Lie to Me, I’ll Believe


Did you believe the lies they told? The lies you told yourself?

In my essay in The New York Times, “Surviving an Alcoholic” (5/27/15), I wrote about the challenges the widowed of alcoholics face: shame and guilt.  But what about the lies? The aftermath of death is often filled with discovery. I’ve touched upon this topic before in my blog, the secrets uncovered post-mortem. With the overwhelming interest in my Times piece, readers reached out – not only survivors of alcoholics, but survivors of drug addicts, sex addicts, gamblers. Of course, not all addictions cause or contribute to death. But the realization of their spouse’s secret lives and alter egos was an added agony to the devastation of loss, compounding their grief.

In a Psychology Today article, “The Truth about Lying,” Bella DePaulo, Ph.D., a psychologist at the University of Virginia, notes: “You save your really big lies for the person that you’re closest to.” While that may not make you feel any better, perhaps you feel less alone.

The truth is, relentless honesty isn’t likely. Can anyone of us claim having never grasped for that ‘little white lie’ in a sticky social situation? But the big lies hurt. The big lies destroy.

When I began to suspect my husband was an alcoholic, I didn’t let on, in part because I was in disbelief. He’s a social drinker, it’s not what I think. I needed proof.

But even after months of scrutinizing, there was still a swirl of emotions upon discovering evidence: vindication (I was right, he’s an alcoholic – I’m not crazy.); revelation (I was right, he’s an alcoholic – What now?); devastation (I was right, he’s an alcoholic  – What has happened to our life?). How much more proof did I need to accept what I already knew? I was lying to myself.

Was I lying to others by my omission? Except for the few who knew, those whose help I desperately needed in order to help Robert, I refrained from telling others. It was suggested by my husband’s physician that the time for admission would come later in Robert’s 12 Steps phase. In order to help Robert focus on his recovery and his career, the doctor thought it best not to share.

We lie to spare feelings, to avoid awkward situations, to protect our loved ones, to save lives. Our goal was to help Robert. But the truth is the only one who could have helped my husband, was my husband. But he was lying to himself.