The importance – and limits – of honesty in recovery from addiction

Addictions require dishonesty. We have to lie about our sexual activities, how we’ve been spending our time, consequences of our behavior, and our spiritual lives. Addiction leads to lying. By the time we’ve developed an addiction, we’ve also developed the habit of lying. After a while we get so good at lying that we end up lying to ourselves. That’s why addicts don’t know who they are or what they really believe.

One of the problems with lying is that we can’t respect ourselves when we lie. We can’t look ourselves in the mirror. Lying traps us in our addiction. The more we lie, the less we like ourselves, which makes us want to escape, which leads to more acting out and more lying.

Nothing changes if nothing changes

Ask yourself this: will more lying, more isolating, and more of the same make you feel better? The expression in AA is: “nothing changes if nothing changes.” If you don’t change your life, then why would this time – when you say you’re going to stop your behavior – be any different? You need to create a new life where it’s easier to not act out.

Recovery requires complete honesty. We must be completely honest with the people who are our supports: our family, our therapist, the people in our 12 step group, and our sponsor. If we can’t be completely honest with them, we won’t do well in recovery.

When we’re completely honest we don’t give our addiction room to hide. When we lie we leave the door open to relapse.

Honesty won’t come naturally in the beginning. We’ve spent so much time learning how to lie that telling the truth, no matter how good it is for us, won’t feel natural. We’ll have to practice telling the truth a few hundred times before it comes a little easier. In the beginning, we’ll have to stop ourselves as we’re telling a story, and say, “now that I think about it, it was more like this…”

Honesty has its limits

But there is an important qualifier to keep in mind: Honesty doesn’t mean telling everyone everything all the time.

Show common sense. Not everybody is your best friend, and not everybody needs to know about your story. Not everybody will be comfortable with knowing about your addiction, or comfortable that you’re doing something about it. There will obviously be many people you don’t want to tell about your recovery.

But the issue today is: what are you doing in those relationships that are safe? Don’t be reluctant to tell the people close to you about your recovery. You should never feel ashamed that you’re doing something about your addiction.


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8 thoughts on “The importance – and limits – of honesty in recovery from addiction”

  1. You’re very welcome scholarship. 🙂 Sometimes it’s hard to know if comments are real, or just spam … I hope yours is real. If so, thanks again.

  2. Mark. My sponsor told me that “we are lucky to have gotten desperate enough to get honest.” You hit the nail on the head. My willingness to be honest and totally lay down the character defect of dishonesty in it’s many forms has been one of the most pivotal points in my recovery. It really is like learning a whole new language.

  3. Thanks for the comment Paul. Sounds like you have a good sponsor 🙂 I know many spouses have said that the killer of the relationship they have with their addicted husband is more so the dishonesty around the addiction than the actual behaviors themselves. That’s a good reminder I think. And your post is a good reminder too. Thanks again.

  4. “After a while we get so good at lying that we end up lying to ourselves. That’s why addicts don’t know who they are or what they really believe.” This is so True. I wouldn’t have believed it was true about me 6 months ago but I realize now (painfully so) that I was in denial and that this is true about me as well as about other addicts. Thanks for the very helpful and thoughtful article.

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