Honesty

A huge part of my recovery has been owning up to my own mistakes and being fully honest with myself, my husband and my children. Once you get rid of the lies and the secrets, you feel free, and you can truly relax and be yourself. For this week, I have chosen the safe coping strategy:

Honesty. Secrets and lying are at the core of PTSD and substance abuse; honesty heals them.

No doubt, at some point during the development of your addiction, you began to tell lies, hold secrets and hide things from your partner or other loved ones, from coworkers and from friends. And you also told yourself lies to justify your addiction.

At some point, you were caught in a lie, which is usually the first thing that leads an addict to get help and enter the life of recovery. It might be a very long time between that first time getting caught and a life of sobriety, but it’s usually what gets the ball rolling.

As an addict it’s painful to wake up every day, participating in your addiction and wanting to stop, but not knowing how to stop. Knowing you’re causing yourself harm, but continuing anyway. But what can be even more painful is the guilt and shame you carry around from all the lies you’ve told to your loved ones, and all the things you’re hiding and keeping secret. Carrying all of that around is exhausting. Keeping up with your enormous web of lies, finding hiding places for those things you’re physically hiding, seeing the love and trust in your loved ones’ eyes as you tell them a lie, it’s a terrible feeling.

I hid alcohol all around the house. And I told my husband I hadn’t drank, even though I had. And I really thought I was getting away with something. But, eventually the guilt and shame caught up with me. And I was so paranoid, all of the time. It exacerbated my already serious anxiety issues to have to constantly be looking over my shoulder and making sure I covered my tracks.

When I went to rehab, and I put all my cards on table with my husband, I felt such a sense of relief. Feelings of guilt and shame lingered, but at least he knew everything now. I could just breathe, and be myself again, and not have to constantly fear being found out.

And over time I learned to be honest with myself. In SMART Recovery, we do an exercise called Refutations. You take one of your old excuses, one of the lies you told yourself to justify your using, and you come up with all the reasons that it’s wrong. For example, I used to tell myself, “I’ll just have one drink.” Knowing full well that it never ended with just one drink. Or, “No one will know.” But the truth is, everyone knew. It’s pretty hard to hide being drunk.

Being able to examine your thoughts, and to be honest with yourself about what you’re thinking is a big part of recovery. Knowing that you need to avoid your substance of choice at all costs, and stop that little voice full of excuses dead in its tracks when it starts up in your head.

The honesty doesn’t stop there though. It continues throughout your daily life from here on out. Be honest with yourself about how it felt to be in a group of people who were drinking. Be honest with yourself about how it feels to see that aisle in the grocery store. Be honest with yourself about how you’re doing day-to-day, are you having a good day or a bad day? Can you pinpoint why? Staying in touch with your feelings and opening yourself up to discussing these feelings with your partner or a counselor will help you a lot as you struggle through those first days in recovery.

Being honest with your partner will help you earn back all the lost trust too. Those wounds take enormous amounts of time to fully heal, but full, true honesty, and lots of talking things out, will help the process along. Think of honesty as a medicine that’s helping to heal all the pain and suffering your addiction caused.

But above all else, it really is an amazing feeling to be able to be truly open and honest with yourself and your loved ones. You will feel free once again, and relieved of the burden of guilt, shame, and lies. No more will they hold you down. Living a open and honest life can only lead to good things.

Memories

During this past week, I reached the 30 day milestone since my relapse. I’m feeling proud, and I’m not as scared and confused and shaky as I was last time I hit 30 days. I’m feeling confident, able to handle stress better, and carving out a better future for myself. One of the mechanisms I’m using to stay strong in tough times relates to the safe coping strategy I’ve chosen for this Monday:

Replay the scene. Review a negative event. What can you do differently next time?

The events I have to review are limitless. After years of battling addiction, I have a huge cache of scenes to replay to remind myself why I chose to get and stay sober. In therapy, I am reminded many times to let go of guilt and shame, but I harbor guilt and shame for many moments in my past. They are moments I would take back, if I were able. Although, without them I may not have ended up in the place I am today, which is actually pretty good.

Using this safe coping strategy can help with sobriety by reminding us why we want to be sober in the first place. It’s a way to remind ourselves of the negative impact that our addiction had on our loved ones, our lives, our health, our jobs and responsibilities, in some cases our freedom.

Remind yourself of how you felt when you drank or used. Physically, you likely did not feel well at all. In my hey day I was basically a zombie. I was always buzzed, I never felt well, I never wanted to eat, I was tired all the time. I was a much different person than the one I am today, and for that I am grateful. It’s easy to be so deep in your addiction that those things begin to become your new “normal”, and you think you’re fine. But if you’re honest with yourself, you know you were not feeling well at all.

Remind yourself of the stress, guilt, shame and torment you were going through have to hide your habit. There was likely someone in your life that you had to hide it all from. Perhaps a concerned loved one that you didn’t want to disappoint, or just acquaintances you’d be embarrassed if they found out about it, or maybe a boss you were afraid would fire you. All the energy you spent on hiding your habit from them can be put to so many better, positive things.

This coping strategy asks us to replay a specific scene. What scene can you replay for yourself, to remind you of how far you’ve come? To remind you why you’re doing this? You can choose any scene you’d like, big or small. The important thing is to focus on how you were really feeling in that moment. If you’re like me, your biggest feeling was to do anything to go back in time and prevent the scene from ever happening. And the sick pang of guilt in your gut. The disappointed looks on the faces of those around you.

Sobriety offers freedom from those moments. You’ll never have to be in that scene, or any other negative scene as a result of your addiction. Keeping your addiction at bay provides you with a bright, clean future to create positive moments. Positive scenes you can remember down the line.