‘I’ve never seen any life transformation that didn’t begin with the person in question finally getting tired of their own bullshit.’ Elizabeth Gilbert
When I rolled around to sobriety, I truly was tired of my own bullshit. If addicted drinking is the horse, it pulls behind it a carriage of lies. Sometimes I even had to write down the lies in order to remember them. ‘Remember I said I had flu to swerve that family party!’ or ‘Remember I said I slept at Alice’s house, rather than at that random person’s!’
Why was I lying? If I’d been honest, I knew that my drinking would be scrutinised, since ‘I’m hungover AF, again’ or ‘I spent my train money on Jaegerbombs, soz’ could not be used repeatedly. Yet, they were repeatedly my reasons.
Existing in this web of self-spun lies was exhausting. I constantly felt hangdog guilty and paranoid. Like a jumpy fugitive trying to pass as a regular person.
During my six months in AA, I learnt to do something called a ‘daily inventory’ where you self-evaluate your day and note down any dishonest moments. I recorded them on the notes section of my phone and mused later on the root reason for the lie.
It’s mind-boggling how often we lie, even if it’s to smooth social interaction by saying you like a band you don’t. A study found that in a 10-minute conversation, the average person tells nearly two lies (1.75).
My lies looked like this.
1. SELF-AGGRANDISING LIES. ‘I ran 10km’ when I only ran 9km. Or ‘I mostly cook from scratch’ when I actually use jar pesto, tub houmous and pre-made green curry paste.
2. PEOPLE-PLEASING LIES. ‘I’m cool with you being an hour late, absolutely.’ Or ‘yes, I like your awful new dress/the creepy antique doll you have given me’.
3. WRIGGLE-FROM-BENEATH-TROUBLE LIES. Most commonly in the sphere of work. ‘I’ve started that report, yes’ or ‘My train was cancelled, therefore I am not to blame’.
4. POOR-ME LIES. ‘They did/said so-and-so to me’. Omitting what I did/said to them.
Obviously, living a life with zero lies takes a heroic effort. Herculean, almost. A quarter of our lies are told for other people’s benefit. I do still lie at times. Totally. I’m human, and being honest sometimes goes hand-in-hand with being brutal. Show me a person who says they tell no lies and I’ll show you a… you know.
But for the most part, I do my damndest not to lie anymore. When I find myself leaning towards a lie, I lean back towards the truth. I was recently paid £200 by mistake, by a magazine I work regularly for. Normally, I would have taken the money and ran, probably straight to Oliver Bonas. FREEMONEY! But no. I alerted the accounts department and paid the money back. Gah. But also – yay.
Why? Because a clean conscience feels as good as freshly-washed sheets. It’s a favour to myself. That £200 was grubby money. As Mark Twain says ‘If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.’
Try keeping your own daily lie inventory, just for a week. It’s really eye-opening.