You do not need to attend very many 12 Step meetings in order to understand that honesty is an important part of recovery. It is spoken about at every meeting, it is woven into the Steps, and it seems that without honesty, recovery cannot be achieved. Yet this practical and easily understood principle is not always readily implemented into practice.
Many drug addicts and alcoholics have spent years living dishonest lives. Not only externally but internally as well. This comes with the territory of being addicted. There are lies needed in order to cover-up the addiction and lies needed to cover-up actions. There is self-deception necessary in order to continue the addiction, and with all of this dishonesty swirling about, finding truth can be difficult.
This is in part why many people who get sober find it hard to get honest in the beginning. There is an almost knee-jerking reaction to lie, even when it is not necessary. This is understandable because after years of having to build walls around yourself in order to maintain some semblance of a life, tearing down those walls and allowing others in can be uncomfortable and frightening.
However, as uncomfortable and frightening as it is, finally getting honest and exposing your secrets is the most important thing a person can do in their attempt to get sober. Without this exposing of secrets, the psychic change required to expel the obsession to drink or drug often remains elusive and many times people can relapse.
Logically this may not seem to make sense, and I would tend to agree. I mean why is it that exposing your secrets and getting honest allows you to achieve and maintain sobriety? The two seem to have nothing to do with each other. One has to do with the ingestion of substances and the other has to do with holding on to secrets, but when coming to the realization that alcoholism and drug addiction has little or nothing to do with the abuse of substances, but that these things are merely symptoms of a spiritual malady, the need for honesty seems to make more sense.
For one, a person cannot lead the life necessary in order to achieve sobriety while they are lying. A spiritual life and living a lie are not compatible and so, in order to overcome addiction, honesty must be achieved. But there is also another reason that honesty is necessary in order for sobriety to take hold and that reason can be found in the saying, “you are only as sick as your secrets.” Nothing is more isolating on this planet than believing that you are the only person who feels a certain way or has experienced a certain thing. This for the addict or the alcoholic has at many times fueled their addiction, leading to feelings of hopelessness and despair. At night, left with their own thoughts, they would review past events or prod their deepest secrets and usually this would result in a self-loathing, which would grant further power to these secrets. A secret kept in the dark grows, but once it is exposed to the lights, its power is lost and so this is why exposing them is so important.
It is interesting because many people when they get sober are downright scared of the 4th step (made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves). When people tell them, “you are only as sick as your secrets”, they think fine I’ll remain sick because there is no way I am telling anyone that. Yet, many people discover once they overcome this fear and actually do a 4th (made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves) and 5th step (admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs), getting honest and exposing your secrets also allows you have an accurate view of yourself. Being only as sick as your secrets is true not only because secrets grow in the dark, but also because you must lie to yourself in order to keep them a secret. For whatever reason, a person cannot recover from alcoholism or addiction as someone other than whom they are. This may sound confusing, but it just means that you cannot recover if you are attempting to be someone you are not. I don’t know why this is true, but it is, and so exposing your secrets allows you to see yourself accurately, which in turn allows you to overcome your addiction. ~CTW~