Honesty in sobriety is about much more than just stopping the lies told around using
“Those who do not recover are people who cannot or will not give themselves to this simple program, usually men and women who are constitutionally incapable of being honest with themselves.” Bill W
Alcoholics Anonymous founder and Big Book author Bill W. wrote those famous words 79 years ago. He also goes on to describe the 12-step program’s way of life as a “manner of living which demands rigorous honesty.” Whether you care for 12 step programs like Narcotics Anonymous and Codependents Anonymous there is truth to these words and principles.
The takeaway here is you cannot recover if honesty in sobriety isn’t there
Honesty appears to be one of the biggest players in successful recovery. So how do we learn to function with the truth at the forefront of our minds and on our lips when we’ve been dishonest for so long?
Getting honest in recovery can seem tricky. It can be hard to talk about the embarrassing acts we may have done to get that next drug or drink. We think no one else will understand and keep things to ourselves. Or — my personal favorite — not being honest about where we are emotionally, because we want everyone to think we’re 100% on top of our game. Keeping things to ourselves is detrimental. The bottom line is, if you are committed to your sobriety, there is no way to avoid being truthful. Honesty in recovery is mandatory if you want to maintain long-term sobriety.
Active addiction is full of lies and devious acts, so much so that dishonestly easily becomes second nature. Sometimes we lie so much that the lies distort our reality, and we start believing our own mistruths. It’s a vicious cycle that typically results in a full character shift. We literally become different people when using — it’s night vs. day.
When getting sober, it’s difficult to break behavioral habits that become normal when using. Just remember, first things first! We have enough going on getting the drugs and alcohol out of our systems. No one is perfect — having raw honesty takes a lot of practice!
I recently heard a woman share at a meeting that she had a lot of trouble breaking the pattern of lying even at 6 months of sobriety. She would lie about anything because it was natural to her. She wasn’t being malicious; the words just came out of her mouth. For example, she would lie about going to Wendy’s when she really went to McDonald’s. A harmless lie per se, but it speaks to how ingrained dishonestly was in her mind. So when she told a lie, she got in the habit of revisiting whoever she told it to and got honest. No matter how seemingly harmless the lie, she called herself out. With time, her brain acclimated to being honest first and foremost.
Why is honesty in sobriety so important
Honesty is liberating and comforting for so many reasons. One, sobriety presents us with a conscience and honesty will keep our thoughts clear. A peaceful mind will keep you guilt-free and able to focus on growth. Two, being honest allows us to connect with people and have authentic relationships. This is a beautiful thing and very important to living a healthy lifestyle. We all need support. The third builds off of the second. As mentioned earlier, we keep heinous acts we’ve done while using to ourselves to prevent embarrassment and shame. You know they say: Secrets keep us sick. It’s true!
Honesty will allow us authentic relationships and through those connections, we learn that we are not alone
We’ve all done insane things in active addiction and you know what? I promise, there is someone else out there that did the same. I robbed the bank I was working at for drug money and it took me a couple of years, but I ran into someone who did the same. It’s comforting to find people who can relate on that level. It normalizes our pasts and shows that we can move forward.
Truth is, recovering alcoholics aren’t the only ones who struggling with telling the truth (our need to do so is just more dire). I’ve told truths in the real world that surprise the normies! Recently, I took my monkey to the vet for his neuter. The receptionist forgot to add his microchip to the bill. When I got home and noticed it wasn’t on the receipt, I called in and made the payment. She was very appreciative! She said: “Thank you so much. Not many people would do that.”
“I don’t live that way anymore.” That is what I told her and what an empowering feeling. We don’t have to live that way anymore. We can conquer the guilt and shame, repair relationships, and fix our reputations. Most importantly, we can live happy, joyous, and free lives of sobriety when achieving rigorous honesty. The process can be overwhelming at first, but with a practice and good intentions, honesty in recovery is entirely possible.