The Importance of Honesty in Recovery from Addiction

Honesty refers to being truthful in your relationships and interactions – even when it’s difficult. You might use honesty to describe a person who acts and speaks to others with truthfulness. 

As someone who is newly (or not so newly) sober, honesty is not only complementary to a full and successful recovery from drugs and alcohol – honesty is a requirement for long-lasting recovery.

Sure, you can be sober and indulge in frequent dishonesty, but habitual dishonesty with yourself and others will only limit your ability to achieve full and long-lasting freedom from the disease of addiction, and it can even cause you to relapse.

A young woman who is in recovery from addiction has a calm expression with her eyes closed and hands pressed against her chest.

Hotel California by the Sea understands that honesty can feel extremely unnatural to a newly sober person. Lying can become a way you protect your drug use during your active addiction. However, lying can also be a way your substance use disorder can harm you in recovery and keep you from achieving the freedom you deserve. (As many people say, we’re only as sick as we’re secrets!)

If you’ve recently gotten sober and are looking to learn the importance of being honest with yourself and other people in recovery, Hotel California by the Sea applauds you! Luckily, just like exercising a muscle, you can make honesty a habitual part of your life again; it simply takes willingness, practice, accountability, and consistency. 

Before delving into explaining why it’s critical to be honest, let’s try to understand why people lie (or, particularly, why those who have suffered from the disease of addiction may develop a habit of lying). 

Why Do Addicts and Alcoholics Tend to Lie?

Dishonesty is not exclusive to those with addiction. Lying and lying through omission are common human responses to situations that may result in unwanted consequences. Whether these consequences are uncomfortable feelings or real-life punishments, the reality is that lying often feels less painful in the moment than telling the truth. 

If you have substance abuse issues, it’s important to remember that lying is not necessarily a moral flaw and failing, but a chronic and destructive coping skill developed during your active addiction. 

Lying can serve as a destructive coping skill developed to help you keep using your drug of choice. Your addiction to drugs (or your behavioral addiction to porn, food, love, or sex) may prompt you to lie to yourself and others about where you’ve been, what you’ve been doing, and whether or not you are actually addicted to your drug of choice. Why? Because being honest in these situations would present various outcomes that you don’t want.

And it can go deeper than that. With enough repetition, lying may start feeling more real than telling the truth. In time, lying to yourself and others may become a habit, or a more natural reaction than telling the truth. Even after you get sober, you may feel a compulsion to lie often – even in regards to small matters. You may even begin to question your reality, the actual depth of your connection with other human beings, and who you can trust if you can’t even trust yourself.

Luckily, you can put an end to your dishonesty while in recovery. Now that you are abstinent from drugs and alcohol, you have the power to choose who you are going to become. Whether you are one day sober or one year sober, there is empowerment in taking responsibility for all truth in your awareness. Only when you are completely honest with yourself and others will you be able to achieve a sustainable and fulfilling recovery.

Why Honesty is Important in Recovery (& Dangers of Dishonesty)

1. Honesty is an “Old Behavior” That Will Keep You Stuck 

When you get sober, you are choosing to willingly refrain from using mind-altering substances. However, soon after you get sober, you’ll probably realize that staying sober requires much more than just abstinence from your drug of choice. Certain behaviors, such as habitual dishonesty, will likely linger for a while after you get sober, even though you aren’t using drugs anymore. And to achieve long lasting recovery, you’re going to have to get to work on leaving those old behaviors in the past, which can be extremely uncomfortable, triggering, and painful to abandon and overcome. Bummer, right?

That’s okay; you’re not alone. Struggling with dishonesty and other “old behaviors” in early sobriety is to be expected. So, be gentle on yourself and have faith that, in time, you will be able to improve yourself.

Remember, however, that holding on to these old behaviors almost always causes harm to others, harm to yourself, or relapse.

