When Is Honesty Not the Best Policy?


Sober Recovery Expert Author

When I was actively using drugs, there were certain policies or moral codes I tried to abide by. For instance, I felt it was never necessary to rip off a friend, or it was important to always hand my dealer the entire amount that was due. I also went out of my way to avoid conversations that would put me in a position to be truthful and honest. In my own mind, the ends justified the means. The truth was, I may have been a great friend to my using buddies, but I was a terrible friend to the people who cared about me. Though my policy to avoid heart-to-heart conversations with my loved ones kept me from being directly dishonest, I was extremely deceitful.

Sober Recovery and Honesty

Being sober has taught me how to be honest. Getting caught up in a lie only leads to telling more lies, and then you’re back where you started because you forgot the story you told in the first place. While I am now honest, there are certain areas of my life that I still neglect to be forthright about. I'm not sure everyone needs to know everything about me and my history. I often ask myself, is honesty always the best policy?

Some things are best left unsaid.

Be Careful Around Touchy Subjects

It’s a fair assumption to suggest that most people lie more often than not. Whether they’re little white lies or big ones, what’s the difference? I like to consider myself an honest person, but having been sober awhile, I've got a realistic perspective regarding honesty in certain areas. I’ve learned that, while honesty is the best policy, there are some subjects that should be avoided in general, because honesty is not the best policy in certain instances. Here are a few example of touchy subjects you may want to avoid:

  • Talking about money or belongings with family may lead you to a conversation you’re not ready to have, especially in early sobriety. If you have stolen items or money from your family, they may not be ready to hear about everything you took. They may not be ready to forgive you. A discussion on these topics may put you in a compromising position.

  • Past relationships can be a topic to avoid with a significant other. Not only is discussing past relationships irrelevant to your current relationship, it can cause a number of problems and arguments over things that cannot be changed. You cannot re-write your history.

  • Be careful about asking for help--consider who you ask and how you ask. If you find yourself in a position where asking family for help is necessary, do not give them ultimatums or guilt-trip them into lending a hand. They have done enough by accepting the choices you have made. Trying to guilt-trip someone into helping you can lead to a battle that you may lose.

  • Stories that glorify your use of drugs or alcohol may be a considerably touchy subject for family and friends. If they have lost a lot during your active addiction, they may not feel comfortable discussing the good times you had while using.

Know Which Stories to Share

I have to admit that I spent a long time using drugs, so many of my life experiences and stories are unfortunately drug-related. Since this is the case, I have learned to share my stories in a light that won’t offend anyone or glorify my drug use. My family is well aware that I have stolen from them and from businesses, but I don’t joke about or make references to stealing.

It’s important to discover a tactful way to tell a story without offending or hurting anyone’s feelings. Pick and choose which stories you share. Do I share the story about getting busted while shoplifting and then being let go because they thought I was homeless? Absolutely, because it illustrates how embarrassing and sad my life had gotten. I make sure to add how much I regret the decisions I have made and how I never want to be in that position again.

I do find myself sharing stories that end up going in a direction I had never intended. When this happens, in the end, I always add how unfortunate my life was and how I am grateful to have the choice not to make those decisions again. Sharing our stories can be crucial to our sobriety because it can remind you to be grateful about the life you are blessed with today. We all have a past that cannot be erased or changed, so embrace it in a way that is beneficial to your sobriety.

Facing the Consequences

At one point or another, we do have to face the consequences of our actions. In the later steps of your sobriety, you will be required to admit the wrongdoings of your past, whether it be to a family member you have wronged, a trusted friend or a sponsor.

An important factor to remember is whether being honest is going to benefit you or the person you’re admitting your truths to. When I took the time to apologize to my parents for what I had done to them, I did not go into details. I never admitted to stealing my great-grandmother’s ring from my mother, because there was no way I could retrieve it for her and it would only send her into a funk. In my apology, I included every aspect of her life that I had affected but I did not specify every single thing I had done to wrong her. Honesty is a great quality, but when it comes to your past and things you cannot change, sometimes the details can be left unsaid.

In no way am I advocating dishonesty or being deceitful, because that’s not part of a successful sober program. What is important is focusing on the future and not trying to alter the past, because you’ll spend your whole life trying. The people who love you will accept you for who you are and move forward with you.

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