When I first started trying to get sober, I struggled with relapses. I could stay dry for a week or two or maybe thirty days, but then I was back in the bottles. Alcohol and benzos seemed my only answers to my problems in life.
I would swear to my husband that I wanted to get sober. That this white chip would be the last white chip. That I would never drink or drug again. And he would tell me I needed to get honest with myself.
The most important thing every alcoholic/addict needs to do is GET HONEST.
Those first few years of drinking, staying dry, and relapsing – I was in denial. The truth is, I didn’t want to stop drinking or taking benzodiazepines. I was only going to meetings to get my husband off my back. I wasn’t trying to get sober for me. I wasn’t being honest with myself.
I was also in denial and lying to myself about the damage I was causing – the physical damage to myself and the emotional damage to my relationships. I justified my addiction by telling myself lies like, “I’m only hurting myself” and “I can’t cope without it.”
In the end I began outright lying to my husband. I tried to hide my drinking from him, claiming I wasn’t drunk when I was absolutely smashed and hiding liquor and wine all over the house. I finally had to come to a point when I had nothing left but desperation.
I had to get honest.
Everybody lies. We lie to avoid upsetting people. We lie to avoid guilt and shame. We lie to protect ourselves from consequences. We lie to protect other people from hurt (I love your new haircut!). We lie to bring a little magic into the world for our children (Santa Claus anyone?). But for addicts and alcoholics, lying is a dangerous behavior. Lying will always lead to drinking and using.
As an alcoholic/addict, I lie to protect my addictive behaviors. Lying became automatic for me. I didn’t want to be judged or shamed, so I denied that I had been drinking. I didn’t want my husband to leave me, so I promised I would stop drinking when I had no intention of doing so.
It wasn’t until I got honest with myself that I was able to begin my recovery journey. Now, I try to practice “rigorous honesty.” This means telling the truth even when it’s not convenient or it comes with consequences.
For me, this means not saying “I’m fine” (if I’m not doing well) when someone asks me how I’m doing. Even that small lie would start me down the path to relapse. Not talking about my negative emotions was a coping strategy that kept me in addiction. Now, I work to be honest about how I’m feeling. I share with my sponsor and at meetings. This honesty takes a lot of work, but it’s extremely important for my recovery.
Here are steps you can take to start getting honest:
- Get honest with yourself
Denial is a powerful thing. As alcoholics/addicts we live in denial 100% of the time. Our lives are a grand delusion. The only way to overcome that delusion is through rigorous honesty and acceptance of reality as it is.
Take some time to reflect on both the good and the bad in your life. Admit your mistakes, but don’t berate yourself or punish yourself for them. Be aware of your feelings – yes, those uncomfortable sensations you’ve been trying to drown with booze and drugs. While you’re doing this, don’t over analyze yourself, and don’t assume you know everything (because you don’t). Be willing to practice honesty in everything you do and say.
- Get honest with a sponsor
Having someone to talk to about what’s going on in your life and how you really feel is amazing. Your sponsor is there to help you work through problems, situations, and feelings that you don’t know how to deal with (or that you think you know how to deal with but need to talk about). And your sponsor is there to help keep you honest, but the sponsor/sponsee relationship doesn’t work if you’re not 100% honest with your sponsor.
I’ve lied to sponsors in the past. Both times ended in multiple relapses for me. Don’t do what I did – get honest.
- Get honest with the world
One of the benefits of rigorous honesty is that I’m getting to know who I really am. I’m not denying my true thoughts and feelings anymore, and I’m working to accept myself and share myself with the world instead of keeping myself a secret.
This honesty and openness is a huge step for me, and I feel it’s leading me in the right direction.
I’m not lying about who I am anymore. I am a recovering alcoholic and addict, and I have a story to tell.
You don’t have to start a blog or immediately tell everyone in your family that you’re a recovering alcoholic. In fact, that might be the worst thing you could do (that’s an upcoming blog post). Start with the fellowship at the meetings. Share who you are with people who know what you’re going through.
I still struggle with wanting to hide and repress my shame and guilt, but when those feelings come up, I don’t bury or deny them. I talk about them honestly. Were I to repress and ignore them, I would eventually drink over them. Dishonesty, no matter what form it takes, will always lead me to a drink or a drug.