By Haley Kennedy, Recovery Coach – 1.29.2021 —
The disease of addiction often accompanies dishonesty; you could say it is an essential fuel. There are lies about buying our substances, acting out in other behaviors, about which substances we use, and hiding any consequences that are a result of substance use. Some of us become so accustomed to lying, that after a period of time we end up deceiving not only others but ourselves, resulting in confusion about who we really are and what we really believe. By its very nature, lying traps us in a destructive cycle. The more we lie, the more we damage our self-esteem which multiples uncomfortable feelings; and we use substances in hopes of escaping from these distressing emotions. This stokes the disease, leading to more dishonesty and more self-destructive behaviors.
Dishonesty can take a toll even when we are active in recovery. When we are completely honest in recovery, there is no place for the disease to hide. When we lie, we leave the back door open for a relapse. With complete honesty, a full recovery is both attainable and likely; without complete honesty, not so much.
Complete honesty is vital for recovery.
Because lying can destroy relationships both with ourselves and others, it is important that we become 100% honest with our recovery support system; this includes family, friends, doctors, therapists, sponsors, and other people in our recovery supports. Sustained recovery will be elusive if we aren’t completely honest with our support network. We do not have to share intimate details of our story with every person we come across but having a few trusted individuals with whom we can share is important. We may have learned how to easily compartmentalize various areas of our lives during active addiction, so it is that much more important that we find at least one person who knows everything about us. Getting honest with friends is also a necessity for developing deep, meaningful friendships, one of the many blessings experienced in recovery.
Being honest can be difficult in early recovery.
During active addiction, some of us spent so much time rationalizing, justifying, manipulating, and deceiving ourselves and others, that at first honesty will not be intuitive. It is important to practice telling the truth in order to build the skill. In my role as a recovery coach, I have noticed that people will often disclose his or her truth piece by piece. It starts with admitting to a certain amount and type of behavior. Then, slowly as we build trust, the full truth begins to emerge. If we have people in our lives who look for and point out inconsistencies, we can learn to become more honest by accepting that feedback.
Honesty means being honest about yourself, not other people.
People often think, especially in early recovery, that ‘brutal honesty’ means we freely share all our feelings about other people with those people themselves… But that is not what honesty in recovery is about. Honesty in recovery is about shining a light on our own truth, including what we may find disturbing about ourselves. Focusing on others deflects the attention away from where it is needed most: on ourselves!
Honesty in recovery helps keep ego in check.
Although some portion of the ego is necessary for everyday survival, an ego run rampant can be the downfall for someone with a substance use disorder. When we are more concerned with
how we appear to other people as opposed to getting honest in our recovery efforts, we can quickly slip. It is difficult to maintain an outward appearance that is different from the way we feel on the inside. When we are unable to be honest with ourselves and another person, we robe ourselves of the opportunity to grow.
Rigorous honesty helps us trust ourselves.
Many of us lie to ourselves during active addiction or downplay the seriousness of the actions we take. Only by being honest with ourselves can we practice honesty with those around us. Begin by telling yourself the truth so that you can share your truth with those around you. It may be surprising how freeing it feels to share openly and honestly. No longer are we enslaved to substances, and we also don’t have to remain hidden beneath all the lies. It can be a scary process in the beginning but with a true attempt, honesty in recovery is completely achievable and brings with it freedom and self-love.
In all cases, honesty is the foundation for a strong recovery. Honesty allows us to fully connect with ourselves and others, which is an essential element of both ongoing recovery and fully enjoying the rewards.