“It’s no wonder that truth is stranger than fiction. Fiction has to make sense.” – Mark Twain
We’ve all learned at a young age that the truth and honesty has many dimensions. While we’ve all been taught by kindergarten that honesty is the best policy, we also quickly learn that it’s not always helpful to tell the truth in many situations. In other words, we subconsciously learned that it made more sense to tell a lie.
To keep peace or spare hurt, we learn to tell a white lie, as defined by: “a harmless or trivial lie, especially one told to avoid hurting someone’s feelings.” Like the time we were asked if Aunt Sally looked beautiful in her new dress, and we said, “Not really,” only to have Mom elbow us and give us a scolding look while replying, “Of course you do!” Since learning is often “caught more than taught,” we quickly surmised that lying had its benefits.
Certain personalities are more inclined to spare the full truth in order to maintain the peace around them. People pleasers fall into this category; their white lies distort their own reality to save someone else’s. Over time, what becomes habitual is to tell people what they want to hear, or what they need to hear, in order to maintain harmony within a relationship or household. As a result, certain personalities become hard- wired to evade the truth.
When you mix this phenomenon with an alcohol addiction, well, quite frankly, it’s disastrous because addiction requires a masterful liar to support the lethal lifestyle. The greater the deceit, the more advanced the addiction.
As our alcohol use disorder progresses, all this dishonesty brings a massive sense of disharmony. This is known as cognitive dissonance. In 1957, psychologist Leon Festinger, in his book, A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance, introduced this theory, where two conflicting beliefs, or a belief and an action, collide bringing significant discomfort and disharmony.
Here is an actual example of something I lived on a daily basis: I knew “alcohol was bad for my body and health,” but I also believed “I needed alcohol to survive.” Also, in the morning I would think “today I will not drink” but then I would buy a pint by midday.
These two opposing thoughts and actions cannot coexist peacefully. Eventually, living daily with conflicting beliefs causes a massive energetic systemic meltdown akin to a severe panic attack. To many this is their rock bottom. To that end, fortunately cognitive dissonance can also serve as a powerful motivator for change leading some people to seek help. (For more on Cognitive Dissonance click here for my blog post on the subject.)
In recovery, we learn we must be totally honest: with ourselves first and then with others. You see, the truth is I didn’t need alcohol to survive, what I needed was help. This was a big step to take, because for many years I lived an illusion created by my lies. I wasn’t living in truth and honesty.
At first, it can be foreign or even frightening to see the reality of the decisions we’ve made, and the damage done by actions. Then, as time passes and the fog lifts, the truth becomes very liberating. We are no longer bound by lies and feel the freedom to just simply be. We start to see our world differently, find a-ha moments, even experience a paradigm shift, if you will, and start to welcome the truth in every aspect of our life. The wonderful gift of seeing clearly, understanding what is right and wrong, and the excitement of taking control of our lives is transformational.
In yogic philosophy, we say that truth is like glue, like cement. It’s our identity. The words we use are Sat Nam, and it literally means, Truth is my identity. As you walk through your journey of early recovery, learn these words and make them your own. Make truth your identity. When you do, the truth will set you free.