Over the years, those of us who have struggled with alcoholism and addiction have had more than one occasion to present ourselves as dishonest. This has often done great harm to those we love, as well as to ourselves. But when we were intoxicated, dishonesty never seemed like much of a problem. Instead, it was simply a tool to gain us one more day of drinking or drugging. It was something we had to embrace in order to keep others from questioning our actions. Learning to embrace honesty after years of lies and deceit can be difficult, but it can also be quite good for us if we are willing to make a true go of it.
Honesty is integral to our recovery, especially for those of us who have spent a great deal of time in lies and deceit. We must learn how to be more honest with others, as well as with ourselves if we are to remain sober for any significant length of time. If we can do this, then our lives should improve greatly. If we cannot, then we may be doomed to addiction and alcoholism for the rest of our foreseeable futures.
The Harm of Dishonesty
It may be hard for us to see the harm that our dishonesty is doing to others, but the truth is that this harm can become quite widespread if left unchecked for too long. As we allow ourselves to continue lying and deceiving those in our lives for whom we care the most, we will inevitably cross a threshold that we had previously considered ourselves unready to cross. It is at this point that we will realize the need for honesty in our lives, for our tendency toward lies and deceit has caused us to undergo a drastic personal change of which we had never previously believed ourselves to be capable.
When we lack honesty, we are bound to tell many lies that may be used to either directly or indirectly harm others. In the case of indirect harm, we may convince others that we are fulfilling duties that have been assigned to us. They will not know that we have been shirking our responsibilities, and they will not be able to plan for our inevitable downfall. This will likely do great harm, but it is not a harm for which we have prepared.
Direct harm is the harm we cause when we lie intentionally. These are not usually mere lies told in the interest of protecting our drinking and drug abuse, but rather lies that are told for the specific purpose of hurting another. We will know these lies when we come by them, due to the sinking feeling that we will get in our guts whenever such a lie is told. If we find that our lack of honesty has served to hurt another person, we must always strive to make amends as soon as possible once we are able to do so.
Once we have learned the harm that dishonesty is doing to those in our lives, we have two major tasks ahead of us. The first is to learn how to become more honest with others. The second is to learn how to become more honest with ourselves. Each of these tasks carries great importance if we wish to remain sober, and we must approach these tasks with the gravity they deserve. Otherwise, we risk becoming mired in our dishonesty for the rest of our lives. If, however, we are able to embrace honesty with all of the seriousness it deserves, our lives will greatly improve as we move forward toward honest and joyful ways of living under the banner of recovery.
Being Honest With Others
Learning to embrace honesty in our interactions with others should not be too difficult. If it ever feels difficult, this is likely due to the sheer fact that we have been dishonest for so long. If we can learn to overcome this, then we will eventually grow to understand that honesty has multiple benefits. In fact, we will likely be much happier leading lives of honesty than we ever were before when we were allowing ourselves to stoop to dishonesty and deception.
Embracing honesty in our interactions with others will actually be a major part of our recovery, for we must come clean with those we have wronged if we are ever to make amends. There may be instances in which we should let the truth remain untold, and for this we turn to our sponsors for guidance. They will tell us if there is someone on our amends list to whom we should not attempt speaking. Otherwise, we should be prepared to come clean with every single person to whom we have lied in the past.
This type of honesty can be frightening, as it challenges our notions of ourselves. We previously thought of ourselves as good people, even when our lack of honesty was causing us to do much harm to those we loved. Upon coming clean, however, we will often be met with quite negative responses. We will not always know what to do with these responses, and we may be quite hurt to discover that other people’s perceptions of us are not in line with our own perceptions of ourselves. This is never a great feeling.
When we learn to embrace honesty in our dealings with others, we free ourselves of the burden that dishonesty had previously heaped upon us. We may not have realized until this burden was lifted that it had been harming us quite as much as it had been, but we are now in a position to lead very different lives under the banner of recovery. We are now in a position to be more honest in our work lives, our personal lives, our spiritual lives, and even our emotional lives. There is no aspect of life in which we cannot embrace honesty now that we have put our minds to it.
Being Honest With Ourselves
If we are truly to embrace lives of honesty, then we must endeavor to be honest with ourselves as well as with others. We must look at the lies we have told with newfound vigor, analyzing each and every detail for the truth behind the deception. This will require of us a great deal of vigilance, but we can do it if we are willing. When we embrace lives of honesty, we enable ourselves to begin our lives upon a clean slate, looking toward the future with profound morality which we have never before experienced while living our lives under the throes of alcoholism and addiction.
It can be difficult to lead lives of honesty when this requires us to admit our own weaknesses, our lack of control over the substances we have previously abused. We must admit our own powerlessness, our unmanageability. We must admit that we were not our best selves when giving into substance abuse on a daily basis. We must embrace Step One and learn that we cannot recover if we are not willing to become honest, to admit that our lives are not what they could be if we were to give up our addictions and begin making honest strides toward recovery as soon as possible.
In addition to embracing the First Step, we must also embrace the First Tradition. We must accept that we cannot become more honest without the help of a strong and sober support system, a network of people who care about our recovery and who are willing to correct us when they feel that we have faltered. These people will be of great use to us, provided that we are willing to lean on them when need be. If we are willing to do this, then we will enable ourselves to discover a new way of life in which honesty leads the charge toward becoming the people we know ourselves to be on the inside. We will become serene, content, and above all, sober.
If this sounds difficult, it is only because we have been lying to ourselves for so long that we know no other way of living. If it sounds arduous, it is only because it is a way of life we have never tried before. In truth, honesty is a much simpler way of living than any we have embraced before. Honesty is the only way of living that will deliver us from the deceitful ways of our past, and to accomplish this, it must be embraced fully if we are to discover any true measure of happiness now that we have found sobriety.
We can embrace honesty and lead lives of sobriety if we are willing to do so. All that is required of us is the willingness to try. With this simple tool, we can ingratiate ourselves to those who have previously put up with our lies and tolerated our deceit. If we are honest, we can begin our lives anew. We must simply stop telling ourselves that our lies are justified. We must simply tell ourselves the truth—that alcoholism and addiction have torn our lives asunder, and that they are no longer to be a part of our lives if we wish to become useful members of society.