Why Do Alcoholics Lie? The Relationship Behind Alcohol and Lying

Last Updated: April 18, 2024

Editorial Policy | Research Policy

Article at a Glance

  • Often, lying accompanies addiction, whether to alcohol or another substance.
  • Those struggling with alcohol misuse will often lie to conceal and enable their alcohol addiction.
  • An alcoholic’s lies hurt loved ones. If you have been affected, you might consider supporting your friend or family member by helping them see the consequences of their lies to themselves and others.
  • Finding professional treatment for alcohol use disorder can help someone who has made a habit of lying. With treatment, they’ll no longer have to cover up their problem.

Alcoholics Lie To Hide Their Alcohol Use

One of the biggest reasons alcoholics lie is to hide their alcohol use. Continuing to use alcohol despite difficulties in relationships is a key symptom of an alcohol addiction. This means a person with an alcohol addiction will continue to drink, even when loved ones ask them to stop drinking or get help. If someone is not yet ready to give up drinking, they are likely to tell lies to cover up the fact that they’ve consumed alcohol. This reduces the likelihood that someone will confront them about their alcohol abuse.

Alcoholics Lie To Get Money or More Alcohol

Keep in mind that when a person has alcoholism, they will lose the ability to control their drinking. This means they’ll tend to spend a great deal of time drinking, and they will often end up drinking more than intended. Alcohol abuse can also lead to job loss and financial difficulties, which can make it impossible for a person to obtain alcohol. When a person develops an alcohol use disorder, they will do whatever they can to drink, including lying to people to obtain money for alcohol.

Alcoholics Lie To Avoid Others’ Reactions

Another reason people with alcohol addictions lie is to avoid negative reactions from others. For instance, if parents, siblings or significant others have expressed concern over alcohol use, the person with the addiction may want to avoid further upsetting or worrying these people. The person may start lying to protect others. They may say they haven’t been drinking, or they may minimize the extent of their alcohol abuse to make others feel less concerned. A person addicted to alcohol may also be ashamed of their alcohol abuse, which can lead them to lie about how much they have been drinking.

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Alcoholics Lie To Avoid Arguments

Research suggests that alcohol abuse is distressing for the family of the addicted person, which could potentially lead to arguments. For example, a wife who finds her husband drinking may argue with him about his effect on the family. Over time, this can be quite upsetting for the person with the alcohol addiction, so they may begin lying to avoid conflict.

Alcoholics Lie To Avoid Their Problems

Alcohol abuse is highly correlated with co-occurring mental health conditions, such as depression. In many cases, a person with an alcohol addiction may abuse alcohol to cope with symptoms of depression or another mental or emotional concern. If a person is not yet ready to address their emotional pain, they may lie about their drinking so they do not have to address the underlying problem.

Alcoholics Lie To Avoid Consequences

To avoid consequences, a person with an alcohol use disorder may lie about the extent of their drinking or lie about attending treatment. For instance, someone who is heavily drinking may lie to an employer to avoid being fired. In another example, a person whose spouse has threatened to file for divorce may lie about going to treatment to avoid losing their marriage.

Alcoholics Lie To Hide a Relapse

relapse can feel like a failure for someone who has undergone treatment. The person may be ashamed to admit that they have relapsed. Relapse makes them feel bad about themselves and can also make them worry about negative judgment from others. Ultimately, this can cause a person to lie to hide the relapse.

Common Lies Alcoholics Believe

There are certain lies people with alcohol addictions may tell others, or even themselves when it comes to alcohol use. These can include:

Lie #1: I am only hurting myself. People who are in denial of their alcohol addiction or not ready to seek treatment may justify their continued drinking by claiming they are only hurting themselves. In reality, this is anything but the truth. Alcohol misuse can have devastating effects on family members of the addicted person, who may suffer from poor physical and mental health due to the stress and anxiety that comes from their loved one’s alcohol abuse. In addition, alcohol abuse can harm the entire family by leading to relationship conflict, neglect of parenting duties and financial difficulties.

Lie #2: I am in control of my drinking. Another lie caused by denial is the tendency for people with alcohol addiction to claim they are in control of their drinking. This is certainly not true, as alcohol addiction leads to changes in the brain and a loss of control over drinking.

