One of the nice things about being clean and sober is that you never have to keep track of your lies any longer.
Of course this concept makes a few assumptions. One of those assumptions is that since you decided to become clean and sober that you are no longer going to lie to anyone ever again.
Of course this doesn’t always happen for everyone. Some addicts and alcoholics sober up but continue to lie to other people. Or they continue to lie to themselves (more on that in a moment).
But one of the things about lying in sobriety is that it doesn’t generally work out so well in the long run. Eventually if you keep lying to yourself or others then you tend to relapse.
Turning towards honesty
When you first decide to get clean and sober you are making a monumental decision and a huge shift in your personality.
Because in order to be an alcoholic or a drug addict and be caught up in the cycle of addiction every day, you pretty much have to be lying to yourself on at least some level.
This “lying to yourself” is known as denial.
Every practicing alcoholic and drug addict is in some form of denial.
Because in order to continue abusing yourself and your body by dumping chemicals into it you have to be telling yourself some sort of story. We all tell ourselves a story in order to rationalize and justify our addiction. That is how we keep going. That is how we continue to self medicate, day after day and year after year. Without this story that we tell ourselves we would have to wake up, get honest with ourselves, and finally face the truth. We would have to face the truth that we are absolutely miserable and that we no longer like ourselves.
This is part of our addiction. We are lying to ourselves just in order to maintain the madness of our addiction and our crazy lifestyle.
And when you lie to yourself on a regular basis it becomes that much easier to lie to other people. Because you are getting plenty of practice at self deception it makes it much more likely that you will use deception to manipulate others. At the very least you will probably lie to the people in your life in regards to your addiction. This is what pushed you to lie to yourself so in order to cover up the addiction or the negative consequences it is very likely that you will lie to others.
I am a real alcoholic and a real drug addict and I can tell you very simply why I lied to the people who cared about me.
I lied to my family and my friends because I loved them and I did not want to hurt them.
I have heard this get twisted around many times and sometimes I feel like maybe I really was a big jerk. But I was stuck in addiction and I did not know how to escape from it and my friends and family just wanted me to be healthy and sober. What was I to do? So I lied to them selfishly, yes…..because I wanted to keep self medicating. But I also lied to them because I loved them, and I could not face my fears and get sober yet, so I tried my best to minimize the damages. So I lied to them.
When you start on a path to sobriety, all of this changes.
It changes instantly.
Because the moment of surrender is the complete opposite of lying to others and to yourself.
The moment of surrender is when you finally break through the last bit of your denial.
The moment of your surrender is when you are finally honest with yourself, more honest than you have been in years.
The moment of surrender is a moment of pure honesty.
You are finally accepting yourself and your life as it truly is, not as you wish it were.
You are finally accepting the full depth of your misery, and realizing that medicating it away with drugs and alcohol is no longer working.
You finally accept your addiction. Fully and completely. And you realize that it is killing you and making you miserable. And that you need help.
This is the moment of surrender. You need to get honest with yourself, above all, in order to start on a path of recovery.
Recovery begins with a moment of deep self honesty.
And then it grows from there.
Honoring your true self in recovery is not easy
It is not easy to continue on with the idea of rigorous honesty.
In order to do this you have to challenge yourself in ways that make you uncomfortable.
No discomfort? Probably no growth either!
How is that for a trade off? Every time that you make some really intense growth in your recovery, it will be because you got honest with yourself and went through something that was really uncomfortable.
One way to do this is to listen carefully to what your emotions and feelings are telling you.
If you are not willing to do this then your life might get better, but it will be capped in a certain way because you will never have access to those deeper truths.
In order to really grow in recovery you have to be able to tune into your deeper feelings, to your highest truths.
And those highest truths are NOT your opinions.
Instead, they are your feelings. Your emotions.
You honor your highest truth in life when you listen to your feelings.
This is difficult to do. I wish it were easy.
