Being Honest When You Have An Addiction

Oftentimes, those struggling with a substance use disorder will try and hide their addiction from loved ones, friends, co-workers, and those around them. This deception will usually come by way of telling half-truths, white lies, or simply outright falsities. People with a substance use disorder lie not because they don’t care about who they are telling them to, but rather to shield themselves from the shame, guilt, or reality of their addiction.

Honesty is key for a successful, healthy recovery, but doing so can prove to be extremely difficult. Being open and honest about your substance use disorder is hard. Not only does it make you feel vulnerable with those around you, but it also requires you to be honest with yourself; which is oftentimes the biggest hurdle along the journey toward sobriety. Once you’ve learned how to be open with yourself, you’ll be surprised at the opportunities that lie ahead of you.

Honesty Is Hard

Realistically, most people are dishonest in some way or form at some point in their lives. Perhaps it is something as simple as saying “I’m fine” when someone asks how they are doing when in reality they don’t feel good at all. Maybe it was embellishing a story during an interview to get that job you really needed.

Whatever the case, it’s human nature to try and prevent harming other people we care about, especially when it concerns their feelings or our own feelings. This normal thought process leads to a belief that there is a justification for our dishonesty, including its self-serving aspects. Honesty can be hard when people’s feelings and fears are on the line, and it can be hard to allow yourself to become vulnerable. This sense of harm prevention isn’t limited to those closest to you, in fact, many people find it just as challenging to be open and honest in a treatment setting.

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Honesty During Addiction Treatment

When entering treatment, it can continue to feel difficult to be open and honest with those who are trying to help. This hesitation is often due to the harm that has been caused through dishonesty in a person’s personal or private life. For some, the truth has become too difficult to share without feeling incredibly unsafe, and for others, it has become such a common behavior that being honest feels out of the norm.

Whether it was continued dishonesty or manipulation of friends, family, employers, employees, or even healthcare professionals, the reason for lying is always the same: to protect yourself or your loved ones from harm. That harm may be different depending on who you ask, however, the reasons always revolve around feelings of fear, judgment, guilt, shame, or anger.

When someone is battling addiction, these feelings can feel so dangerous to their sense of self that it feels like an insurmountable task to be fully honest in fear of “losing everything.” One of the first things that are taught in treatment is that doing the same actions repetitively does not lead to different results. Therefore, in order to get better you must be willing to do something different; like telling the truth.

How To Start Being Honest With Yourself

To begin changing a thought process, you must first become cognizant of the dishonesty you have relied on and why exactly you feel the need to be dishonest. This includes some deeper reflection on when the pattern of dishonesty arose.

Perhaps it was when a friend or colleague noticed something was “off” one day, or when finances didn’t cover an important bill and needed to be resolved one way or another. Either way, recognizing that pattern, following the path it has laid out and then asking yourself will this path continue to be effective is important. Once the internal need to make a change has developed, it requires working with a support system that will encourage honesty as an active practice.

Choosing a therapist, sponsor, and a medical provider who will be able to recognize dishonesty and instead encourage an open, honest discussion will be paramount. They should be able to help you unpack the motivations for your dishonesty instead of judging or blaming you for the dishonesty.

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There is a common saying in treatment centers: “trust but verify.” It means that those attempting to find recovery should grow their “honesty muscle” and ensure the truth has followed through. Finding a support system that will be there and help provide a path forward can be one of the most powerful tools, especially when the tools allow for the flexibility of someone working through growing themselves.

There is a high likelihood this path will include being asked to reflect on your own dishonesty with yourself, including an honest accounting of behaviors, actions, or non-actions that have caused you to “not think about them.” The process may become uncomfortable; however, it often leads to more peace of mind rather than being up all night due to anxious thoughts related to past events.

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The Fastest Way Over Something Is Through It

Once honesty becomes the central part of recovery, the plan becomes clearer. Therapy becomes more effective and connected to daily life events. In treatment, the process of developing an open, honest dialogue with your therapist and peers become the first step into reestablishing an open, honest, and most importantly, safe dialogue with your loved ones.

Here, some of the most powerful connections become rebuilt, and often the most impactful therapeutic moments develop into life lessons for everyone involved. All this is possible once the most basic question is answered: “what do I need to feel safe enough to be vulnerable with myself?”

Stop The Cycle Of Dishonesty Today

If you or someone you love struggles with honesty and the need to be vulnerable in a safe way, treatment may be a powerful tool to help find this path once again. Please contact a treatment provider today to learn more about potential treatment options that can help.

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Travis Pantiel

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  • Travis Pantiel is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and a National Board-Certified Counselor with specialized expertise in the co-occurring disorder treatment field.

  • More from Travis Pantiel