Honesty is a highly respected characteristic. If a respected individual is found to have behaved dishonestly, it can ruin their reputation. On the other hand, some types of dishonesty are more acceptable than others. For example, the little fibs or white lies that everyone tells from time to time.

But people who are trying to rebuild their life after an addiction need to be especially careful about honesty. People who are recovering from addiction need to be truthful with other people and particularly with themselves. Not practicing honesty as a personal quality could mean:

  • the person is more at risk for a relapse,
  • their life in recovery is not fulfilling, or
  • it may lead to dry drunk syndrome (behaviors that are often seen with alcohol use that carry on into recovery)

Why is Honesty In Recovery Important?

Honesty is important because:

  • Lying is a common relapse trigger. It is a sign that the person is going back to old coping strategies for coping with life.
  • When people stop being honest with themselves and other people they become “stuck” in recovery. They are unwilling to face the challenge ahead of them so they hide in denial where no progress can be made. This is a common reason for relapse.
  • Being dishonest with family and friends can ruin any progress that has been made in restoring relationships.
  • Twelve-step programs require uncompromising honesty. If the person is dishonest with the group, they won’t be able to benefit from the program.
  • Maintaining honesty in recovery means the individual doesn’t have to deal with feelings of guilt for being dishonest. Too much guilt in recovery makes it difficult to find real happiness.
  • It was the lack of honesty with themselves that kept the individual trapped in addiction. Honesty makes it possible to avoid letting self-deception take hold of their life again. If that happens they may question the value of sobriety and the need for abstinence.
  • Honesty supports the healing of the individual and those close to them. Dishonesty prevents this healing.
  • Honesty is vital to any type of therapy. If the individual is attending therapy, it is essential, to be honest in the sessions otherwise there will be little benefit. 

Dishonesty in Substance Abuse

Individuals who become addicted to drugs or alcohol tend to live a life that involves a lot of dishonesty. This is no surprise because substance abuse is likely to bring them into conflict with many people. To avoid conflict, the addict needs to lie. So when the boss wonders why they’re not at work, they need to come up with some lie to be excused. Their life involves telling one lie after another. And inevitably, more lies to cover the previous lies. The most damaging lies are the ones that the addict tells.

Why Lie?

There are many reasons why people in recovery lie and will behave dishonestly including:Why is Honesty In Recovery Important?

  • Consequences–They are afraid of the consequences of their actions, so lie to protect themselves.
  • Habitual–The more people lie, the more they are likely to lie in the future. It’s easy to slip into the habit of lying until it becomes almost automatic.
  • Desirable results–Lying can produce positive outcomes socially and economically which increases the temptation to use it as a tool to fulfill desires.
  • Self-deluded–Addicts tend to lie without even realizing it. They are so self-deluded that they can’t even recognize the truth. Even individuals who abstain from alcohol and drugs can become self-deluded in the future.

Increasing Honesty in Recovery

Honesty is key to any successful life away from addiction. Therefore, it’s important to develop this characteristic. Honesty and recovery go hand in hand. Some ways to increase honesty in recovery include:

  • The solution to breaking away from dishonesty is to admit when it has happened as soon as possible afterward. It’s hard to admit to dishonesty, but it makes it harder to be dishonest in the future.
  • Like building muscles, the more you develop honesty, the more honest you become.
  • Keeping a journal is a good way to track behavior. It provides a way to look back on the day to find many examples of dishonesty. It also reduces the chance of being caught up in self-delusion.
  • The recovering individual must have an understanding of the importance of honesty, and the dangers of dishonesty in recovery. If people don’t value honesty, they will not put much intention into living a life of honesty.
  • There are times when telling a lie might be the less of two evils. It’s normal for people to play down the significance of a “little white lie.” However, it’s not a good idea in recovery to see any type of dishonesty as acceptable. The individual should aim for total honesty, although they are unlikely to achieve it.

