Before finding recovery, most of us weren’t living in a truly honest way. We lie to others to suit our needs and get what we want. We aren’t honest with ourselves, often not even realizing how much we have lost touch with our own personal truth. The appendix at the back of the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous called Spiritual Experience advises, “Willingness, honesty and open mindedness are the essentials of recovery.” Many spiritual traditions point similarly to the importance of honesty, and it’s a theme that runs through many conversations surrounding growth.
In our using, we often live dishonest lives. We don’t have to beat ourselves up over this, but it is worth truly recognizing. Dishonesty comes in many forms. We may directly lie to others, we may hide things, or we may push things down in denial. As we become accustomed to living like this, it becomes easier and easier to to live dishonestly. We lie to others and ourselves with ease, not hesitating to spin a tale that gets us out of trouble or gets us our substances.
When we begin our journey of recovery, we are faced with many opportunities for growth. Growing in our honesty is one where we may have a lot of room for investigation. It’s a crucial piece to look at. Without honesty, we cannot build true relationships with those around us, we cannot look deeply at our own behavior and thoughts, and we prevent ourselves from growing. Dishonesty serves our addiction, while honesty serves our recovery. And it is serves us with strength. Twelve-step programs encourage rigorous self-honesty when doing your 4th step inventory. There are some holistic treatment centers that have specific groups focused on building honesty.
Honesty with Others
Being honest with others seems like an easy task. However, many people early in recovery find that it is harder than they had imagined. Lying and hiding comes naturally. It feels unsafe and vulnerable to be truly open about what we’re feeling or what we are going through. When we are honest and open, we may have our trust betrayed. It’s hard to know who to trust, what to trust them with, and exactly what honesty looks like in relationships with others.
I have a few general thoughts that help me with honesty. First, we should be never shy away from honesty just because it makes us uncomfortable. Often, the right thing to do is be completely honest, but we lie instead because it’s easier than being vulnerable. If your motive is to protect yourself from some discomfort, that can be a moment in which you recognize that you’re about to be dishonest. Another thing to do is notice when it would serve you to be honest with a filter. You don’t need to tell every person you meet every thought that you have about them. Rigorous honesty isn’t irresponsible honesty. We can use some discernment and choose to not talk if we wish. Finally, it can be helpful to have one person with whom we are completely honest. It may be a family member, a close friend, a therapist, or a sponsor. When we are deeply honest with somebody else, it helps us see and be seen clearly by other people.
When we think of practicing rigorous honesty, we may think of being honest with others. However, it’s just as important to work on building an honest relationship with ourselves. Before getting sober, we probably weren’t very in touch with what has been going on within ourselves. Practicing honesty with ourselves means tuning into our own experience, truths, and needs. Instead of pushing things down, denying how we feel, or ignoring our needs, we practice self-honesty by tuning into these things.
When you are in pain, be in pain. The nature of addiction is that we don’t want to feel what we are feeling, and it’s our habit to run away from it. Be honest with yourself by feeling however you are feeling in a moment. This doesn’t mean you have to act upon a feeling or thought, but you can recognize its presence. When you need something, recognize that you need something. Practice integrity, behaving correctly even when nobody is watching.
As you begin to practice honesty with yourself and with others, it will become easier and easier. We grow comfortable with honesty, allow ourselves to be vulnerable, and find that honesty comes easier. Our habit of dishonesty eventually dies off, and we can live with some ease and freedom.
About the Author
This post comes to us from Changing Tides Treatment, a holistic detox and addiction treatment center in Ventura, California. Residents at Changing Tides receive top-quality care, participate in numerous outdoor activities, and have the blessing of finding recovery right on the beautiful beaches of Southern California. Check them out at www.ChangingTidesAddictionTreatment.com.