Step one of AA’s twelve steps says that “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.”The principle behind this step is honesty. Being honest with ourselves. I didn’t understand this my first time through the steps. In fact, I think I chose to ignore this step while attempting to follow the other eleven. Recovery begins with being honest with ourselves. The idea I want to approach today is that I believe honesty with ourselves and honesty with others can’t be separated. If we choose to be dishonest with others, we will be dishonest with ourselves.
Often in discussions on recovery you will hear the term “rigorous honesty”. This means that sober people need to have a habit of being painstakingly honest at all times and in all situations. We don’t lie to ourselves or to others. Rigorous honesty isn’t brutal honesty. Brutal honesty vomits the details and facts of an event or what we have done on to another when they haven’t requested it and is often meant to bring relief to us without concern for others. Early in recovery I can remember a sponsor or counselor recommending that I be honest with those that would be affected by my behavior, and I would object, claiming that may dishonesty was a good thing because I didn’t want to hurt them. With a spouse or significant other this argument is rarely if ever valid. The real motivation, at least in my experience, carries only a slight concern about their pain and is mostly about my fear of consequences that may come to me as a result of my honesty. Didn’t we admit in step one that our attempts to manage things fail? And yet in my insanity I think I can manage what someone else should know!
I remember multiple times that I didn’t necessarily lie, I just didn’t reveal the truth, only to be discovered later. I also remember my now ex-wife saying as we were going through our divorce, “Your actual behavior never hurt me as much as your lies.”
Living in true honesty means making the decision to tell the truth, even when it’s much easier to tell a lie, but also fully understanding the truth. It means sharing what’s true and accurate and also accepting the hard truths and facing them head on. Owning the truth can often be painful but true healing can never take place in the presence of a lie. My experience has been that telling the truth has never been as painful as having a loved one discover a lie. There’s so much more that could be said on this topic. Step two says, “We came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.” Practice honesty and trust your Higher Power to handle the results.
If you’d like to talk more about this topic email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.