The first truth that the alcoholic has to face is the fact of his or her alcohol problem. Recovery is grounded in the admission that the problem is too great to handle without help. Without this foundation, there is seldom sufficient incentive to take the actions necessary for sustained sobriety. Honesty in this case means making a clear-eyed appraisal of three things: Can I control the amount once I start drinking? If not, and abstinence is the logical solution, can I stay abstinent on my own? And, are the problems in my life—my inner experience and my outer circumstances—bad enough that I’m willing to go to any length to find a solution for them and my drinking problem? Collectively, these questions, when answered in the affirmative, constitute the first step in recovery.

An interesting feature of dishonesty is that it tends to be habitual, and doesn’t remain compartmentalized. I can’t lie to my employer or my wife and expect that the habit of lying won’t creep back and undermine my admission of an alcohol problem. Therefore, being honest in recovery—practicing this principle in all my affairs—helps ensure my continuing recovery.

Additionally, in the process of self-examination that is crucial to recovery, we usually find that dishonesty has been the cause of harm to other people and that it has been the main driver of our sense of isolation. Honesty about our fears, our motives (“telling on ourselves”), and our hopes can only promote real bonds with other people, both on a one-to-one basis and as members of a community. To be really known, free of secrets, leads to a deep sense of relationship and belonging. As we cherish this feeling, we tend to want to protect it by continuing to take the actions that ensure our ongoing recovery.

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