Only by discussing ourselves, holding back nothing, only by being willing to take advice and accept direction could we set foot on the road to straight thinking, solid honesty, and genuine humility. ~ Alcoholics Anonymous
Sanity is to be found in accurate honesty to oneself. ~ David Bain
I’ve been noodling about honesty over the last few weeks as a result of my willing and earnest immersion in the program of recovery I’ve undertaken. Alcoholism is cunning, and most of what trips up the alcoholic (or any addict) is the dishonesty that arises as a result of shame.
Because most of us have been led through our culture to believe that addiction is a *moral* issue, shame becomes our closest companion. I’m incredibly lucky in the sense that my early tenure in Al-Anon and Codependents Anonymous (back in my twenties) allowed me to understand that alcoholism is a disease, not a character defect.
I need feel no shame over having a disease, and if I’m being perfectly honest with you, I *don’t*. I feel absolutely no shame whatsoever, any more than I’d feel shame over having cancer or a chemical imbalance or the flu.
I do have shame, though, and the shame comes from the ways in which alcoholism has caused me to behave in my past. Part of recovery is (only when you’re ready) taking a moral inventory, examining thoroughly and fearlessly, the behaviours and parts of self we are ashamed of. This takes radical honesty ~ an honesty that leaves no room for ego or self-denigration. The purpose of taking this inventory is so that you can allow change to flow into your life.
You can’t fix what you don’t acknowledge.
Shame breeds in secret, in denial, in the lies we tell ourselves when we’re attempting to justify our shitty choices or behaviour. Shame grows in the places we don’t shine the light of our self-awareness and introspection.
Here’s something I think I know for sure: Our vulnerabilities are the source of our strength. Sigmund Freud said that and though I’m not a proponent of Freudian psychology (I’m more of a Jung girl), I feel the truth of that statement in my bones, in my center, in my very root.
The things we hide, the things we keep secret are just waiting to be transformed. They are the LEAD that we turn to GOLD when we bring them out of the shadow and into the light. A terror of abandonment is just WAITING to be transformed into personal sovereignty. Self-centeredness is waiting to be transformed into service. Denial is waiting to be transformed into awareness. Addiction is waiting to be transformed into freedom.
Honesty is the only way through. Only by saying “I’m selfish as fuck” can we then figure out a) why and b) how to change it. Only by embracing that truth as our truth in the moment, only when we quit shaming and suppressing and start shining our (glorious, God-given) light on all our dark places can we do what I like to think of as The Great Work of becoming the person we were born to be.
Alcoholics have a disease, but there is a treatment and it begins with honesty. My name is Effy, and I’m an alcoholic. That’s the truth. Alcohol is baffling, cunning and powerful. Truth. I can’t manage my drinking and therefore, I am powerless over alcohol. Truth. When I drink, my life is unmanageable. Truth. I can’t stop drinking by myself. Truth. I need help if I’m going to recover. Truth.
Drinking makes me insane. Truth.
Sobriety = sanity.