By Elizabeth Rosselle
Some say honesty is the best policy and, let’s face it, they’re probably right. Sure, this stance is subjective. There are people who may always get away with lies and deceit—more power to them. But, for addicts and alcoholics, dishonesty feeds the cycle. It’s one of the primary things keeping us in our disease, so honesty in recovery is life or death for many. If you or anyone you love has ever struggled with addiction, then you’re likely no stranger to the web of lies that accompany. It’s often the way we hide the severity of our drinking or using from others—so that we’re not questioned or asked to stop.
Furthermore, being dishonest with ourselves is a way for us to avoid facing the reality of our addiction. We lie to ourselves so we can stay in denial, we lie to our loved ones to keep them around, and we lie to the world to avoid stigmatization. We also lie to protect our fragile egos in order to avoid rejection. And, we lie about who we are in order to protect our image. Because we are ashamed.
Lying in Recovery is a slippery slope…
Unfortunately, if we enter into recovery, dishonesty is one of the most common relapse triggers. Therefore, lying in recovery is a very slippery slope that more often than not leads us right back to drinking and drugging. Our secrets keep us sick, as it were. There’s a reason why twelve-step programs begin with a step that has us admitting complete powerlessness over our substance or compulsion of choice. And, an admission of powerlessness involves, of course, honesty in our recovery.
Being rigorously honest means saving our ass before saving our face. Anyone with good long-term recovery will most likely confirm that it’s not a face-saving game. And, if you’re trying to save face, your sobriety will probably suffer. Eventually.
Reasons to stay honest in recovery
Ever hear the expression, “your ego is not your amigo” before? Well, it’s true, and a big part of recovering is about chipping away at our fragile little egos. So, without further ado, here are some of the primary reasons why honesty in our recovery helps keep us moving forward:
It’s just easier
When you’re clear about your beliefs and ideas, it eliminates any grey area. Not only will others understand you better, but you’ll start to understand yourself better. It means you’re not sending mixed signals to people, so people will have a much better understanding of your expectations if any. Plus, it means you no longer have to keep track of your lies or make sure you’re always covering your tracks. Being caught up in a web of lies where people in your life believe different things about you is hard to maintain. No longer having to “keep up appearances,” however, is such a refreshing and liberating way to live. It’s pure freedom.
It also means that you’re more likely to get what you want in life. By hiding behind a facade of “sure,” “no problem,” “okay,” and “fine,” when we don’t mean these things, we’re not doing ourselves any favors. But, when we speak our truths, we encourage the right actions that lead to our true desires.
Showing up authentically allows us to have real connections with others
And, let’s be honest (pun intended), why wouldn’t we want to have real connections with others? If we lie about who we are to the world around us, we’re going to attract people with whom we have nothing real in common. It’s no wonder why as addicts or alcoholics, we used to spend so much of our lives chasing ways to feel good that were outside of ourselves. Because we were surrounded by people and situations we couldn’t actually relate to. Being rigorously honest and showing up authentically frees us from this.
Now, for many addicts and alcoholics, lying has become a coping mechanism and a way of life, so breaking the habit can require taking contrary action. If being honest makes you feel vulnerable, exposed, and uncomfortable, start by being honest just with the people you trust the most. This might be a therapist, a sponsor, or another fellow in recovery. Make a note of times you’ve lied or been tempted to lie throughout the day. Not as a form of punishment, but to identify situations where you tend to be deceitful.
You may not even realize you’re doing it. If so, start by establishing a better awareness of how you operate so you can take positive steps toward change. And, don’t beat yourself up for bad behavior. If you gravitate toward negative self-talk, try making a list of personal assets as well. Remember, recovery means you’re learning to live differently in many ways. It takes time, so go easy on yourself and try to enjoy the journey one day at a time.
It’s good for your self-esteem and your mental health
Living with the fear that you might get “found out” for who you really are, what you really mean, or what you really stand for, can be emotionally and mentally exhausting. While revealing truths that are sometimes not pleasant can be uncomfortable, you can rest knowing you’ve been true to yourself. Plus, the uncomfortability generally won’t last long when you’re being honest. But, the burden and guilt that gets carried around as a result of being dishonest can last a lifetime. And, don’t underestimate the severity of carrying around guilty emotions—while, initially, they may only weigh on your mental state, they can eventually manifest themselves in physical form. Most critically, harboring bad feelings can ultimately lead to relapse.
By being open and honest, on the other hand, we can feel good about ourselves. Vulnerability strengthens our relationship with self and also with others. When we realize people like us for who we really are, it’s empowering. We get to be honest and still be liked. It may not be by everyone, but it will be by the people who are supposed to be in our lives. This is true freedom—freedom from the bondage of self.
Honesty in recovery is a critical aspect of sobriety for most people. If you’re newly sober or even if you’ve been in the recovery game for a while and you’re struggling to get honest, talk to a sober fellow. Guaranteed, you’re not alone, and talking about your struggles is actually a very brave and honest thing to do, and it will set you on the right path.
Recovery isn’t always linear, and it can take time to break old habits so go easy on yourself. Also, practicing rigorous honesty in your recovery doesn’t mean telling everybody everything, particularly if the truth could hurt or injure another person. Use your discretion when it comes to what (and with whom) you’re sharing your deepest and darkest secrets. Nevertheless, if there’s baggage and guilt that’s weighing you down, take some time alone, write down your feelings, and start preparing yourself to get real. It’s the most cathartic thing you can do for yourself and for your recovery.
Kembali Recovery Center can Help
If you or someone you love is struggling to get sober, please remember that no one has to do this alone. Kembali Recovery Center can help. Contact us today to learn about our programs.