- Embellishing the truth
- Little white lies
- Withholding information
Whatever you choose to call it, however you try to justify it and whatever your motivation – a lie is a lie. Discuss.
As a young child I was discontent with my lot. I wanted to be different, exciting – my life didn’t compare to what I saw presented on TV and in films, and so I took matters into my own hands.
I was about seven when I first began making up stories about myself that weren’t true. Nothing spectacular at first, I told a friend that I wasn’t really from the UK, that in fact my family were from America, but we were having to pretend to be British; for what reason I can no longer recall. I even gave this friend lessons in how to speak with an American accent! I was always sure to make it clear that I had taken them into my confidence and that they must not share this information with anyone else.
Other stories to other friends included and in no particular order:
- I was a famous Pop star in Japan, but nobody in the UK knew about it. I even learnt a Japanese song to convince them.
- My sister, at 14, was pregnant (this coincided with a story on UK soap EastEnders where a teenage character became pregnant).
- I had been beaten by an evil Aunt who put cigarettes out on my skin (I think this was from a story line in Grange Hill at the time).
- I had been cast as Oliver in the musical of the same name, but so that my schooling was not disrupted it was important that no one at school knew about it.
These are the lies I can remember. All of them told throughout my primary school years and all of them exposed at one time or another, and still I continued to tell them. I think you would probably describe me as a compulsive liar, I certainly felt like I could not help but make up stories about myself. In the end it became exhausting trying to remember who I had told which story to and trying to stop each friend from telling another their story about me. It was all consuming and I remember crying myself to sleep on many nights, wishing I could stop….. a feeling I was to have again many years later in relation to my drinking.
Yet, stop I could not. In the end I didn’t know what was real and what was not. At some point towards the end of Primary school I managed to break the cycle and I determined never to tell a lie again. At least not an outright lie. I got my fill from simple ‘embellishment’ – there was always room for improvement on the truth and I took every opportunity to do so. That is how life progressed, exaggeration, embellishment and lies; essentially all the same and all of them second nature to me. Why would I tell a story without an added flourish? In the end I didn’t even think about what I was saying, it just came out as naturally as if it was the truth.
I often think about why I behaved like this and I think it was a tool to find acceptance, popularity and a certain amount of contentment in my life that didn’t exist in reality. That was never achieved by lying; it simply fed my need to do it more.
The shame I felt after I had lied was immense and the more shame and guilt I felt about it the more I need to fix myself with another lie, another story about myself that painted a better picture of me than how I felt about myself at that moment.
My tendency to embellish on reality continued well into adulthood to the extent that I didn’t even notice that I was doing it and it wasn’t always clear to me why I was doing it. Even today I can find myself saying things that just aren’t true and I have no idea why. It’s rare now, because I am always checking myself, but it does still happen. I must be clear that it is never my intention to deceive, not anymore, but there have been times when I lie before I have even had time to think about it. Let me give an example:
I was sharing back at a meeting on the theme of Higher Power in recovery. I said “Now, I’m not religious and never have been”. Simple enough, but not true! It’s true enough that I am not religious today, but there was a time when I was seriously considering the priesthood as my vocation! I was very much what most people would describe as religious. It’s not even a secret, I share that if it comes up and I have no problem with it – that was where I once was on my desperate journey to quieten the whirring noise in my head. So why say “I’m not religious and never have been”?
As soon as it was out of my mouth I was ashamed. I did my share and had to take myself off to think about my motivations. It was hard to figure out. Had I picked up on something from the Lead Share at the meeting that made me think I would find more acceptance if I said I had never been religious? Was I now ashamed of my past (although, that had not been a problem before)? Would saying that I had not been religious make my finding a Higher Power in recovery more impressive to others?
I am not sure that I figured out the answer, but that is not the point. The point is that today I ask the question. Today, I am aware that of my character defects and I take action to improve with the support of my Higher Power.
Just for today.
© @SobrietyMatt 2020