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In Addiction As In Life, Honesty Is Key

429125_simply_prayHonesty, Open-mindedness, and Willingness, commonly referred to as “HOW,” are three keys to recovery from addiction, according to self-help groups. These three keys are essential to being emotionally, spiritually, and physically healthy as well. 

AA’s Big Book, in chapter five, “How It Works,” says: Rarely have we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed our path. Those who do not recover are people who cannot or will not give themselves to this simple program. Usually men and women who are constitutionally incapable of being honest with themselves. They are such unfortunates; they are not at fault…

They are naturally incapable of grasping and developing a manner of living which demands rigorous honesty. The chances are less than average. There are those, too, who suffer from grave emotional and mental disorders, but many of them do recover if they have the capacity to be honest.

Honesty comes first in many ways, and it can be the hardest hurdle for those who are used to being dishonest with themselves (and to others) to protect their relationship with their drugs of choice.

One of the hidden ways in which some people early in recovery from addiction reject honesty, is by having a “real” sponsor and a “relapse” sponsor. The real sponsor is the one they tell only good things to, such as: “I’m staying clean. I’m working my program.” And so on.

The relapse sponsor is the one they admit relapses to.*

Why do people do this?

People struggle with the truth for many reasons. In the double-sponsor instance, individuals in recovery may be afraid to admit the truth about relapsing to themselves or to others. Fear is often bound up with shame.

It can be painful to fail, to admit you haven’t begun to abstain from alcohol or drug use. At any point in recovery, if relapse occurs, shame, humiliation, and embarrassment can be so painful that the recovering person doesn’t tell anyone, even their sponsor or counselor.

In some extreme cases, people may be dishonest because they’ve been mandated to treatment by the courts, and their addiction-treatment counselor encourages them to go to a 12-Step program. In these sad cases, the individual is not yet ready to even want to get clean, and he therefore presents a false front.

Without honesty, though, it is a challenge to recover. Whether or not you are in a 12-Step program for addiction, being truthful to others and honest with yourself and others will help you take the next step.

*In general, people have both a sponsor and a co-sponsor. The role of the co-sponsor is to provide support when the sponsor is not available. This is different from the double-sponsor situation.

In Addiction As In Life, Honesty Is Key

Richard Zwolinski, LMHC, CASAC & C.R. Zwolinski

Richard Zwolinski, LMHC, CASAC is the author of Therapy Revolution: Find Help, Get Better, and Move On Without Wasting Time or Money and is licensed in addiction and psychotherapy with over 25 years experience as well as a consultant to organizations and companies in the fields of mental health and addiction. He is the executive director of an outpatient behavioral health program. Learn more about Richard here.

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APA Reference
& C.R. Zwolinski, R. (2016). In Addiction As In Life, Honesty Is Key. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 15, 2020, from


Last updated: 6 Feb 2016
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