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Honesty in Recovery: Why is it Important?

picture of Joe Gilmore
Medically Reviewed By: Diana Vo, LMFT

November 10, 2023 (Originally Published)

March 15, 2024 (Last Updated)

Table of Contents

Honesty is a trait that’s universally admired, but honesty in recovery is not always of the utmost importance for everyone struggling with addiction. Being honest with yourself and your loved ones is one of the most important aspects of addiction recovery.

To get the most out of sober living, open up to friends and family, and be honest about the help you need to get back on track.

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What is the Importance of Honesty in Recovery?

There are many reasons why people in recovery from addiction behave dishonestly. These include:

  • Habitually lying becomes a habit and an almost automatic response over time.
  • Fearing the consequences of their actions, many people in active addiction lie to shield themselves from these consequences.
  • Sustained substance use triggers functional and structural brain changes. Many people addicted to alcohol or drugs lie without realizing it.
  • Dishonesty can sometimes produce positive outcomes, both economically and socially. As such, someone with a mind muddied by substance abuse may utilize this tool to fulfill their desires. Unfortunately, the long-term outcomes of dishonesty are almost invariably negative.

Of all these reasons, denial is perhaps the most common barrier to recovery getting traction.

The APA (American Psychological Association) defines denial as “a defense mechanism such as a refusal to acknowledge an addiction.”

If you are addicted to drugs or alcohol and you are in denial, you will reject any elements of reality that don’t align with your worldview. This is a subconscious process rather than a premeditated refusal to face facts.

Anyone experiencing the following common signs of denial should consider focusing on the issue of substance abuse as objectively as possible:

  • Blaming others for the damage caused by your alcohol abuse or drug abuse.
  • Using manipulative tactics to get what you want from loved ones.
  • Bracketing reality: this construct involves using a period when you were too sick to use alcohol or drugs as evidence that it is possible to stop using substances any time you choose.
  • Becoming accusatory or defensive when confronted about your addiction. This by-product of denial is an attempt to deflect attention from the issue in hand.
  • Justifying your addiction by claiming you could stop whenever you wanted to, but you remain in control so see no need to quit. Actions speak louder than words. Your loved ones will make their own judgments based on what you do rather than what you say.
  • Displaying complete disregard for the harm you cause to others as a result of abusing substances. This is one of the most classic markers of denial.
  • Point-blank denial that any kind of problem with substance abuse exists.

According to the Surgeon General’s Report, only one in ten people suffering from substance use disorder receive treatment. Don’t let denial or dishonesty stand in the way of your recovery.

When you engage with an addiction treatment program, whether at residential rehab center or through an outpatient program, the foundation of therapy involves making positive changes to your life. You should strive to be as honest as possible throughout this ongoing process.

Why is honesty so important in recovery, then?

Well, dishonesty or denial prevents many people from getting the appropriate treatment. As a chronic and progressive brain condition, addiction will only get worse if untreated. Be true to yourself and your loved ones and reach out for the help you need – this is not a sign of weakness.

More widely, the dishonesty prevalent in many relationships where one partner is abusing substances erodes trust and jeopardizes the relationship.

When you lose the trust of loved ones due to the dishonest behaviors triggered by addiction, there is generally no quick fix. Instead, you can use this as an opportunity to repair this damage as you engage with an appropriate treatment program. The more comfortable you become in your sobriety, the more readily you can be completely honest about all aspects of your addiction.

Honesty in Addiction Recovery and Sobriety

Here are some of the key benefits of practicing honesty in your addiction recovery: 

  • Mend relationships shattered by your active addiction
  • Maintain consistent progress with your recovery through total honesty
  • Work on trust issues impacting close interpersonal relationships with honesty and integrity
  • Minimize your chances of relapse
  • If you slip up, admit your mistake, and re-engage with recovery immediately

Mend relationships shattered by your active addiction

As highlighted, addiction and any accompanying dishonesty can be a powerfully toxic force in your closest relationships.