Being dishonest towards yourself and others (even regarding small matters, like lying to your sponsor about whether you have been going to 12-step meetings) can build up. Eventually, almost all lies that you tell, or omissions you make, during your recovery – large or small – will hurt you. Lying during recovery can bring about feelings of guilt and prevents people from being able to help you. Again, frequent dishonesty can be a common relapse trigger.

By being honest with yourself and others, you remove barriers from your healthy connections with others, free yourself from the constraints of guilt, and increase your likelihood of staying sober.

2. Honesty With Yourself and Others Will Help You Learn to Trust Yourself Again

Let’s face it: addiction robs you of your ability to trust yourself. Addiction convinces you that the only thing you can trust is the feeling that your drug of choice gives you. 

How many times did you promise yourself you wouldn’t use your drug of choice again, only to wake up the next day and break this promise to yourself? How many times did you lie to others about your substance use, only to feel a pang of shame as you realize your addiction is eroding at your morals? During your active addiction, how many times did you wonder who you’ve become simply because your compulsion to use drugs was so strong that you were willing to do anything possible (including lying) to get your next high?

Addiction is a disease that robs you of your self-control, your morals, and, ultimately, of you.

But in recovery, honesty will help you restore your sense of self, reclaim your identity, and begin trusting yourself again. 

By building honesty with yourself and others in recovery, you are collaterally building trust with yourself. In time, this will help you understand more about your reality and who you are without your addiction and drug of choice. 

3. Dishonesty Will Make You Feel Trapped and Alone

All in all, lying (or omitting the truth) will isolate you in your recovery. It will keep you from receiving help from people that love you and draw barriers between yourself and your new healthy connections with sober peers. Lying will bind you to your own ego, and trap you in your own guilt, manipulation, and shame. 

Dishonesty will place barriers between you and the authentic connections that you’ve made with yourself and others. Considering that, in order to recover from substance use disorders you’ll need a healthy support system of supportive peers who you can be yourself around, dishonesty can ultimately rob you of your recovery – even before you pick up a drink or drug.

So, it’s time to fight dishonesty in your recovery from addiction.

How to Fight Dishonesty in Recovery and Reclaim Your Truth

  • Practice becoming aware of when you lie and what situations trigger you to lie. One way to do this is to keep a journal that can help you track when you lie, how often you lie, what you lie about, and who you lie to.
  • In this journal, you can list what lying does (or once did) for you, and how it benefited you. You can also list what lying could do to hurt you in your recovery in the future.
  • Tell those who you trust that you are trying your best to practice honesty, but that it might take you some time and practice to become a habitual truth-teller.
  • Practice radical honesty with your sponsor or another trusted individual in your life.
  • If you tell a lie, practice immediately letting the person know and telling the truth.
  • If you are frequently in situations where you feel like you must lie to feel better, or escape, maybe you should take a look at these situations and consider changing your environment.
  • Seek professional help. It’s okay if you can’t stop being dishonest on your own. It’s okay to seek professional help through support groups, twelve step programs, individual therapy, and other forms of rehabilitation.

Reach out to Hotel California by the Sea

We specialize in treating addiction and other co-occurring disorders, such as PTSD. Our Admissions specialists are available to walk you through the best options for treating your addiction.

At the beginning of everyone’s recovery from addiction, being completely honest with yourself and others may feel unnatural (and often painful). However, cultivating honesty in your life will contribute positively to your recovery, your inner peace, and your overall sense of wellbeing. Over time, you’ll develop coping mechanisms that will contribute positively to your life in recovery and actively help you in avoiding relapse.

People lie because it often seems to be the easiest thing to do at the moment. But in the long term – especially in the case of those recovering from substance abuse issues – lying will only make things harder for you. 

Don’t let the habitual lying and dishonesty that supported your addiction drag you through the trauma of active addiction once again. It’s time to live a life free from the grips of addiction. Hotel California by the Sea is here to help you practice honesty and authenticity in your personal relationships and achieve full and long-lasting recovery. If you or a loved one is struggling with substance abuse or mental health issues, call HCBTS today at [phone]. We will help you understand the recovery process and direct you to the proper resources for your situation. 

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