Why Do Alcoholics Lie?
By The Recovery Village
Editor Jonathan Strum | Medical Reviewer Jenni Jacobsen, LSW
Last Updated: June 6, 2023
Editorial Policy | Research Policy
An alcohol use disorder5 — the clinical term for alcoholism or alcohol addiction — is a legitimate medical condition that limits a person’s ability to control their alcohol use, even when it leads to negative consequences. Often, addiction causes people to begin lying to others about their substance use. They may lie so they can continue using alcohol or avoid judgment, but this behavior can quickly damage relationships with friends, family members and loved ones.
If someone you love is lying about their alcohol use, it can be helpful to understand the reasons behind their actions. It’s also good to be aware of the common lies that alcoholics may use, as the knowledge can help you protect both yourself and your addicted loved one.
Lying To Hide Their Alcohol Use
One of the biggest reasons why alcoholics lie is to hide their alcohol use. Continuing to use alcohol despite difficulties in relationships is a key symptom5 of an alcohol addiction. This means that an alcoholic 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.
Related: Living with an Alcoholic
Lying To Get Money or More Alcohol
Keep in mind that when a person truly 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 alcoholism, they will do whatever they can to drink, including lying to people to obtain money for alcohol.
Get your loved one the care they need.
Lying To Avoid Others’ Reactions
Another reason alcoholics lie is to avoid negative reactions from others. For instance, if parents, siblings or significant others have expressed concern over alcohol use, the alcoholic may want to avoid further upsetting or worrying these people. The person may start lying in order 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. Alcoholics may also be ashamed2 of their alcohol abuse, which can lead them to lie about how much they have been drinking.
Lying To Avoid Arguments
Research3 suggests that alcohol abuse is distressing for the family of the alcoholic, and this distress could potentially lead to arguments. For example, a wife who finds her husband drinking may argue with him about the effect he is having on the family. Over time, this can be quite upsetting for the alcoholic, so they may begin lying to avoid conflict.
Lying To Avoid Their Problems
Alcohol abuse is highly correlated with co-occurring mental health conditions, such as depression4. In many cases, an alcoholic may be abusing alcohol in order 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.
Related Topic: Why Do Alcoholics Blame Others?
Lying To Avoid the Consequences
To avoid consequences, alcoholics may feel the need to lie about the extent of their drinking or lie about attending treatment. For instance, someone who is drinking heavily may lie to an employer to avoid being fired. In another example, an alcoholic whose spouse has threatened to file for divorce may lie about going to treatment in order to avoid losing their marriage.
Lying To Hide a Relapse
A relapse can feel like failure1 for a person who has undergone treatment, and the alcoholic may be ashamed to admit that they have relapsed. Relapse leads them to feel badly about themselves, and it can also make them worry about negative judgment from others. Ultimately, this can cause a person to lie in order to hide the relapse.
Common Lies Told by Alcoholics
There are certain lies alcoholics may tell others, or even themselves, when it comes to alcohol use. These 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. Alcoholism can have devastating effects on family members of the alcoholic, 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, alcoholism can harm the entire family3 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 true5, 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 disorder5. 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 alcoholic to feel as if they will never get better. However, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism5 reports that effective treatment can help people stay sober, no matter how severe their alcohol addiction may be.
Lie #5: If I go to treatment, everyone will judge me. Stigma7 is unfortunately a common concern among people with addiction, and an alcoholic may refuse to seek treatment because they fear negative judgment. Experts are fighting against the stigma that surrounds addiction, and the medical community does accept addiction as a legitimate brain disease6 that warrants treatment.
More Lies People Believe About Alcohol Rehab
If you or someone you love is seeking alcohol addiction treatment in the South Jersey or Greater Philadelphia area, The Recovery Village Cherry Hill at Cooper can help. Our addiction rehab center offers a wide range of services, including medical detox, residential treatment and outpatient care. Contact us to learn more about programs that can work well for your situation, and get started with your recovery journey today.
Related Topic: Types of Alcoholics
Our Recovery Advocates are ready to answer your questions about addiction treatment and help you start your recovery.
- Australian Government Department of Health. “Defining Relapse.” 2006. Accessed December 19, 2021.
- Flanagan, Owen. “The Shame of Addiction.” Frontiers in Psychiatry, October 8, 2013. Accessed December 19, 2021.
- McCrady, Barbara S.; Flanagan, Julianne C. “The Role of the Family in Alcohol Use[…] Recovery for Adults.” Alcohol Research, 2021. Accessed December 19, 2021.
- McHugh, R. Kathryn; Weiss, Roger D. “Alcohol Use Disorder and Depressive Disorders.” Alcohol Research, 2019. Accessed December 19, 2021.
- National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. “Understanding Alcohol Use Disorder.” April 2021. Accessed December 19, 2021.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. “The Science of Drug Use and Addiction: The Basics.” July 2, 2018. Accessed December 19, 2021.
- Volkow, Nora. “Addressing the Stigma that Surrounds Addiction.” National Institute on Drug Abuse, April 22, 2020. Accessed December 19, 2021.