When I was newly sober, I was told that we are as sick as our secrets. I incorrectly dismissed this as another cliché, like “one day at a time” or “keep it simple” (both of which turned out to also be true). As I look back on my drug addiction and early sobriety, I can see pretty clearly how my honesty is proportional to my happiness.
Before getting sober, my entire life was a secret. There were superficial things such as the clandestine drug use or the stealing. There were also deeper secrets such as my immense fear, insecurity, and shame. Together, my secrets drove me, creating a person that I didn’t even want to be around myself. I lied to myself more frequently than I even had lied to others, I pushed down every unpleasant thought and emotion, and I had absolutely no genuine feeling of who I was.
Getting sober, I was given the opportunity to come clean; both to myself and to others. Part of the recovery process was to write down these things that I had done wrong, things that I had assumed I would take to the grave out of shame. With some help, I was able to be just partly open about my life. As I shared what I had done with a trusted loved one, I found that he had done many of the same things in his addiction as well. As this reassured me, I began speaking with more people about my faults and mistakes, only to find that my community of sober people knew from their own personal experience exactly how I felt after keeping so many secrets.
As I grew more comfortable, I became able to truly address the secrets I had kept. The deeper secrets came out, and I even gained knowledge of some secrets I had kept from myself. As I opened up, I began to experience a new level of joy and happiness.
Today, I keep a close eye on the secrets I am keeping. I try to be open with the right people. I have found that as I am trying to let my secrets free, I also do not create as many secrets. Not only do I practice honesty, I also practice behavior that I would not be ashamed of.
In recovery, I must constantly remain a work in progress. I always have more things to let go of within myself, and I can always work on honesty. A simple trick for honesty is for me to act in ways that I am proud of. If I do the right thing, I do not hesitate to own up to my actions. However, if I am hurting myself, hurting others, or not being a kind person, I often find it easier to hide my actions.
The cliché line that we are as sick as our secrets is deeply true in my life. I think the other side of the coin is true as well; we are as free as our honesty. As I have grown from a stealing, lying, felon into what I am today, honesty has been a key principle. I live today with a roof over my head that I pay for, a full-time job giving back to the economy rather than just stealing from it, and I spend many hours each week in service work. Without releasing my secrets, I would not have been able to obtain the freedom and happiness that I have today. Without being honest about my behavior and thoughts, I would not be able to keep it.