Active addiction and secrecy often go hand in hand. It’s hard to be honest with yourself or others when you’re using substances to cut you off from your internal experiences. Also, we often feel like we have to lie in order to keep drinking or using.
Getting to Know Yourself
In recovery, being emotionally honest is important. However, if you’re not used to doing so, it can take some time. For instance, you might not even know enough about how you feel to be forthright about it; many of us blunted and distorted our feelings so much in active addiction. It took me some time sober to even be able to identify what emotion I was feeling at a given time.
In general, you get to know yourself more and more as you spend time sober. Knowing who you are helps you show up authentically in relationships. If you’re having trouble figuring out who you are without substances, you might start by identifying your core values. SMART Recovery—a support group for people with addiction—has a worksheet that helps with this. What you value is what’s most important to you. Knowing this can help you live in a way that feels most honest.
Being Honest With Others
There’s getting to know yourself and your real feelings, and then there’s communicating that to other people. The latter can be difficult if you’re used to emotionally dishonest communication or keeping secrets.
When you’re open with yourself about what you’re feeling, it helps you be honest with others. Things like therapy, journaling, or working through your emotions in your art help you examine your feelings so that you can express them to others.
Being emotionally honest can be difficult sometimes, but it’s so worth it. It’s empowering, because it frees you to be yourself. It helps bring you closer to the people in your life, and allows them to support you in ways you really need. It also protects your sobriety.
As the author Melissa Febos (who I interviewed here!) said, “For a little while after I got sober, I thought it was enough if I was just honest with my higher power. As it turns out that’s not enough; I have to be honest with other people in order to preserve my sobriety. Things get squirrelly really quickly when I start keeping secrets. My last relapse, it became clear me that I had to be honest with another person about anything I have the urge to keep secret.”
When sober people find themselves starting to slip back into secrecy, that can be a precursor to relapse. However, if you’ve started to do so, that doesn’t mean relapse is inevitable. Noticing you’ve been keeping secrets is a great first step, and can help you recommit to honesty so that you can have the best quality of life in recovery.
If you are struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder, there is help and hope. TruHealing Centers offers high-quality treatment for addiction and mental health disorders in facilities across the country. Our staff—many of whom are in recovery themselves—will help you build the tools to thrive in recovery. To learn more, call an admissions specialist at 410-593-0005.