The Role Of Honesty In Addiction Recovery

Honesty is the most crucial principle for anyone in early sobriety or recovery. When someone who has a problem with alcohol, drugs, or other substances and behaviors can be truly honest, recovery is inevitable. When someone who suffers from alcoholism, addiction, or dis-ease of any kind can admit, claim, or simply tell the truth about what is really going on, this sets the foundation for everything to come.
Brian Hyman is a teacher of yoga and meditation.
honesty in recovery
Brian Hyman is a teacher of yoga and meditation.

Brian Hyman draws on his personal experience and explains the importance of honesty in recovery.

Why We Need Honesty In Recovery

There is a quote about honesty that has been attributed to the Buddha: “Three things cannot remain hidden long – the sun, the moon, and the truth.” It would seem that whether we like it or not, just as the sun and moon will rise and be seen, the truth will also rise and be seen.

How then do we process what needs to be processed before the truth rises to be seen? How do we name and own our truth? What is the inner work we need to do to figure out our truth? How are we to heal our truth before it is revealed? Is there something we are trying to hide? And if so, why? Before we answer these questions, let’s look at why we may be afraid to answer them.

Acknowledging The Shame

There is often shame attached to things we do when stuck in the frequency of addiction. There is often painful trauma buried in the consciousness of people who use and abuse substances. There is often immeasurable embarrassment in the hearts of those who experience prolonged states of dis-ease. There is often deep remorse, guilt, and regret in the mind of the alcoholic, addict, or others who suffer from similar conditions.

Honesty in recovery would require us to acknowledge the things we would rather forget. We would need to take one contrary action after another; forgo what the Ego or pride would have us believe; expose our weaknesses to others without attachment to the results. We would need to open the mind and heart to humility and humanity. We would need to bring negative, dark, and uncomfortable things into existence. We would need to confess inner and outer wrongs. We would need to trust that honesty can deliver us from dis-ease to wellness and from the uncertainty of addiction to the reliability of recovery.

A Personal Story

I’ll share a personal story about how I first learned honesty is necessary to set a foundation for recovery:

In early November 2009, I began to attend Twelve Step meetings each morning in Los Angeles. I had not yet identified as an alcoholic, nor told anybody why I was at the meetings. I sat alone in the back rows of these rooms. I kept my head down and did not speak to anyone.

One morning, near the beginning of a meeting, the speaker asked if any newcomers, or anyone in their first 30 days of sobriety, wished to identify themselves. They were encouraged to raise a hand, say their name, and mention why they were there.

There was a long pause. Then, one person near the back of the room raised his hand. He said his name and that he was an alcoholic. The group repeated his name, clapped their hands, and welcomed him. Then, another person near the front of the room raised her hand. She said her name and that she was an alcoholic and drug addict. The group repeated her name, clapped their hands, and welcomed her. Then, the room was quiet.

Suddenly, something in my chest began to tremble. My legs began to shake. My heart started to race. I felt hot and sweaty. My vision was cloudy. I felt something wretched move up through my insides to get outside. Without a thought, my hand shot into the air. I said my name and that I was an alcoholic. The group repeated my name, clapped their hands, and welcomed me.

I stopped shaking and sweating. My heart returned to normal. Tears filled my eyes. The secret I had kept hidden for decades was finally set free.    

An older gentleman next to me placed his hand on my shoulder. He whispered: “Welcome.”

I could not remember another time in my life when I felt that accepted. Or broken. Or broken open. Or honest.

I have had many years to reflect on that morning. I have wondered why I was finally honest about something I had believed made me feel inferior, broken, and worthless; why the time for honesty had come despite my fears about what would happen next; why the truth about a sickness that had been locked inside me for years was irreversibly released.

I have yet to find answers to these questions. I have instead accepted that it was time for me to leave behind the energy of addiction forever and rise up to another level of being. It was time for me to know a freedom I had never known. It was time for me to do something meaningful with the precious gift of life.

In Brian Hyman’s 30-day course “Recovery: Principles For A Purposeful Life”, you will acquire a set of tools that will help cultivate a purposeful life in recovery. Throughout the course, personal anecdotes and mindfulness methods are utilized to illustrate the nature of addiction and the miracle of recovery. Start your journey of exploring honesty in recovery now by listening to course day one:

  1. Recovery: Principles For A Purposeful Life (Day 1: Honesty) Brian Hyman 10:58

Breaking Free From Devoted Dishonesty

Addiction is no respecter of persons, regardless of titles, riches, pedigree, or power. It does not care if it destroys families or communities. It does not care if it maims or kills. It seeks one thing: complete devotion.

Addiction wants us to bow down to it. It wants our undivided attention. It will do anything to keep us in denial. It will do anything to make sure we are forever its prey.

Addiction uses dishonesty as a weapon to alter our thoughts, words, and actions. It employs deceit, confusion, and similar manifestations of dishonesty to ensure we remain its loyal subjects. It engages treachery and similar tricks to suppress our proclivity toward sincerity because when we align with our innermost truth, emancipation is imminent.

When We Are Honest…

When we are honest and admit what is seared upon the heart, we become empowered. When we tell the truth, we are no longer confined to the smallness and suffocation of falsehoods. When we use whatever words we can to share our stories, we are unshackled from the captivity of addiction and step into a purposeful life in recovery.

