Many people who use drugs do not consciously become addicts. This is true the majority of the time. But, whether we consider ourselves to be addicts or not, we all knowingly abuse drugs. This is always true. That being said, when most addicts first start to poke around in the world of drugs, we’re generally aware of what we’re up to and what we’re up against when we choose to pursue that sort of lifestyle (i.e. the ways in which society scorns drugs). From the addict’s standpoint, one of the great disadvantages in his or her life from the get-go is not so much having to manage the compulsion to use as much as it is having to manage the outward world in order to avoid being criticized, confronted, or penalized for using. I know that, personally, when getting high first became something that I would do every day, I spent my days in what felt like a different realm than the awkward reality that I had known prior to discovering psychoactive chemicals. As I gradually adjusted to this alternate dimension, I started to feel almost like I was a master of disguise, or an alien walking among a world of ordinary people; meanwhile, none were aware of what I truly was. Leading this double life was exhilarating. Yet all this excitement came at the cost of a great deal of anxiety and paranoia. I was constantly looking over my shoulder for anybody who could be catching on to this act of mine. At any moment, my true identity could be discovered, and then the consequences would start rolling in.
Thus, the addicts – who attempt to play masters of destiny in a world where we actually have very little control – have to resort to dishonest methods in order to go undetected. We will do just about anything to stay under society’s radar, so we learn to be cunning, deceitful, stealthy, and secretive, manipulating any person or situation that could potentially stand in our way. There is any number of smokescreens that the addict can use to conceal the true nature of his or her addiction. My personal favorite ruse that I used all through high school to cover my addiction was my grades. I got excellent grades all through high school, and that’s because I did not want to be suspected of using. Being the perceptive addict that I was (and as many others are learning to become), I knew that a decline in academic performance (or just performance in general) was a telltale sign of somebody on drugs. What I’m proposing is that many drug addicts, like myself, are wising up to the system. We know what authorities are looking out for as indications of drug use, and therefore, we know exactly how to take exception to many of these conventional symptoms.
In the old days, the addicts generally hung out in the outer reaches of society where they could clearly be identified as addicts. Now, we are becoming more low-profile about our addictions and more functional within the world order. As difficult and uncomfortable as it may be at times, we are assimilating into this world, where we actually compete with those who are not under the influence. It actually requires quite a bit of extra effort and skill on our parts to carry on as a normal people would (i.e. going to work or school with a hangover). So – speaking for this bracket of addicts that meet this general criterion – if the sources say, for instance, that somebody on drugs starts to exhibit a lack of motivation in his or her respective workplace, school, home, etc., we pick up the slack to be as inconspicuous as possible. If the standard says that we have a “do-not-care” type of attitude, we do our best to fake interest in our responsibilities. Ultimately, for these addicts that try to blend into our culture, we defy the supposed symptoms of our fanciful world in order to meet the standards of the real world.
In order to effectively pull off having this second identity, we need a good, reliable mechanism that we can use to cover the devious nature of our true identity. As a result, one of the major features of the addict is the tendency, maybe even passion, for lying. Addicts systematically learn to master deceit. If any circumstance arises where we may have to come clean about some misbehavior or face the music for something we’ve done, we lie our way out of it so as to avoid the repercussions. I’ve found that as I sank deeper into addiction, I started to lie more and more, until finally it came to a point where I lost any sense of integrity. Lying becomes as great a compulsion and necessity as the actual use of drugs. It consequently becomes, over time, so deeply established into how we operate from moment to moment that it can be very hard to break the cycle, even when we enter recovery. Any normal addict lies through his or her teeth almost unfailingly. It’s an unfortunate and awkward way to carry through one’s life, but the addict often sees no other way to co-exist with non-addicts without lying to them in order to sustain “harmony.”
Lying is the obvious shortcoming of the addict, but what many don’t recognize is that those concerned for the addict also have a shortcoming that almost perfectly complements the addict’s. This shortcoming, which is especially common among the family members of an addict, as I said, is something that goes hand in hand with the addict’s pattern of deception; the quality itself is actually another form of deception. I’m talking about DENIAL, or self-deception. Denial, whether addicts know it consciously or unconsciously, is probably the greatest, most dependable tool in the whole arsenal or trickery, which is ironic because it’s not even the addict’s own tool to use. Any true addict knows that one should never underestimate the influence with which denial can sway just about anybody’s opinions and sentiments.
Parents, for example, when dealing with an addict, will often tell themselves that their own flesh and blood, their beloved son or daughter, would never behave as they might suspect. From a psychoanalytical standpoint, I would speculate that this sort of denial is a product of how parents see themselves as being tied to their children. Since children are a personified reflection of who they are, accordingly, they would never want to see themselves in any sort of dishonest light. Denial is almost like a blurry film that is cast over one’s eyes in times of distress. It obscures an image that might be right in front of us, so we are not exactly sure how to interpret what it is we are seeing. From there, we usually make the classic mistake of assuming the best rather than the worst. We must depend more on our instincts and not be so biased if we’re to see addicts for what they truly are and understand what they are truly up to.
Trusting addicts who are using is like trusting politicians that hold an office. Like politicians, we are bona fide liars and people-pleasers. We say what we think people want to hear and don’t take into consideration how it might make them feel afterwards to find out that they were being lied to all along. Speaking from my own perspective, I believe that we lie because we are intimidated and afraid of what we might lose should we tell the truth. Being honest entails having self-respect, something which the addict does not know much about, which is unfortunate. However, if we are dealing with somebody who is addicted, and they are telling us what it is we want to hear in a tight spot, chances are, it is probably not true. My opinion is, as a general policy for dealing with an untreated addict, we should all abide by this classic saying to determine whether or no they are being honest with us: “Don’t believe half of what you see and none of what you hear!”