Practising Honesty in Recovery

by Patrick Meninga

One of the nice things about being in recovery is that you never have to keep track of your lies.

Of course this doesn’t always happen for everyone. Some people stop drinking and using but continue to lie to others. Or they continue to lie to themselves (more on that in a moment).

But one of the things about lying in recovery is that it doesn’t generally work out so well in the long run. Eventually if you keep lying to yourself or others then you tend to relapse.

Turning towards honesty

When you first decide to stop drinking or using you are making a monumental decision and a huge shift in your personality.

In order to be an alcoholic or a drug addict and be caught up in the cycle of addiction every day, you pretty much have to be lying to yourself on at least some level. This is part of our addiction. We are lying to ourselves just in order to maintain the madness of our addiction. And when you lie to yourself on a regular basis it becomes that much easier to lie to other people.

When you start on a path to recovery, all of this changes. It changes instantly. Because the moment of surrender is the complete opposite of lying to others and to yourself. The moment of surrender is a moment of pure honesty. And then it grows from there.

Honoring your true self in recovery is not easy

It is not easy to continue on with the idea of rigorous honesty. In order to do this you have to challenge yourself in ways that make you uncomfortable. No discomfort? Probably no growth either! How is that for a trade off? Every time that you make some really intense growth in your recovery, it will be because you got honest with yourself and went through something that was really uncomfortable.

One way to do this is to listen carefully to what your emotions and feelings are telling you. If you are not willing to do this then your life might get better, but it will be capped in a certain way because you will never have access to those deeper truths.

In order to really grow in recovery you have to be able to tune into your deeper feelings, to your highest truths. And those highest truths are NOT your opinions. Instead, they are your feelings. Your emotions.

You honor your highest truth in life when you listen to your feelings.

You can’t choose your feelings. They just happen. Life happens and then feelings and emotions arise — and you’re left to deal with them. In recovery. This can be difficult, especially if you’re used to medicating those feelings and emotions away instead of actually feeling them.

What does this have to do with lying in recovery?

Because many people living with addiction have become experts at avoiding their feelings. So in recovery they will lie to themselves rather than to acknowledge their true feelings. Things like sadness, fear, anger, hurt. Those are the deep down feelings that we all try to run away from in recovery.

“I am scared.”


“I am hurt.”


“I am sad.”

Because those are the raw feelings. Those are the real things that might be going on inside, not the surface level junk that we throw around as a defense sometimes. It takes guts to look at your honest feelings and communicate them to others.

Practicing honesty with yourself

In order to practice honesty in your life I believe that you have to make a commitment to it. In other words, this is not something that you are going to “practice” in the sense that you know you will screw it up at times. No, we don’t have room for that sort of thinking in recovery.

Instead, we need a firm commitment and a total change in your mindset. I like to call this total change a “zero tolerance policy.” So your brain has to make an agreement with yourself to not tolerate any dishonesty at all, with yourself or with others.

This is how you “practice” honesty in your recovery. You don’t actually give yourself the option of making mistakes. Instead it is a zero tolerance policy. You make the decision right now, this very moment, that you will not lie to yourself or others, PERIOD. No wiggle room. No room for errors. You don’t get to have a decent month with maybe one or two little lies and call that success. That won’t work for recovery. That won’t keep you sober.

Therefore when you make an agreement with yourself to “practice” honesty in your life, what you are really doing is committing to the idea of 100 percent honesty with yourself and with others.

It should be pointed out too that you don’t want to engage in what I would call “hurtful honesty” with other people. Learn to be tactful and respectful too. Don’t say ridiculous things and hurt others people’s feelings and then justify it by saying that you are being honest. This is immature and will probably lead to relapse as well if you keep doing it.

No, the way to practice honesty is to take a long hard look at your life, take a long hard look at your problems, and then get to work on fixing them. Ask for help. Invite advice and wisdom into your life. And simply tell the truth, both to yourself and to other people.

This level of self honesty is the only thing that leads to more growth. It’s not comfortable, which is a bummer! But if you want to get the rewards of recovery then you have to step beyond your comfort zone. Over and over again.

Excerpted from the original article and reprinted by kind permission of the author.

About the Authors

Renascent Alumni
Members of Renascent's alumni community carry the message by sharing their experiences and perspectives on addiction and recovery. To contribute your alumni perspective, please email