This is the first of a three-part article on honesty, open-mindedness, and willingness. Learn about effective ways to communicate with your support system, including peers in recovery, supportive family members, 12-step sponsor, life mentors, spiritual leader, or recovery coach.
What is H.O.W. Communication?
When someone is in active addiction, there is very little healthy communication. There is, however, a lot of unhealthy communication—which includes lying, manipulating, refusing to listen—basically doing the same destructive things over and over again.
Healthy communication means being honest, being open to hearing someone else’s point of view, and being willing to change bad habits in order to improve your relationships. H.O.W. communication skills strengthen your recovery.
Honesty in Addiction Recovery
It can be hard to out-think your addiction—it is, after all, a disease which affects your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. To get past the distortion that addiction causes in our thinking and behavior, we must first get honest. Being honest with your peers and with your sponsor is the best way to get the feedback you can use to save your life. If you aren’t telling your peers about your cravings and/or obsessions, or aren’t talking about how hard it has been for you to find a job or repair your relationships, how can anyone help you? It is your responsibility to tell people the truth about what is going on with you so that they have a chance to help.
“You’re only as sick as your secrets.”
– AA Saying
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Changing a Habit
Unfortunately, in active addiction, you probably found that deception became a habit—including lying to yourself. Honesty in addiction recovery doesn’t happen overnight. It’s something you practice and practice until it becomes more and more natural. Think of honesty as opening your eyes to the truth and start by keeping it simple. Try these steps to becoming more honest:
- Start by being honest with yourself and your Higher Power. Honest communication starts with speaking the truth first to ourselves and to our Higher Power. In the privacy of your own thoughts and in communication with whatever Power you see as greater than yourself, start getting rigorously honest. And to keep yourself honest, write those truths down.
- Next, be honest with your peers. Share your story with others in recovery. Why? Because they won’t judge you—they have walked where you’ve walked. Find those people before or after meetings, share with them during the meetings, and meet folks for coffee. Tell these people the truth! In all likelihood, you will be astonished by how accepting people are how helpful others can be when you are brave enough to get vulnerable.
- Finally, get honest with your sponsor/mentor, coach, or spiritual leader. Find a sponsor and, right away, start sharing honestly with that person. Don’t hold back. You are going to be doing some work in Steps 4 and 5 which absolutely requires you to be honest for it to be effective. Get ready and enjoy the ride. You will feel a sense of relief. If you have a recovery coach, be totally open and honest. Recovery coaches have walked where you’ve walked, and can only help if you are honest. Finally, being open with spiritual supporters can help you find your own spiritual path.
Practicing honesty in addiction recovery takes practice, especially if you’ve been lying for a long time. It is worth it though. It’s certainly a lot easier to keep track of what lies you are telling everyone! Consider accepting these to-do list items to work on your honesty for 30 days, and don’t be afraid to ask for help:
- In the next week, make a list of the things you know you need to get honest about.
- For the rest of the month, share the list with peers in meetings, your sponsor, your coach, and your spiritual guide.
The other articles in this series are H.O.W Communication – Honesty and H.O.W Communication: Willingness.