Being in recovery, you are always looking for ways to maintain the sobriety that you have fought tooth and nail to maintain. If you haven’t already noticed, advice is never in short supply within the recovery community. From the peers in your homegroup to your sponsor, everyone has great ideas that you can incorporate into your individual recovery plan. However, if you have listened carefully, there are certain themes that seem to be shared by many in your recovery circle–and perhaps the most common in honesty.

It seems like there are so many things to remember on that mental checklist to staying strong in recovery, and it may seem overwhelming to keep everything in perspective. The recovery journey takes a lifetime, and there will be many obstacles to navigate and a great many things to learn. However, honesty is a core value that helps guide the recovering person in that journey. It goes without saying that honesty is absolutely critical in keeping you sober, and it is absolutely necessary in making you a genuine and truthful person.

What is Honesty Really?

Ever since childhood, we have been taught what honesty means, how important it is in shaping us as people, how it shapes our environment and how others relate to us. While we may understand the basic definition of honesty, it is always good to refresh what honesty really means and especially in terms of our recovery from substance abuse. Simply defined, honesty is about being open and trustworthy to others. Being honest means that you are able to tell the truth about yourself and the things that you say and do, even though sometimes your actions may cause disappointment and anger.

Understanding the Mindset of The Addict

Nearly everyone that is in the recovery community will agree that without total and complete honesty, you will never truly be in recovery. If you think about you life in active addiction, you day-to-day life was guided by lies, and lying become an automatic and natural mechanism. As addicts, we operate under extreme denial and distorted thinking. As addicts, we lie to family, friends and other loved one to get what we want when we want it. We lie to the world to avoid the stigma of being an addict. Ultimately, we lie to ourselves in order to preserve our own habits. For us addicts, lying enables us to create a fantasy life that is far easier to tolerate and accept in comparison to the real world that we are living in.

We keep up appearance and live out the charade because if we stopped lying we would have to quit taking substances and face the fact that we caused a unbelievable amount of anger and hurt. That can be a tremendous burden for an addict to bear, and the pain of facing reality in that manner can make us as addict continue living a double life and further tearing our lives apart and the lives of those whom we love.

In Recovery, It Isn’t About Honesty–It’s About Rigorous Honesty

When you make the commitment to embrace recovery, you need to also make the commitment to become honest with yourself and others. Recovery is an all-or-nothing proposition and you need to be all in in your commitment to face the truth and address the underlying roots of your addiction. The same thing can be said about being honest in recovery; you can’t be honest on occasion or make a half-hearted attempt at being honest–you have to be rigorously honest. What does that mean?

Rigorous honesty means that means you need to tell truth even when it is much easier to lie or engage in half-truth telling. Rigorous honesty also means that you are upfront with your thoughts and feelings even when there may be consequences for those actions. If you take a closer look at the 12 Steps, you will find that honesty is a major part of the Steps, and in order to truly work through and rework the Steps you need to be active in being honest.

For example, the First Step of all 12-Step programs talks about being honest with oneself about their powerlessness in regards to their addiction. This honesty also extends to their Higher Power of their choosing (Fourth Step) and to others (Fifth Step). Additionally, the last three Steps outline how addicts need to practice honesty on a daily basis. This rigorous practice of honesty not only will pull you from the grips of addictive thoughts and behaviors, it will also help you to become a better person in every aspect of your life.

Honesty is a Process

Indeed, honesty is a very important component of lifelong recovery. Much like the recovery process itself, the journey towards complete honesty in recovery is a process in which you will experience setbacks as well as victories. As you practice being honest, you need to keep in mind a few things. First and foremost, it will take time to unlearn unhealthy habits and learn new habits. Being truthful takes time and constant practice, so if at first you don’t succeed, keep trying.

Secondly, you must realize that you will never be perfect. There will be times where you fall short and make mistakes–and that is OK. Understand where you went wrong, learn from your mistakes and grow. Lastly and perhaps most importantly, it is important not to be harsh to yourself and beat yourself up. You will always have areas in your life which need improvement, but harshly criticizing yourself or being cruel will not motivate you to do better in life. You always need to remind yourself of the positive things that are going for you.