Integrity and Honesty
by Mark Sichel, LCSW
Honesty and integrity are essential to the process of making a commitment to someone or something. One of the paradoxes of addictive behavior is that while addicts often resort to desperate, psychopathic or illegal means to procure their substances, they are also wholly committed -- with all of the positive traits implicit in commitment -- to their addiction. Similarly, a co-dependent will not swerve in his or her commitment to enabling his/her partner. Yet, it is easy for people in recovery to deny or forget an addict's capacity for commitment, honesty and integrity, when it comes to achieving our recovery goals for improving our lives.
The addict demonstrates great integrity and honesty when it comes to his or her devotion to the addictive process. The same integrity and honesty is often not applied to the recovery process. We might say that we do not feel up to honoring our promises to ourselves when we are trying to rebuild our lives and create healthy and adaptive behaviors. However, we all know and must remember that we never said we were not up to buying our substances when we were in the throes of active addiction.
In our quest for spiritual development, we naturally include integrity and honesty in the realm of our spiritual goals. Yet, how often do we rationalize, justify, and actually lie to ourselves about our abilities to create compromise when it comes to building health and strength?
For example, a client of mine, Zeke*, had been in recovery for three years. He was working on the Steps with his sponsor and attempting to learn better ways of dealing with his alcoholic family. Zeke was very fearful of initiating a change in how he dealt with his family, yet he knew that his sobriety would be in jeopardy if he continued to gratify them and "dance their dance."
Zeke's sponsor and I told him he that needed to add Al-Anon to his program work. He resisted, saying he just "didn't have time to go to another meeting every week." When he and I tried to work on modifications to his schedule that would allow time for Al-Anon meetings, we made no progress.
When I pointed out Zeke's lack of integrity with himself and the fact that he was lying to himself about his time demands, Zeke initially became very angry with me. However, as he continued this line of thought with his sponsor, he saw the validity of my assessment. When he finally acknowledged his fear of Al-Anon in an honest and forthright manner, he was able to summon the courage to do what he needed to do to foster his recovery.
We normally think of integrity as an aspect of an interpersonal relationships, yet integrity and truthfulness with ourselves is a vital component of achieving our goals in recovery.
*The names of all clients have been changed to protect their identities.
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