In a previous post to this site on healing an addiction-damaged relationship, I wrote about rigorous honesty (why we need it and what it looks like) and the difference between active and passive truth-telling. In that post, the focus was on repairing relationship trust with a betrayed spouse or partner. This post is on the personal benefits of truth-telling.
Active, rigorous honesty is not all about our significant other. We too will benefit. First and foremost, getting everything out in the open reduces the fantasy-driven allure of our addiction. After all, forbidden fruit is often exciting primarily because it is forbidden and secretive. If we keep our addiction hidden, we can romanticize it in whatever way we choose—worshipping it as our perfect little prize while ignoring its flaws and the related consequences.
Until we burst the bubble and dissolve the fantasy by talking about our ‘stinking thinking’ with our therapist, our sponsor, friends in recovery, and even with our partner, we are likely to feel torn between sobriety and addiction.
When exposed to the light of day, addiction rarely seems as enticing as when it was secret. The shortcomings and consequences are much easier to spot. In fact, many of us, after talking openly and realistically about our addiction, end up wondering what we ever saw in it. Oftentimes, we realize our life in addiction was nowhere near as glamorous, rewarding, or connected as what we find in sobriety and in our primary relationship.
However, this only becomes clear when the bubble is burst. Until then, the addiction lingers in fantasy, looking far more attractive and appealing than it really is.
Other benefits of actively being rigorously honest include:
- Reduced stress: Making up lies (and remembering them) and keeping secrets takes a lot of effort. When our lies are finally debunked and we have a chance to move forward with the truth, no longer worrying about what we told to whom and when, we are likely to feel as if a hundred-pound weight has been lifted off our shoulders. When we tell the truth, we don’t have to stress out trying to remember all our lies.
- Reduced shame: Keeping secrets about addiction (or anything else) creates a sense of shame and self-loathing. Most of us work very hard to push this aside, but we still sense it in a nagging way. Usually, it is only after we get sober that these painful feelings bubble to the surface. Becoming and remaining rigorously honest in all our affairs can alleviate and eliminate much of this discomfort.
- We know that our significant other has the truth, and if he or she chooses to stay with us, that decision was made in a fully informed way. In other words, we know that our partner’s decision to stay means that he or she truly does love us. This realization helps us to feel better about ourselves as well as our relationship.
- We create an accurate narrative of our addiction—and we need this as much as our partner does. As part of our addiction, we weren’t only lying to our significant other, we were lying to ourselves. By actively and rigorously telling the truth, we debunk our internal lies and begin to understand how and why we crossed the line.
- Rigorous honesty is the road to intimacy and true emotional connection—the cornerstones of a healthy, enjoyable relationship. When we are honest with our mate, we create the possibility of a true partnership, an adult-to-adult relationship built on mutual trust, sharing, and enjoyment.