You probably know that lying is very common among those who abuse drugs and alcohol. More likely than not you’ve experienced this first-hand in your loved one. But since it doesn’t get any easier to bear the longer the practice continues, it may be helpful to learn how to spot and deal with lies from your loved one about drug abuse.
Much of our ability to detect when someone is lying comes from studying that person’s body language — how they react and behave when talking to us. In essence, their body language changes when they begin to lie. Lillian Glass, PhD, a behavioral analyst and body language expert who has worked with the FBI on deciphering layers of deception, wrote an insightful book about the topic of lying: The Body Language of Liars. In it, she identifies some of the telltale signs someone is lying — many of which apply when you’re interacting with a loved one with a drug abuse problem (or who is in recovery from addiction).
Signs Your Loved One Is Lying
Dr. Glass said that liars can be anyone and we all can be fooled. It takes practice and a keen eye to detect a lie from the truth, but it can be done. Here are 10 signs to look for that may indicate your loved one (or anyone) is lying to you:
- Quick head changes: When people are telling the truth, they tend to maintain their head in the same position for a period of time. On the other hand, when they are lying, their tendency is to make abrupt head changes, like jerking their head back, cocking or tilting to one side, or bowing it down. This behavior happens just before the person answers a question you ask.
- Breathing changes: A reflex action occurs when someone is lying — they start to breathe heavily. The person’s shoulders rise and their voice may get shallow. That’s because their heart rate and blood flow change as a result of being tense and nervous.
- Repetition: There’s no need to keep repeating something he or she said unless your loved one is stalling for time, trying to convince themselves as well as you of the lies he or she is telling.
- Remaining motionless: Standing stock-still or devoid of movement is something a statue exhibits, not someone who’s telling the truth. Rigid and catatonic-type states can be a huge warning sign that something is off.
- Shuffling feet: Here the person is literally trying to put some distance between the two of you, attempting to get away from your prying and questioning, especially since what you’re hearing is lies.
- Excessive pointing: At the point where your loved one starts to get hostile or defensive, this is where excessive pointing comes in. The person is trying to turn the tables on you, pointing to get you off the topic, because you’ve discovered the lies and he or she is angry about it.
- Speech becomes difficult: The lies may be literally catching in your loved one’s throat when he or she finds it difficult to speak. That’s because of a decrease in saliva during times of stress that dries out the mouth’s mucous membrane.
- Touching the mouth: Putting hands over their lips is another trait that liars often display. They literally are trying to close off communication with you, not wanting to deal with your questions or comments.
- Covering body part: A person who is lying may also cover other parts of their body, such as the throat, chest, neck, head or abdomen. This happens when what you say or ask touches a vein and makes them uncomfortable. You’re catching them in a lie and they’re still trying to hide it.
- Giving too much information: Going on and on without prompting or further questions is another common sign that someone is telling a lie. Liars talk a lot because they think that you’ll believe them for seeming so open.
Why Do Drug Abusers Lie and What Can You Do About It?
It may be difficult to accept, but drug abusers are prone to lying. Drug addicts and lying often go hand in hand. Knowing this will go a long way toward trying to effectively deal with a loved one’s lies. The truth is that once someone begins lying, they’ll keep on lying unless and until there are consequences for their actions — or they receive counseling to help them deal with their situation in a healthier manner.
Often a person will lie to hide their addiction or drug abuse. They believe, mistakenly, that if you don’t know what’s going on, there’s no harm done. That they’re in denial about their addiction doesn’t enter their minds. To them, this is just what you do: You keep your drug use from your family.
Just because someone lies doesn’t mean that they don’t love you. It also doesn’t mean that they’re hopeless or beyond help. But you do need to learn effective coping mechanisms so that you’re not sucked in or surprised by the lies (and the resulting consequences). Joining a support group of other family members of recovering addicts is a good way to not only learn how to deal with a loved one’s lies, but also to recognize that you’re not alone and you have others willing and ready to offer you encouragement and support.
You also need to learn to take care of yourself, since dealing with ongoing stress associated with a loved one’s drug abuse — even if he or she is in recovery — can drain you physically, mentally and emotionally. Make sure you spend time with close friends, engage in hobbies or pursuits you enjoy, try to lessen your load and prioritize tasks so you’re not overwhelmed by all that you have to do. Enlist the support of other family members to help you better cope with your loved one who’s still doing drugs or may be in danger of relapse if in recovery. Maintaining a unified front in the face of recurring lies may help your loved one realize that lying isn’t going to get him or her anywhere.
Above all, be patient. It will take time for the lying to stop, but you don’t have to suffer in the meantime. After all, it’s not you doing the lying. And what’s causing your loved one to lie is not your fault, although you want the individual to know that you will continue to stand by and support his or her earnest efforts to overcome drug abuse and all the negatives associated with it.