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Self-Deception, Overcoming Trust Issues and Embracing Honesty in Recovery

Nearly every person I've ever worked with in early recovery has found it necessary to explain to me, "You have to understand, it will take me a while before I open up with you. I have trust issues." I point out that I don't need them to trust me. I need them to trust themselves. It's the foundation of a manageable life.

Rationalization, justification, and minimization are part and parcel to addiction: They're all just nice words for ways in which we convinced ourselves that it was okay to do things that we knew were killing us. There's no need to lie about healthy things.

We see ourselves as complicated people. The truth is that we complicate things to avoid experiencing our emotions and from taking courses of action that we find frightening. In order for honesty to come to the forefront of our recovery, we must unlearn some long-standing habits.

D.E.N.I.A.L. in Treatment

The acronym above is a recovery adage, "Don't Even kNow I'm Always Lying (to myself)." Self-deception is rarely a conscious process. Sobriety and recovery naturally yield clarity, but choosing to integrate what we become aware of and acting upon it must be something we do very consciously.

Building trust within ourselves is simple. It requires paying attention to our thoughts and statements. Gradually we come to recognize two things: The lies our disease tells and the lies that we tell ourselves. Candor is key.

One of the best things about addiction treatment is that you get to hear yourself say things that made sense when you thought them but sound insane when you speak them out loud. I love it when folks correct themselves. They'll say something that is short of the truth, catch themselves and say something like, "Let me start over. I said that because I'm feeling guilty about what the truth is."

Laugh with the Sinners

In our journey toward greater honesty, we catch ourselves choking up, holding our breaths and pushing it back down. Old adages ring true, "The truth will set you free, but first it will make you miserable." There's no way to release pain in a way that doesn't hurt.

One of the most inspiring folks I've had the honor of knowing in recovery, opens doors for others by reminding them "You're not sitting in a room full of saints." Shame is a major barrier to speaking the truth. To know that we can share and not be judged is liberating. There's an excellent chance that when we share our struggles, we're talking to folks who have great empathy because they've been there too.

Rigorous Honesty

The literature of AA makes reference to the concept of "rigorous honesty." This is an ideal and not something we simply arrive at. The starting point is to be painstakingly honest with ourselves and in managing our responsibilities. This is best achieved through journaling and talking with trusted others.

As we progress in recovery we crave credibility but often struggle with accountability. We fear making commitments and stating our goals. We attribute this most often to the fear of letting others down. It takes a lot of courage to focus on not disappointing ourselves or settling for less than we can have.

Everything we truly want lies just outside our current comfort zone.

It Gets Easier as We Go

Mark Twain quipped, "If you tell the truth you don't have to remember anything." When we were active, we lived with copious amounts of stress just from trying to keep all of our stories straight. Worse, we often came to believe the lies we told. Repetition and living at the extremes blurs every line.

Honesty simplifies every part of our lives and allows us to get our needs met in a healthy manner. In addiction and recovery alike, the most frequent lie we tell is, "I'm fine." F.I.N.E. is a great acronym for how we often feel (F****ed up, Insecure, Neurotic and Evasive).

Folks often ask me, "What am I supposed to tell people when they ask how I am?" Tell them the truth. If you're a mess, say so. If you want to talk about why then do so and if you don't just thank them for asking.

Pay it Forward

Like Twain, we in recovery tend to be the very best storytellers. By incorporating the truth in our tales, we teach others. We derive meaning from our mistakes and heartache by helping others. In this way we become the power of example. Through the course of recovery, the truth of our lives becomes progressively better. It's great to share with folks how well we're doing and to know that it's actually the truth!

Clinical Social Worker/Therapist
My story is I'm forever a work in progress and I love connecting with REAL people who are doing great things. I'm blessed to be making a living doing something I love. I'm a proud dad and the luckiest husband ever. I'm an aspiring author - check out my recovery blog at: Thanks! Jim

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