How Honesty Affects Our Well-Being

Honesty has been shown to have beneficial effects on a person’s overall well-being. A certain study found that people who put in the work to lie less often experienced fewer problems with physical and mental health. One of the reasons honesty is beneficial is because people who tell the truth do not have to worry about, or deal with, the stress and anxiety that often come with lying.

HonestyWhen people lie, they then have to remember their lies to prevent them from being disproven. Typically, they have to tell additional lies to cover the initial lies. Which then results in an increasingly complicated series of lies that can be hard to remember. Even though being honest can be difficult at the moment, being honest can prevent an individual from having to deal with the stress and anxiety of dishonesty, which is more rewarding overall.

Improving Honesty

Many people regard honesty as the act of telling the truth, but the idea is deeper and more complex than that. What is true for one person is not necessarily true for another. As a result, at times it might be difficult to speak only the truth. 

Nearly everyone occasionally tells a lie. And it may be unusual that a person strives for honesty in all situations. However, if the individual feels like lying has become a habit and a problem, or they feel as if they can’t help lying, there are things they can do to become more honest. They are:

  1. Recognize the times you are more likely to resort to lying. Acknowledge that all people experience moments of dishonesty. Then try to recognize your examples of deception rather than feel embarrassed or ashamed about it. 
  2. Identify situations and environments where dishonesty is more likely to occur so these situations can be avoided or dealt with carefully. Situations, where deceit may be more likely, might include:
  • Conflicts of interest
  • Situations where the rules aren’t clear
  1. Therapy provides an opportunity to work on honesty. It is common for people to misrepresent the truth in therapy. This is particularly true if they want to avoid painful consequences or feelings of guilt and shame. Therapists provide a safe place for people to share their inner thoughts and feelings without being judged. Therapy can also help people understand why they have been dishonest in the past.

Coping With Emotions in Recovery

Dealing with emotions during recovery is one of the most difficult things to deal with and may endanger a person’s recovery and lead to relapse. Emotions that are most likely to cause issues for people in recovery include:

  • Boredom and Loneliness

Because we are social beings, loneliness is a difficult emotion to handle. When a person decides to quit using substances, this frequently means leaving their social group behind who were also involved with substance abuse. Separating from those relationships can cause feelings of loneliness when they no longer exist. Boredom, or feel you have nothing to do is also a dangerous emotion that often is one of the reasons that people return to substance use.How Honesty Affects Our Well-Being

  • Joy and Happiness

Gloomy emotions are not the only ones that can trigger a relapse. While in recovery, positive emotions also have this power. Causes of stress from being happy can come from a first date, taking a trip, or a promotion at work.

  • Anger, Fear, and Guilt

The most dangerous of all emotions is anger. When people are angry, they are not thinking clearly. As a result, it is easy for people to engage in behavior that they might regret later which leads to feelings of guilt.  

Guilt is a benefit to no one and is extremely self-destructive. Because it’s impossible to change the past, the best idea is to focus on the future. Sadly, fearing the future can lead to relapse. The most common fears that people have in recovery come from worrying about things that have not happened and may never happen.  Self-destructive thoughts related to anger, fear, and guilt shape an easy path to relapse. 

Finding Honesty and Recovery

By taking a serious look at our behaviors, ourselves, and the effect we have on the people around us, we can grow and change for the better. As we have seen, honesty is not just an important part of recovery, it is an essential part of overcoming addiction.

At Casa Nuevo Vida, we understand the emotions that people in recovery go through. Many of our staff members have been where you or a loved one may be now. We have sober living homes for men and women. You won’t feel the loneliness of recovery as you become part of our family. And you won’t be bored because we offer many activities from attending Dodgers games to cooking and baking.


To achieve a successful recovery from a substance use disorder involving drugs or alcohol, you need to let go of fearing the future, learn to handle anger and guilt in positive ways, and believe that recovery is possible because it is. Contact us now.  When you join us at Casa Nuevo Vida, you will see that there is hope for a bright and sober future.