Having occasionally felt myself to be “in the trenches” of recovery myself—as perhaps you have, as well—I’d say some of the most challenging, frustrating and baffling experiences in learning to live this new way of life (especially early on) occur when our insides don’t match our outsides—that is, when what we’re doing at any given moment is in direct conflict with our beliefs and values.
To quote some addiction recovery literature, “(It’s) when we are in one way or another living a lie, or when we are in denial of what’s really happening around us. The disconnect between what we want, what we believe, and what we are doing is enough to make anyone feel insane—and can be a powerful force for relapse.”
Not long ago, I had to look squarely into the mirror and accept that I had been “hiding out,” reticent to share with anyone in my recovery support group just how ashamed and low self-worth I’d been feeling because of having acted out on a past behavior pattern.
I finally arrived at a point where I recognized I was not living in integrity – I’d professed to care about myself and my commitment to living the principles of recovery in my life (to the best of my ability, of course), but two facts finally drove me to take some action in a new direction:
1) I couldn’t ignore any longer I’d been remaining quiet about how I truly felt (in this case, ashamed and broken, a failure to myself, my loved ones and those in my recovery network), which clearly went against my valuing honesty, open-mindedness and willingness as guidelines to live by; and,
2) The “lie” of remaining silent was, in itself, compounding both my self-loathing and my isolation from others, which certainly—if left unaddressed—could create an opening for further acting out or even relapse (though fortunately, with many years of working a program of recovery under my belt, that was less likely).
The bottom line was apparent to me: I needed to step past my fears of being judged, get real with someone I could trust and share openly with them about “where I was at,” both with my feelings and my behavior.
It may come as no surprise to hear that when I shared what I’d actually been feeling emotionally, as well as what I’d been doing that ran counter to my recovery-based beliefs and values, I wasn’t judged or ridiculed at all. Instead, I was reassured that this didn’t make me a bad person, that they could relate to me 100% (i.e., that I wasn’t alone in my “acting out”), and that the solution was relatively simple: “Pick yourself up out of the self-inflicted stink-hole you’ve been sitting in by yourself, dust yourself off and get back into the recovery routine that has worked for you in the past… Only now do it with an extra helping of acceptance and self-forgiveness, and with a renewed commitment to staying in alignment with what you really believe and value for yourself.”
I felt not only relieved by the lack of judgment, but also to know I had not “destroyed” (which is what I’d feared) my ability to be part of the recovery community I’d previously felt so grateful to be part of.
All-in-all, as that same recovery literature I’d quoted earlier concludes, “Coming back to living in integrity begins with sharing honestly with one person. It may seem like a long road back, but the alternative can be so painful that we may not survive it clean.”
When we share with a trusted friend in our recovery network, our sponsor or a treatment center therapist or counselor what’s really going on with us, not only are we unburdening ourselves from the weight of hiding what we’ve been going through, but we also clear the way for us to get some positive input and a helpful point of view, which can be just what we need to begin feeling better and more hopeful than before.
 Living Clean: The Journey Continues. Narcotics Anonymous World Services. 2012.