Honesty annihilates the bonds of addiction. Honesty informs addiction that we are no longer its slaves. It lets addiction know we will no longer be complicit in the manufacturing of misery within our lives. Honesty is our ticket to freedom.

Contrarily, when we cannot be honest, our mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual health suffers. When we cannot tell the truth, we will not know wholeness or wellness. When we are silent about what is happening within our lives, we will not comprehend the miracles of healing, transformation, or recovery. When we cannot be authentic, addiction remains the victor.

Questions To Begin Your Journey Of Honesty

Let’s make this personal. Whether you suffer from alcoholism, addiction, or another form of dis-ease; or, if you have a family member or friend in trouble; or, if you are just curious about honesty, please read the questions below. Pause between questions to notice your reactions. Perhaps write down your answers or share your responses with someone else. Allow these questions to highlight areas in your life where you can practice the principle of honesty.

  • Are you living your purpose?
  • Is your career fulfilling?
  • What would you do differently with your life if time and money were not obstacles?
  • Are you in the right romantic or similar personal relationships?
  • Are there things you can do differently to be a better employee? Or better spouse? Or better parent? Or better friend?
  • Is there something in your heart right now that needs to be expressed? If so, what are you waiting for?
  • Do you believe you have a problem with alcohol, drugs, pornography, gambling, food, or something else?
  • Are you ready to do something positive about troublesome areas in your life?
  • Are you willing to be honest about something you have never looked at before in a truthful way?

Explore these guided meditations by Brian Hyman that help to quieten the mind and explore your inner workings:

  1. Finding Our Purpose In Life Brian Hyman 9:37
  2. Quieting The Mind To Explore Our Identity Brian Hyman 9:58
  3. Rain & Wind Chimes: Embrace Emotions Brian Hyman 11:09

The Reciprocal Nature Of Honesty

When we embody honesty as a way of being, we give others permission to do the same. When we are honest, we lead by example and provide a blueprint for others to live a virtuous life. When we are honest, we create a framework for communal healing.

I’ll share a personal story about when the reciprocal or universal nature of honesty became apparent to me:

When I was sober for six months, I met a young man outside of a Twelve Step meeting. He had been sober for only a few days. We stood alone in a parking lot. He wanted to talk about his life and addiction but was unable to find the words. He was afraid to tell me anything real or honest. I felt a sense of kinship with him as I knew what it felt like to be newly sober and fearful of telling the truth about anything to anyone.

I then remembered how I had heard other people in recovery share their truth aloud at meetings. I remembered how incredible and helpful it was for me to witness their humility, humanity, and honesty. I remembered how I wanted to be able to use my honesty someday to try to help others. I realized I could do that now with the young man in front of me. I realized I could give back what I had received. I realized all I needed to do was be honest about something.

I recalled a secret from my past which I had never told to anyone. It was something I figured I would take with me to the grave. However, in that moment, I became honest and shared my secret with the young man in the parking lot. He patiently listened to me. Then he shared some things that he wanted to talk about. I patiently listened to him. When he finished, we were both healed.

Read more: In another article, Tara Brach also highlights the importance of a group: “It was very helpful for everybody to hear from each other how, whenever we’re stuck, not only are we stuck, but we also hate ourselves for being stuck. […] [Just] to hear other people felt that too, made it a little less personal. […] If we’re living within our own bubble of addiction, we will not realize that.” Explore how to use mindfulness and compassion for healing addiction of any kind.

Practicing Honesty For A Purposeful Life

In the Bible we are taught: “The truth shall set you free.” In the Bhagavad Gita we are taught: “It is better to die while living your own truth than to live in the truth of another.” In the Yoga Sutras, the principle of satya is offered as a means to explore honesty so we can live a life of purpose. Even scientists, mathematicians, and engineers confirm the necessity of truth through verifiable facts, formulas, and similar systems.

Honesty permeates everything. It is unmistakable and invincible. It imbues memories and feelings. It moves freely throughout time and space. It seeks, finds, and perpetuates itself through thoughts, words, actions, and experiences. For example, when we are overwhelmed or moved to tears by an authentic or original piece of music, or a riveting passage in a book, or a captivating dance performance, it is the honesty within these things that has touched the honesty within our hearts.

When we rightfully interact with honesty in its myriad forms, we become transfixed and our way of being in the world becomes transformed. We must practice honesty until it becomes natural or we will never know the richness of recovery. We must practice honesty if we are to know individual and collective freedom, harmony, and peace. We must become united with honesty if we are to live our purpose and encourage others to do the same.

If we can create routines for addictions, we can certainly create routines for honesty. Without honesty we will not travel far in life; or know much success, happiness, or joy; or become the men and women we are destined to be. Without honesty, the heart will not know true peace; the mind will not know true rest; the body will not know true equanimity. Without honesty, we will unlikely be able to establish or maintain recovery.

Affirmations For Honesty

Below are suggestions to cultivate a personal relationship with honesty. These can be practiced alone or with a sponsor, therapist, or friend. Please read each one slowly. Perhaps write down thoughts that arise when you internalize these ideas.

  • We can release limiting beliefs and conditioned behaviors.
  • We can embrace our unique purpose or identity within the heart.
  • We can become responsible for how we nourish the mind, body, and spirit.
  • We can take contrary action when confronted with an opportunity to be dishonest.
  • We can breathe consciously when fear or doubt become overwhelming.
  • We can leave behind stories we tell ourselves that are no longer true.

Explore free guided meditations for addiction recovery.

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