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Posted by on in Recommended Reading

I recently called a friend to talk with her about a choice I needed to make. I've learned through the program of recovery how valuable perspective beyond my own helps assure I’ll do the next right thing.

However there are times, like this one, when I already know what I want to do yet I go through the motions anyway.

Bad idea.

Sure enough things didn't pan out the way I had wanted. When I ran into my friend, I had to fess up about the result. This is pretty much how that conversation went:

FRIEND:  So how did everything work out?

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Posted by on in Alcoholism

keepingsecretsWhen 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.

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Posted by on in Alcoholism

IMG_4306Right Livelihood (samyag ajiva) is the practice of earning a living in a mindful and compassionate manner. At its foundation is not violating the Five Precepts. The Five Precepts teach us not to kill, not to steal, to abstain from sexual misconduct, not to lie, and not to use mind-altering substances. In making our living, we must not violate these precepts. It has been explained by one of my teachers as not harming others in the way you make your living. We should not deal in arms, human beings, meat, intoxicants, nor unlawful labor.

Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh says on page 104 of his book The Heart of the Buddha's Teachings, "To practice Right Livelihood (samyag ajiva), you have to find a way to earn your living without transgressing your ideals of love and compassion. The way you support yourself can be an expression of your deepest self, or it can be a source of suffering for you and others... Our vocation can nourish our understanding and compassion, or erode them. We should be awake to the consequences, far and near, of the way we earn our living."

Honesty

As the Fourth Precept says, we should abstain from using false speech. As discussed in the Five Precepts article, this is more than simply not lying. It also involves not using half-truths nor exaggerating. We must be careful that our professions do not require us to violate this precept of honesty. If we are to observe Right Livelihood, we must make our living through honesty and Right Speech.

Not Stealing

We also must observe the Second Precept and not participate in stealing in our work. More than just not stealing, we must "not take that which is not freely given to us." Obviously, we should not steal from our employer, co-workers, or employees. We also must be conscious of the social impact of the business or industry we are in. If we are hoping to learn to live in Right Livelihood, we must not work in businesses that utilize inhumane labor, deceive customers or suppliers, nor take advantage of the ignorance or cravings of others.

Not Harming

In earning our living, we must be mindful of the people we may be harming. Are we dealing in weapons, intoxicants, or breeding ignorance? Our jobs cannot cause harm on others; we must be compassionate and loving with our work. Practicing loving-kindness in our career, we cannot possibly harm others in any way.

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Posted by on in Alcoholism

Being in an intimate relationship in sobriety is difficult to say the least.  Relationships are like steroids for my character defects; they cause them to grow more powerful than I imagined possible.  From jealousy to control issues, my need to be right to my need to know everything, my character defects really come to light in relationships.  However, being in a relationship has taught me a lot, and my growth has been great.

Keys to My Healthy Relationship

With my character defects glaring me in the face in this relationship, I have found several important keys to keeping the relationship strong and healthy.  As with the rest of my recovery, I must remain vigilante with myself in order to sustain this healthy relationship.

Communication

The first, and most important, tool in my healthy relationship is communication.  Communication is an absolutely indispensable tool in my relationship.  Obviously, this applies in the sense of not lying, straightforward nor by omission.  However, communicating goes much further than telling the truth.

In order to maintain a healthy relationship, communication must go both ways.  I must walk through my (often irrational) fears, and be able to communicate how I feel.  Remaining considerate of her feelings, I tell her how I feel, whether I am upset (with her or not), happy, anxious, or dealing with something.  She is not my sponsor, nor is she my Higher Power.  However, she is an integral part of my support network.  Furthermore, when I hold things in too much, it closes off my heart to her.  As my heart fills with fear and resentment, my capacity to love is diminished.  As I become able to tell her how I feel and what is going on with me, it frees my heart up to be filled with love.  It is not always easy, as fears of being judged, not being enough, and driving her away do arise.  However, I consistently walk through these fears, and each time the fears are easier to overcome.

Also, I must be open to communication from her end.  As important as talking is to communication, so is listening.  When she speaks to me, whether it is a casual conversation or something more serious, I make a diligent effort to listen mindfully.  My reactions are not always compassionate and loving, and it is something I am consciously working on.  I find that as I listen with more mindfulness, I am able to respond with more compassion rather than reacting with fear.  When I react with fear, I am not encouraging a safe, open environment.  Just as I go through fears sharing my feelings, so does she.  It is not within my control whether or not she will be open and honest with me, but it is within my control to encourage a safe space to nurture the love rather than the fear.

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