We often discuss the damaging stigmatization of addiction and alcoholism. Stereotypes precede addiction which create judgment, assumption, attachment, and labeling. Addiction is commonly perceived as an issue of morality or criminality. Addicts are perceived as criminals, liars, cheaters, thieves, troublemakers, and more. Unable to speak the truth, incapable of taking accountability or responsibility for their actions, and always lying through their teeth in order to protect themselves or get their next fix. Sadly, lying and the inhibition of the truth have become associated with addiction.
New research on the psychology of lying gives insight as to why lying becomes such an integrated part of addiction. “With each falsehood told,” the article explains, “the negative emotions associated with lying become a little bit fainter.” The brain, the explanation continues, becomes “increasingly desensitized to lying.”
Using MRI scans, researchers examined the way the brain operated when a person was telling a lie. Researchers found that with each lie, activity in the amygdala decreased. The amygdala is a region of the brain that has a lot to do with emotion and emotional regulation. “Interestingly,” the article points out, “the amount by which it decreased turned out to be a reliable predictor of the sizeof the subject’s next lie.”
Web of Deceit
Addicts often find themselves tangled in webs of lies. Especially for those who suffer from chronic relapse, lies seem to get bigger and more complex as hours go by. Trying to hide the fact that they’ve relapsed, the lies get piled on with more intricacy. With each lie comes less emotional attachment and less consideration from the brain. As if it were part of the addiction itself, lying continues to happen with a near compulsivity. One might try to ask an addict, “why do you keep lying?” and the addict will likely turn up short for an answer. According to the research, eventually the mind considers lying to be commonplace. Lying is no longer a problem or even a matter of dishonesty.
Problematically, this theory on lying can also apply to the self. We tell ourselves a lot of lies about our addictions as well as recovery. We can lie ourselves into staying in active addiction and we can lie ourselves out of recovery to return to it.
Refuge Recovery is a buddhist-based treatment center offering spiritual path to recovery. Using current evidence based therapeutic methods with a foundation built upon buddhist ethics and principle, our program seeks to enlighten and heal. For more information on our levels of care and programs of treatment for addiction, alcoholism, and all forms of suffering, call 323-207-0276.