The lies, I can’t stand the lies’. Families and loved ones always ask me, ‘Why do they lie so much?’
I told lies and committed criminal and other offences in my active addiction that I would never dream of repeating clean. I was prepared to go to diabolical extremes to get what I needed. After ten years of addiction, and with another five in front of me, I had run out of stories. I had no more excuses. But I still needed more money. So I phoned my mother one day and asked to see her.
We met for a coffee, which she paid for of course, and I proceeded to tell her the dramatic news – I was gay and it was my closeted sexuality that had caused all my problems. But it was all OK now. I’d finally met someone and I was really happy and in love. I was finally ready to live the life I was meant to live. I spun a very elaborate story about how my new male partner was going overseas and could I please have $5000 so I could join him and start this thing right?
All lies of course. But in my ever-creative and manipulative fashion, I knew exactly which buttons to push and how to push them to make my mother feel sorry for me.
There are many similar examples of how far ice addicts will go to get what they want. Not much will get in our way. The nature of addiction is such that ice becomes the addict’s primary focus and motivator. An ice addict will let nothing get in the way of their drugs. The drive to use is so completely urgent and utterly over-powering to us that the fact that we may have to lie, cheat or steal to fulfil it is of no consideration; this behaviour seems not only necessary to us but worth it. It is as if our survival depended on it.
Of course, our survival doesn’t really depend on it; our body and mind are just telling us a very convincing lie. The disease distorts our perspective and overrides any part of us that is thoughtful, honest and generous. This type of dishonesty is what I refer to as survival lying.
There are other events, however, that are usually interpreted by loved ones as being dishonest or manipulative, which are actually not intentional lies. It is important to be aware of a second type of lying, delusional lying, and distinguish it from survival lying. To the outside eye and ear both types may appear to be consciously and wilfully dishonest but this second type is not: “I’ve really stopped this time, I’m really going to change my life, I’m done, I’m finished, I’m never going to use again, I’ve learnt my lesson”. These kind of statements (unless they are followed by requests for money) are usually delusional lying, which is born out of the addict’s delusion that they have control of their addiction and have the ability to stop and recover on their own. These lies are delivered with the best of intentions. But when it comes to the crunch the addict is simply not capable of following through because they suffer from an illness, which is controlling them and their behaviour. And until it is treated, will always lead to relapse.
My first son was born when his mother and I were both very sick. Through no fault of his own he was born with a physical dependency to heroin. After the first few elated hours of celebrating the birth of our child, he became distressed and wouldn’t stop crying. After investigation by the nursing staff, and much confusion and surprise from all parties, they informed us that our son was a category 5 detox. This meant he was suffering from severe withdrawals and would need to be taken to ICU immediately to begin being dispensed with morphine. We were told he would be hospitalised for between 3-4 weeks while he was slowly weened off his opiate dependence. I was shocked and horrified. As the reality of the situation dawned on me and I faced the realisation of the pain that had been inflicted on this innocent baby, I began to make him many sincere promises. As his howling screams rang in my ears I promised him time and time again that drugs would play no further part in our family and he would never be subjected to such carelessness again. As we left the hospital 3 weeks later with our brand new baby boy there was nothing that could have convinced me that I would ever use drugs again. How could anyone ever consider using drugs again after going through such a life changing experience?
A week later we had a family gathering at our house to celebrate my son’s arrival. It was a joyous event, considering what we’d been through, and was filled with love. However, by 11 o’clock I had already been back to the bottle shop three times for more cognac and was not satisfied at that. The thought of ice hadn’t even crossed my mind for a month but over the last couple of hours the idea of using again had been gnawing away at me. It got louder and louder and as I became more preoccupied and focussed on the idea of using my attention was withdrawing from the people around me and the spirit of the occasion. Using ice seemed like a fine idea – after all, I hadn’t used in over a month and things were different now.
In Asian cultures guests give envelopes of money as gifts at celebrations. Perfect! I ripped open the envelopes and cornered one of my wife’s cousins in the hallway. I demanded he get me some ice and when he refused I choked him. He finally succumbed to my persuasive charms and an hour later I was completely stoned.
Now was I lying to my son and the people around me when I made those promises only a few weeks before? No, I wasn’t lying. I was completely sincere. Because at the time I believed that I had the capacity to stop. Of course, as a chronic drug addict who had been practising for some 15 years, I might as well have been promising him I was going to flap my wings and fly to the moon.
When an addict like me is making these new promises, we mean them – they are the ‘Newfound Commitments’ from the Cycle of Addiction. But, when it comes down to fulfilling those promises, despite great ambitions and a huge desire to change, we do not have the capacity. We are stuck in that doomed cycle. It’s not until we access treatment and seek the right kind of help that our ambition to get better and our ability to follow through can be aligned. Until then we will continue to make well-meaning promises to ourselves and to others that we simply can’t keep.
This is very confusing for the family because one week they may sense the addict’s sincerity in wanting to change and then feel angry and betrayed when the following week the addict is back to their old tricks. The family lose all trust and find it is impossible to tell whether the addict has genuinely had enough or if they are just trying to roll you for another $5000 so they can use. This is why the only effective policy is to seek specialist help and stop providing the addict with any physical or financial support, with the exception of treatment.