I’m not sure how many times the word ‘honesty’ appears in recovery literature but I am sure that it’s a substantial number. Honesty is an essential part of the program. The essence of the twelve steps is to dig through the layers of ego driven lies and bravado in order to arrive at the truth of who I am and then maintain that truth, and even dig a little bit deeper as I go along.
“To thine own self be true.” Shakespeare
The coins we receive to mark time in sobriety have this struck onto them. It comes from the play Hamlet where a father is giving advice to his son who is going off on his own for the first time. Be honest with yourself, says dad. He’s also advising his son to stay the course, not to stray, to be true in the sense of an arrow heading for the bullseye. The first nine steps in the program allow us to find our path of truth. The last three help us to stay on that path.
We’ve all told some whoppers in our day. When looking back at these big lies, we can see that we told them to protect our vision of ourselves or deflect suspicion onto others: lies are always Ego based. The biggest lies are the ones we tell ourselves. The biggest lie I told myself is that I was ‘different’. I suffered from ‘Terminal Uniqueness’: my belief that I was unlike anyone else was killing me slowly. My ego told me that it was okay to try to escape from my surroundings and who I was because no one understood me, no one was going through what I was going through and everyone was against me or I against them. Drugging and drinking were symptoms of deep dishonesty.
Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” Oscar Wilde
It’s a challenging path to the truth of who I am. It’s peeling off the layers of the onion to get to the center. There’s often a fear that we’ll go so far we’ll find there’s nothing at the center. Fortunately, onions grow from the inside out and there’s always another layer to discover: new truth and understanding. But yes, being honest with myself means ripping off the layers that Ego has built with half-truths and lies and getting to my essence and accepting the ‘me’ that I discover. It’s not easy and it’s not something that happens overnight. Like many other parts of our program, it’s a process. But once there, I have a base, a foundation I can build upon.
“Pretty words are not always true, true words are not always pretty; and yet, they are still true.” Aiki Flinthart, The Yu Dragon
Being honest isn’t easy. It’s hard to face who I am and to know that it’s not the world, circumstances or others who brought me to my knees. I did that. I was the one who made those decisions that created the addict/alcoholic that I am. It wasn’t my parents, my partner, my job, where I live or my tragedies: I created the mess that landed with a thump at the door of a recovery program. That’s probably the most difficult truth anyone has to face. It’s the one that I must face if I am to recover.
I build my new life based upon truth, based on honesty. I can begin small by just not telling lies to myself and others. This goes beyond being ‘cash register honest’. Honesty and truth become deeply imbedded in this new character we are constructing. Self-inspection is essential to building this new life. Even the best bricklayer uses a level to make sure that his work is plumb and follows a string line to make sure that it is straight as well.
“The longest journey is the journey inwards.” Dag Hammarskjöld
Once more I see how the program is simple, but not necessarily easy. It takes courage and willingness to dig deeply into my self and come up with an honest appraisal of who I am. Here again, the Serenity Prayer comes in: serenity, courage and wisdom. I ask for these in my quest for honesty and the discovery of self.