Lie #3: I tried to quit drinking before, and it didn’t work, so it won’t work now. This is a common lie that people with alcohol addiction tell themselves and others. However, the truth is that failed attempts to give up drinking are actually a symptom of an alcohol use disorder. Someone who has failed to stop drinking needs to seek professional treatment to help them overcome the grip that alcohol has on their life.

Lie #4: I’ve been drinking for too long. I am too far gone. Chronic alcohol abuse can lead to a sense of hopelessness and cause an addicted person  to feel as if they will never get better. However, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reports that effective treatment can help people stay sober, no matter how severe their alcohol addiction may be.

Lie #5: Everyone will judge me if I go to treatment. Stigma is, unfortunately, a common concern among people with addiction, and a person with an alcohol use disorder  may refuse to seek treatment because they fear negative judgment. Experts are fighting against the stigma that surrounds addiction, and the medical community accepts addiction as a legitimate brain disease that warrants treatment.

Breaking the Cycle of Deception

If you struggle with alcohol and have found yourself lying to loved ones — and even to yourself — then perhaps it’s time to consider trying to break the vicious cycle. Lies inhibit recovery, and deception steals trust from even the deepest and most compassionate relationships. 

Could it be that it’s time to consider professional help before the cycle of deception spirals down further?

Honesty in Recovery

Lying may feel like a way to protect yourself, but the hard truth is that obscuring, stretching and withholding the truth can trap you in your addiction. Honesty is imperative for recovery. To make any progress toward sobriety, you need to be honest with yourself and those around you. 

The next time you are caught in a lie, why not try fessing up? Maybe the consequences won’t be as dire as you imagined. Maybe those with whom you are honest will meet you with more empathy than you realize. 

Whatever consequences result from your telling the truth, lying about your alcohol misuse will always bring more ill than good — maybe not today or tomorrow, but probably sooner than you think. If you want to recover from your struggle with alcohol, it’s time to start telling the truth. You can even try to start by telling yourself the truth and accepting the reality of your problem.

Rebuilding Trust in Relationships

Supportive relationships promote recovery and are one of the most important components of getting and staying sober. When dishonest, you destroy trust and drive a wedge between yourself and your loved ones. The only way to rebuild trust is to ground the relationship in truth.

If shame is causing you to lie to loved ones for fear of being “found out,” remember that you’re not alone. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, an estimated 29.5 million people have alcohol use disorder. You’re not abnormal, and you certainly aren’t worthless. Take a step forward for yourself and tell the truth today. 

Seeking Professional Help

There is no magic cure for lying to cover up alcohol use. At some point, you have to be willing to tell the truth. If you seek help but only continue to minimize your struggle with alcohol, you’ll just be standing in the way of your own progress.

As things stand right now, honesty may seem difficult and distant. You may feel entangled and trapped in deception. Maybe friends and family have felt burned by the lies and aren’t around like they were before. If you feel stuck, maybe it’s a sign to seek help today.

More Lies People Believe About Alcohol Rehab

If you or someone you love is seeking alcohol addiction treatment near South Jersey or Greater Philadelphia, The Recovery Village Cherry Hill at Cooper can help. Our addiction rehab center offers many services, including medical detoxresidential treatment and outpatient careContact us to learn more about programs that can work well for your situation, and get started with your recovery journey today.


    1. National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Drugs, Brains, and Behavior: The Science of Addiction Treatment and Recovery.” September 25, 2023. Accessed November 2, 2023. 
    2. Flanagan, Owen. “The Shame of Addiction.” Frontiers in Psychiatry, October 8, 2013. Accessed November 2, 2023. 
    3. McCrady, Barbara S.; Flanagan, Julianne C. “The Role of the Family in Alcohol Use[…] Recovery for Adults.” Alcohol Research, 2021. Accessed November 2, 2023. 
    4. McHugh, R. Kathryn; Weiss, Roger D. “Alcohol Use Disorder and Depressive Disorders.” Alcohol Research, 2019. Accessed November 2, 2023. 
    5. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. “Understanding Alcohol Use Disorder.” April 2021. Accessed November 2, 2023. 
    6. National Institute on Drug Abuse. “The Science of Drug Use and Addiction: The Basics.” July 2, 2018. Accessed November 2, 2023.
    7. Volkow, Nora. “Addressing the Stigma that Surrounds Addiction.” National Institute on Drug Abuse, April 22, 2020. Accessed November 2, 2023.

Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.

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