Is there ever a good reason to lie to someone? Specifically, is it helpful to pass along false hope when someone is in the early stages of sobriety? This is a tough question I am often faced with. I have no idea if getting sober will be the best thing you ever did for yourself. I don’t know if it will work out marvelously or if it will be a boring or heart wrenching turn of events. Usually, turning yourself into a non-drinker does produce a lot of benefits, but there will be some disappointments and some unwanted consequences as well.
Nobody could have told me how the last 10 years would have played out for me. And if anyone would have been able to tell me how things were going to transpire, I probably wouldn’t have believed them or I wouldn’t have wanted to believe them. In hindsight, I’m rather glad that I was lied to. Most of what has taken place over the past 10 years has been completely unexpected. Much of it has been better than I ever imagined, but I have also encountered a lot of sadness and disappointment. Yet in the overall perspective, I have no regrets for stopping my personal destructive drinking hobby.
I seriously believe that if I wouldn’t have been lied to, I don’t think I would have even made an attempt at becoming sober. If I would have been told what was going to happen, I would have said “Fuck this. I’ll stay just as I am.” Even if I could have foreseen all of the interesting and fun future events I was about to embark upon, I would have also seen all the pain and bullshit I was going to have to endure and I never would have sobered up.
So I am grateful that I was lied to, but I am more grateful that I had an awakening and then accepted the realities that come with sobriety. I came out of fantasy land and had to accept that living sober just might really suck at times and that I had to make the best out of the way things were turning out for me. I don’t fault those who lied to me for the pain and disappointments that came to my world after I sobered up. I believe they had good intentions. And in truth, I think they even believed the lies themselves.
I believe that if people aren’t ever lied to they would never attempt anything. They would never attempt to start a business, they’d never get married and certainly never make an attempt at living sober. That’s why I tread cautiously when people ask (or email) me questions like: “Should I leave my spouse? Should I move? Should I change jobs? Should I quit drinking?” I don’t want to say the wrong thing, so I often lie a little.
There are different types and degrees to lying. There are lies of commission and lies of omission. If I ask you, “Did you steal my watch?” And you say “No,” but you’re wearing my watch, that’s a lie of commission. Lies of omission are what politicians use. They might either avoid giving an answer or they might be less forthcoming with the truth. For instance, let’s say someone asks me if living sober will be the best thing for them. I can give a partly honest answer by saying, “Well you’ll be healthier and you’ll save a lot of money.” But then I will give a lie of omission by saying, “However, I don’t know if it will turn out all that great for you. But it’s worth a try. You can always go back to being a drunk.”
I am avoiding telling them some truths. I don’t want to come right out and say, “You’ll probably be miserable for a while. You’ll likely be bored out of your skull at times. You’ll probably lose a few friends and you might end up with some other relationship problems that you don’t expect. But then again, you might not.”
People want to hear assurances, so I will be evasive but I won’t outright lie. I don’t want to deflate someone’s hopes; they may never put in a full effort or even try if it all sounds distasteful. Yet I also don’t want to offer false hopes. It isn’t that I don’t want to give an answer. I want to avoid giving a wrong answer or bad advice. I don’t have to live with the results or ramifications of their decisions. I try to get the other person involved in answering their own questions.
I will respond with, “I don’t think I’m qualified to answer that.” Or, “If it were me, I would probably do it this way. But you’re not me and you need to decide what YOU think is best for you.” I don’t think it’s wrong to lie a little when someone approaches you about learning to live as a non-drinker. But I do caution that you don’t offer false or grandiose expectations. I was told a lot of lies and believed that “if I sober up, all that I had lost would be regained.” When my world got even worse after I had stopped drinking, I felt like I was wasting my time. I felt that I had no alternative than to go back to drinking. All sorts of bad shit was happening in my life. But for some reason (maybe my mental clarity?), I knew that drinking wouldn’t make things better again. I knew that things would only get worse than they were if I started drinking.
There were a variety of reasons why I continued on my path as a non-drinker. First off, I never want to give anyone the pleasure of seeing me fail. And plenty of people said I could never stay sober. Then, for some odd reason, I was enjoying my new found mental clarity. I figured that the struggle and pain I was going through was part of my penance. Now I actually enjoy the struggles and challenges of living a fun, rewarding life as a non-drinker. Sometimes the pain feels good.
I still lie to people. “Thanks for the invite, but sorry, I can’t make it. I have a lot of work to do tonight.” I don’t need to be blunt or hurtful by saying, “You annoy the fuck out of me, especially when you’re drunk. So I really don’t want to hang around you.” My goal in lying is to be pleasant, yet I need to protect and preserve my own sobriety. I know I sound a bit arrogant, but drunk people do annoy me. But that’s okay. I know that when I was a drunk I annoyed the fuck out of plenty of people. Some of my friends (and family) avoided me or didn’t want to hang out with me or attend events with me. I feel bad that I had to put them in the awkward position of having to lie to me just because I was a drunk.
You can’t help everyone. You can’t save everyone. But you can be supportive of someone even if you’re committing a lie of omission. I see nothing wrong with saying, “It might turn out to be the best thing you’ve ever done for yourself and your family. Things may turn out better than you imagine. But I assure you that there will be some unpleasant surprises along the way. But you won’t know until you try. So why don’t you just try living sober? See how it turns out.”
In closing I want to spend a moment to promote my book: Okay, I quit. Now what? (It’s available in paperback, eBook and Audiobook.) I think it’s a really good and helpful book. It isn’t a book that tells you what you should do. It’s a book that invites you to think on your own behalf. It invites you to make plans of your own. You don’t have to follow any steps or read it from front to back. You can skip around and dive into the areas and topics that are of interest to you. I can’t make you sober, but I can help you get a better idea of what you want out of sobriety and out of your life. What’s the worst that can happen? You can always go back to being a drunk.
These are my own opinions and observations. Think for yourself and come to your own conclusions. If you enjoy this stuff or get something out of it please tell your friends about my blog, podcasts and website. It’s LivingSoberSucks.com. You can find my books in paperback, eBook or if you prefer, you can get my Audiobooks. My books and audiobooks are available through Amazon, Apple, all sorts of places. I put my blog, podcasts and website out for people to access FREE of charge. If you like what I do and what I write about, you can show your support by making a donation to my site, it’s done securely through PayPal: http://www.livingsobersucks.com/donate_to_this_site I post a truthful report on my website of how much is donated and what all this costs me. Thank you for spending some of your very valuable time with me. Mark Tuschel.