Finding your highest truth usually starts with your emotions or feelings
When I first got into recovery I wanted to believe that staying sober was nothing more than an intellectual exercise.
I even denied that feelings existed for a while. I was hoping that they were just thoughts, things that we can choose and control at will.
Reality taught me that this was not really the case.
You can choose your thoughts to an extent. But you cannot always choose your feelings.
So if your dog gets suddenly killed in an accident and you are sad, you can’t just choose to be happy instead over it. The feeling of sadness just exists. You can’t wish it away or use some sort of intellectual trickery to overcome it.
It is true that you can choose how to react to your feelings, and you might be able to choose how to address them, how to ask for help about them, or find support from other people regarding them.
But you can’t choose your feelings. They just happen.
Life happens and then feelings and emotions arise.
And you are left to deal with them.
In recovery. And this can be difficult. Especially if you are used to medicating those feelings and emotions away instead of actually feeling them.
So when you listen to your feelings, when you really allow yourself to sit with the emotion and feel it, that is your highest truth.
Sometimes that is what we have to do in recovery. We just have to feel our feelings and live with it for a while. Without trying to run away from it or change it.
What does this have to do with lying in recovery?
Because many alcoholics and addicts have become experts at avoiding their feelings. So in recovery they will lie to themselves rather than to acknowledge their true feelings. Not their opinions (those are a dime a dozen and everyone has their own opinions, who cares?) but your real feelings. Things like sadness, fear, anger, hurt. Those are the deep down feelings that we all try to run away from in recovery.
And so one of the biggest steps towards honesty that I had to make in my own recovery was to identify those feelings and learn to communicate them.
Not just my opinions, mind you. But my real feelings. I had to learn how to identify those and expose them to others. To communicate them. Because that was my highest truth.
In other words, when someone says “what’s going on with you lately?”
I could easily fire back with a defense, with a shield, with a deflection. “Oh you know, I am busy lately. Stressed a bit.” Or whatever. Tell them something, tell them anything, tell them anything other than the highest truth. Which is something more like:
“I am scared.”
“I am hurt.”
“I am sad.”
Because those are the raw feelings. Those are the real things that might be going on inside, not the surface level junk that we throw around as a defense sometimes.
And this was something that took me at least a few years to learn in my quest to more honesty.
I thought that being honest with myself in recovery meant that I was not going to lie to anyone about stealing candy at the store.
I thought being honest in recovery meant that I would not sneak drinks or something like that and then try to cover it up.
I thought that being honest with myself meant that I did not try to maliciously deceive people.
But all of those ideas are just the surface level honesty.
They are important, and if you are lying in any of those ways then you are certainly headed for problems, but there is a deeper level of honesty that is just as important (perhaps more important?).
And that deeper level of honesty has to do with your feelings. Your emotions. Your fear, your hurt, your anger, and your sadness.
And in order to remain sober I had to learn how to take an honest look at those feelings each day and be able to talk about them with other people that I trusted.
This was not an easy thing for me to do, or to learn.
It takes guts to look at your honest feelings and communicate them to others.
This is a really important part of honesty in sobriety. Being honest about your feelings.
When you stop lying to yourself you will definitely not lie to others
When you stop lying to yourself then you will also stop lying to other people.
Conversely, if you are still lying to others then by definition you are also lying to yourself. You have to be in order to justify the hurtful lies that you tell to others.
So honesty becomes something of a holistic approach. You either have it in full, or you don’t have it at all.
It is a bit like sobriety itself. You can’t be “sort of sober” as a recovering alcoholic. Either you are sober, or you are NOT. There is no in between at all.
The same is true with self honesty and honesty with others.
Either you are practicing honesty today or you are not quite there yet. And if you are not quite there yet then it can (and probably will) all come unraveled. Things will deteriorate quickly because one lie will lead to another which will lead to another.
The mental state of just trying to keep track of one single lie is enough to seriously compromise your serenity and your sobriety.
