourself that you can make a positive change.
Accomplished athlete, college graduate—Brandon was living a great life, but he got bored and tried Oxycotin recreationally. What started out as one or two pills here and there quickly escalated into many. “I was using on a regular basis. I would lie to myself saying, “You’re not an addict—you went to work, you got everything done and you just happen to use pills for fun,” Brandon said. “I didn’t want to hear that addict word. But my excuses were just that—excuses. I was lying to myself.”
Brandon was becoming a different person. When he looked at himself in the mirror, he didn’t recognize the person in the reflection. He made up lies to justify his behavior, but all the while his bank account was dwindling to fund his addiction, alerting his parents to a serious problem. “I’m 25 years old. If I didn’t want to go to rehab, they couldn’t force me. But I thought about it and asked myself, ‘How long am I going to do this?’ I was exhausted all the time; it was all I could do to get through an eight-hour work day. I was sick and tired of being sick and tired,” Brandon said.
Once he became honest with himself, he was finally ready to go to rehab. If you ask Brandon, he will tell you that the secret to success in recovery is to truly be honest with yourself, no matter how much it hurts or how hard it is to admit.
“Deep down in your heart, you have to want it. They can give you all the tools available, but you really have to want it,” Brandon said. “So ask yourself: ‘Are you done? Are you really done?'”
Unlike Brandon, Dave’s life was a little more tumultuous due to his parents’ constant arguing, leaving him feeling isolated and alone. In middle school, a friend introduced him to marijuana, and he felt like he had finally found the answers to his emotional problems when he was high. Throughout college, Dave continued to numb the pain with drugs, but when he flunked out, his parents tried to intervene. Although clearly at a low point, he hadn’t yet come to terms with the truth. “I hadn’t conceded to myself that I a problem with drugs or alcohol, but I was ready to get some emotional help. So I went to treatment,” Dave said.
After treatment, he finished college and got a job in the pharmaceutical business. However, Dave then started abusing prescription meds and used his job to fuel his addiction. “Because of my job, I knew exactly what to say to doctors to get prescriptions for opiates, benzos, and really anything I wanted. I knew the language,” he said.
Over the next few years, Dave went to recovery meetings on and off and simply switched jobs when he thought he was close to being ‘found out.’ There came a point when he couldn’t go a day without using, and he came to a crossroads. “I had to get completely honest with myself and admit things I wasn’t proud of doing to the people around me. I still make mistakes, but now I also make amends,” he said.
According to him, recovery is the solution you’re looking for—you just have to put aside your fear and self-doubt. “There’s hope in recovery. You know, when you’re using, there’s such a sense of hopelessness and despair. But recovery is possible,” Dave said. “Our disease is what it is, but if you surrender and ask for help, help is out there. There’s another way.”
The Naked Truth is This: All of us lie to ourselves. It is part of human nature. Yet, for those battling addiction, staying stuck in our self-deception can mean the difference between getting help and a lifetime of suffering. Although it will be hard, take a moment and really be honest with yourself. You’ll discover that the desire to get help is there; you just have to admit the truth to yourself first.
Copyright Cortney S. Warren, Ph.D.