If you are accepting and honest about your lack of control over substance use, and if you approach your recovery with unflinching honesty, your loved ones will see ongoing and positive changes as you leave substance use behind. 

As you become more honest with yourself about the specifics of your addiction, you will find yourself communicating more meaningfully with friends and family without your substance abuse remaining a persistent elephant in the room. 

You should also find yourself in a position to apologize to loved ones for the harm you caused them while addicted to alcohol or drugs. 

Maintain consistent progress with your recovery through total honesty

To embrace ongoing sobriety and to get the most out of a substance-free life, you should first and foremost be unerringly honest with yourself. Even if you find yourself being economical with the truth around others, you cannot look in the mirror and kid yourself. 

Approaching your recovery and sobriety honestly allows you to avoid complacency and to call for help whenever you need it, whether that’s from your personal support network or your treatment team.

Recovery is not a single event like detox or withdrawal. Rather, you’ll initiate an ongoing process that should become easier the longer you remain sober. 

Work on trust issues impacting close interpersonal relationships with honesty and integrity

Don’t feel aggrieved if you complete an intensive outpatient program for alcohol use disorder or substance use disorder and your loved ones still don’t fully trust you.

By opening ongoing dialogue with your loved ones during which you can openly share the challenges and frustrations of your recovery journey, as well as all your achievements along the way, you’ll start making practical steps to restore shattered trust. 

Minimize your chances of relapse

By surrounding yourself with a sober support network you can speak with about any aspect of your recovery, you’ll start forming a positive habit of affirmative and honest actions.

Due to the high relapse rates associated with addiction, everything you can do to bolster your defenses outside of your treatment program can help you avoid succumbing to cravings and relapsing.

If you slip up, admit your mistake, and re-engage with recovery immediately

If you relapse, use it as an instructive learning experience. It is not unusual for those in recovery to relapse and you should take advantage of a relapse management plan if you have one.

All that counts if you slip up and use substances is to admit your mistake, to yourself and to your loved ones, and to immediately start moving forward rather than regressing to active addiction. Without absolute honesty, this is less likely to happen than a return to substance abuse.

Honesty in recovery is certainly not always easy, but it plays a valuable role in rebuilding your life and ensuring your sobriety stays on track.

To be as self-honest in recovery as possible, consider engaging with one of our evidence-based treatment programs here at Renaissance Recovery.

Get Help Today at Renaissance Recovery

At TDRC, we specialize in the outpatient treatment of alcohol use disorder and substance use disorder. We also provide dedicated dual diagnosis treatment for those with co-occurring mental health disorders like depression or anxiety.

The more open and honest you are with your treatment team, the more effectively your treatment program can be tailored to your specific needs. Here at Renaissance Recovery, we also offer gender-specific rehab for any men or women who prefer the idea of kickstarting their recovery in a single-sex setting. Many people in recovery find it easier to be honest about troubling emotions among a group of same-sex peers.

Choose from our OP (outpatient program), IOP (intensive outpatient program), or PHP (partial hospitalization program) depending on the amount of support and structure you need in your recovery from alcoholism or drug addiction.

Regardless of the level of time commitment most appropriate for your addiction treatment, you’ll have access to the following array of therapies at TDRC:

  • Group counseling
  • Individual counseling
  • Talk therapies like CBT and DBT
  • Holistic therapies

If you’re grappling with substance use issues and you are in denial, be honest with yourself and with those around you to get the help you need. Alternatively, reach out to our friendly admissions team today and start unchaining yourself from addiction immediately. Call 866.330.9449.



At Renaissance Recovery our goal is to provide evidence-based treatment to as many individuals as possible. Give us a call today to verify your insurance coverage or to learn more about paying for addiction treatment.

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Joseph Gilmore has been in the addiction industry for three years with experience working for facilities all across the country. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn.

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