Recovering Integrity

Integrity: it’s such a beautiful, scary word.

When I chose to start writing, I promised myself that I would write from the heart and share only things that were genuine and true in that moment.  I also promised myself that I would write every day for one year.  Yesterday, I failed to deliver on both promises.  I wrote nothing, thereby withholding the truth:  that, in regard to expressing myself through writing, I “wasn’t feeling it.”  Rather than convey what I was genuinely feeling, I avoided sharing altogether.  This is not the first time this has happened.

I have a history of not being true to my word.  It’s common knowledge that, when actively using, many (if not all) alcoholics/addicts lie.  A lot.  We lie to protect our secret (even though everyone knows).  We lie about the quantity of our consumption (even though everyone can deduce).  We lie about anything and everything under the sun if it will allow us to keep living the way we’d been living, using substances to soften- and escape- the discomforts of life.  Lying is incredibly damaging, as I’ve learned the hard way.  It will take years of honesty and walking my talk to regain the trust I’ve lost.

Why is it that we lie to those closest to us?  I mean, in the past, I lied to the grocery store clerk when he asked about my sure-to-be-exciting weekend plans:  Oh, yeah, lots going on…flying to New York on a red-eye tonight for fashion week (sitting next to Beyoncé)…then on to Bora Bora…need a little R and R on white sand beaches…but that’s not all…We likely lie to those we love because we want them to believe good things about us rather than know the truth, even though the jig is up.  We irrationally convince ourselves that it is better to make up stories than honestly divulge info about our shitty lives.

We not only lie to others, we lie to ourselves.  We tell ourselves, often over and over again, that we will never drink/drug again.  This time will be different.  But it’s not.  For many of us, our days become vinyl records that keep skipping. We don’t realize how being out of integrity disintegrates our confidence and healthy sense of self.  Author Sarah Hepola illustrates this well:

“…the shame of saying one thing and doing another is a dark and bitter brew.  I had lost faith in myself and any promises I made whatsoever.  I would lay down rules at 7:30 a.m. and dismantle them by lunch.  It was meaningless, play-pretend, like depositing an envelope of very generous checks into my account, each of them written on cocktail napkins.”

Many addicts try to quit, time and time again.  And each time, they fall back into the abyss.

Until they don’t.

To be and stay sober, we have to tell the truth:  to strangers, to loved ones and to ourselves.  This is hard.  REALLY hard at times.  But we can do it.  The folks I’ve met in recovery are wise and are doing their best to shed stories of deceit.  They want to be honest, as painful as that may be. They are committed to writing new stories about their lives- and they embrace the brilliance of the Buddha when he says:  “Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom.”

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