When you lie to someone, even just to one person, you are giving your brain an extra full time job. Now it has to remember that lie and stay conscious of it at all times so that you do not trip yourself up in the future. This is like giving your brain extra homework every single day for the rest of your life. And that is just if you tell a single lie to one person!
But dishonesty often doesn’t work like that in real life. Once you tell one lie, it breeds more dishonesty. And so the problem and the mental stress will multiply from there and get much worse over time.
Practicing honesty with yourself
In order to practice honesty in your life I believe that you have to make a commitment to it.
In other words, this is not something that you are going to “practice” in the sense that you know you will screw it up at times.
No, we don’t have room for that sort of thinking in sobriety.
Instead, we need a firm commitment and a total change in your mindset.
I like to call this total change a “zero tolerance policy.”
So your brain has to make an agreement with yourself to not tolerate any dishonesty at all, with yourself or with others.
This is how you “practice” honesty in your recovery. You don’t actually give yourself the option of making mistakes. Instead it is a zero tolerance policy. You make the decision right now, this very moment, that you will not lie to yourself or others, PERIOD. No wiggle room. No room for errors. You don’t get to have a decent month with maybe one or two little lies and call that success. That won’t work for recovery. That won’t keep you sober. One or two little lies will cause you to relapse for sure. It is certain.
Therefore when you make an agreement with yourself to “practice” honesty in your life, what you are really doing is committing to the idea of 100 percent honesty with yourself and with others.
It should be pointed out too that you don’t want to engage in what I would call “hurtful honesty” with other people. Learn to be tactful and respectful too. Don’t say ridiculous things and hurt others people’s feelings and then justify it by saying that you are being honest. This is immature and will probably lead to relapse as well if you keep doing it.
No, the way to practice honesty is to take a long hard look at your life, take a long hard look at your problems, and then get to work on fixing them. Ask for help. Invite advice and wisdom into your life. And simply tell the truth, both to yourself and to other people.
Self honesty will become the basis for all growth in your life. You can’t engage in personal growth unless you are willing to accurately assess where you are at, and where you are headed.
I was stuck in denial for many years because I was afraid to be honest with myself. And I was afraid to look at myself very closely during my addiction because I no longer liked the person I had become.
In order to make the leap into sobriety I had to get past those fears. I had to take that hard look at myself anyway, and see the reality of my situation and the reality of my miserable state. And then I had to ask for help and take action.
In order to make it through early recovery I had to be honest with myself in terms of the help and support that I needed. I would have liked to have thought that I could get sober on my own, but in reality I had to face the fact that I needed a lot of help. So I asked for help and I lived in treatment for a long time.
In order to transition to long term sobriety I had to get honest with myself in new ways. I had to make a very scary leap (away from daily support groups) and into a world of holistic health and personal growth. At the time I had no idea if this would really work or not, but I was being true to myself. What I was doing was no longer working for me. Sitting in groups every day was not going to be my long term solution, and I had to admit that to myself. Everyone told me that I was heading for trouble, that I was heading for relapse if I left the daily groups. But my self honesty was pointing the way, it was showing me what I had to do in order to keep growing, keep moving forward.
Now that I am in long term sobriety (13+ years) I have to keep pushing myself to be honest, all over again. And this will never really end, I can see that now. I am always going to have to challenge my beliefs, challenge my assumptions, challenge the way that I have become comfortable in sobriety. This level of self honesty is the only thing that leads to more growth.
And it’s not comfortable, which is a bummer! But if you want to get the rewards of recovery then you have to step beyond your comfort zone. Over and over again. And if you are lying to yourself then it makes it easy to stay stuck in the comfort zone. The only time you realize that you need to step out of the comfort zone is when you get honest, and stop lying to yourself.
Have you stopped lying to yourself and others in recovery? What has that transition been like for you? Has it opened you up to a whole new world of freedom? Let us know in the discussion forums. It only takes a second to register!