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12 Step Spiritual Principles List – Honesty – Step One

Over the next two weeks, I will be dedicating my time to the 12 Step Spiritual Principles list. Each step in 12 step programs has a spiritual principle attached to it. You may have seen these posted above or below the steps hanging on many A.A. rooms throughout the country. They are as follows:

  1. HONESTY – Fairness and straight forwardness of conduct: adherence to the facts.
  2. HOPE – To expect with desire; something on which hopes are centered.
  3. FAITH – Complete confidence; belief and trust.
  4. COURAGE – Firmness of mind and will in the face of extreme difficulty; mental or moral strength to withstand fear.
  5. INTEGRITY – The quality or state of being complete or undivided; soundness.
  6. WILLINGNESS – Prompt to act or respond; accepted and done of choice or without reluctance.
  7. HUMILITY – Not proud or haughty; not arrogant or assertive; a clear and concise understanding of what we are, followed by a sincere desire to become what we can be.
  8. LOVE – Unselfish concern that freely accepts another in loyalty and seeks his good to hold dear.
  9. DISCIPLINE – Training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character; to bring under control; to train or develop by instruction.
  10. PATIENCE/PERSEVERANCE – Steadfast despite opposition or adversity; able or willing to bear; to persist in an understanding in spite of counter influences.
  11. AWARENESS – Alive and alert; vigilance in observing.
  12. SERVICE – A helpful act; contribution to the welfare of others; useful labor that does not produce a tangible commodity.

Every one of these principles is crucial to having a spiritual experience. Today, we will point out the importance of honesty, our dishonest past, practicing this principle, and taking concrete steps to living a more honest existence.

Let’s explore the principle of Step One: HONESTY.

Why Honesty?

Honesty is associated with step one for an important reason. Step one is “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol and our lives had become unmanageable.” While I do not agree this is the most important step, as the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, it is the only step that must be done perfectly. This step has been particularly hard for me. It is painful for me to admit that I had accepted the first part of this step many times with no results. I knew I was powerless over alcohol, and I simply didn’t care. I knew once I started drinking I had no real idea how or where I would end up, as I blacked out nearly every time I drank. Unfortunately, the fear of something terrible happening just wasn’t present for me. It wasn’t until I faced the possible destruction of my relationships with my family that I became fearful.

The second part of the step was where I had the greatest trouble; I couldn’t accept my life was unmanageable. Had I not managed to graduate from college at the top of my class? Had I not secured virtually every job I went after? Had I not performed superlatively in many ways? Because of these things, I could not admit that my life was unmanageable. Never mind that I had embarrassed myself hundreds of times, had been convicted of multiple DUI’s, hurt my friends and family, spent money in the dumbest ways imaginable, etc. It was also clear to everyone that I was a total mess except myself. Thankfully, I eventually saw it.

I had to truly accept that not only can I not control my drinking, my life, by all normal standards was out of control and unmanageable. It is actually liberating once I accepted I could no longer drink. I had proved this time and again. I no longer have to devise ways to hide my drinking, or obsess about being “normal”. I had to accept step one and learn to adhere to the honesty principle, or die. These were my only two options.

Dishonesty Out of Necessity

Being addicted to a substance will turn the most honest man into a liar. After it is apparent to ourselves and other people that we have a problem, we begin to omit facts, bend the truth, flat out lie (even when unnecessary). It can sometimes become pathological, where we lie about trivial details simply because it has become so natural to us. Every alcoholic should audition for movies, because we are great actors.

Mark Twain said: “If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.” Alcoholics have to remember everything! This is because we have a different story for so many people. Frankly, it can become a daunting task to keep all these stories straight. Remembering all these stories eventually becomes impossible.

Let me illustrate an example that can occur over the course of one day. We go to work and are hungover. We tell our boss we have the flu knowing full well we plan on going to the casino and drinking. We tell ourselves we will only have a few drinks and play casino games for a maximum of two hours. Our girlfriend calls and we tell her we got off work early because the computer network went down. We fail to mention we went to the casino. We then proceed to get drunk and lose a few hundred dollars and call a friend and ask if we can sleep there that night. We then drunkenly tell our girlfriend on the phone that we are staying at a long-lost friend’s house who recently came home to avoid the scene of going home drunk. This is a close approximation of one example in my life.

We tell these lies because we honestly believe we are fooling other people. We are essentially insane people who operate under the delusion that everyone has an IQ below 60 and buy our bulls**t. We may have gotten away with some lies before our illness really had us under its grasp, but this eventually erodes until nobody believes anything we say. We must get honest with ourselves if we are to maintain hope we can restore our lives, our relationships, and our sanity.

Principle in Practice

I am not going to sit here and tell you that I am now 100% honest about everything in my life, nor do I recommend it. If I was honest with friends and family about everything that entered my mind, I can assure you that I would not longer have any friends or family to be honest with. If you have ever watched Curb Your Enthusiasm, watch how much trouble Larry gets into by speaking his mind all the time. You don’t have to be an alcoholic to no that tact is called for in your daily dealings. I wanted to put this disclaimer out there so I’d be better equipped to discuss why this principle is vital to those in recovery.

Many of us prided ourselves on being everything to everybody. This false pride allowed us to morph into expert chameleons. We could adapt to any situation with ease. This was NOT our true selves. Little did we realize that actively trying to be everything to everybody, we were slowly destroying ourselves. We often said yes when we really meant no, for example. This is dishonest. When we blindly followed orders instead of speaking our truth we were being dishonest. A major one is allowing resentment to creep into our hearts instead of speaking up for ourselves. If somebody annoys you, is invading your space, is taking thing from you it is important to speak your truth. If not, you are being dishonest. We also must learn to allow ourselves to find something unacceptable.

Social Chameleon Out of Necessity

Too many times in my life people have asked me how I was doing and my pat answer was fine. This was rarely true. If we are honest, we should say that everything is not good. This doesn’t mean we instantly unload all our personal problems on a stranger, but if something is bothering us we should consult a friend or sponsor. A problem shared is a problem halved; this is especially true of those who suffer from addiction.

How Do I Begin?

It is quite difficult to completely change the way we behave quickly. Obviously, the first step is to stop drinking or using. When this is accomplished, we can at least minimize the reasons for lying. Most of our lying stems from finding clever ways to drink with impunity. I often drank alone because I knew I wouldn’t have to answer to anybody.

Practicing honesty can begin in our support groups. Every time you raise your hand and share a story or how you honestly feel, you are building upon the honesty principle. This is the best place to begin getting honest, as the surrounding people suffer from the same problem and understand intimately. Rarely is there anything said in an A.A. meeting that hasn’t been heard before. When we first enter a support group, we believe we are unique. To our chagrin, we find that our similarities vastly outweigh our differences.

As we progress through the steps, we will have many opportunities to get honest. To recover, it is said that we trust God, clean house, and help others. Getting a sponsor and following suggestions will help greatly in this regard.

Honesty is Our Best Policy

It is important to realize that much of our dishonesty stemmed from our desire to hide our drinking and drugging from others. We believed we were fooling or protecting them from harm, when we were really hurting them. We tried all sorts of way to control and moderate our drinking. In order to make up for our drinking, we tried to be the end all, be all to everybody. Eventually, we have to get honest with ourselves and admit we are powerless over alcohol.

This is when the real healing begins. We will stop saying yes when we mean no, start expressing our truth, and enjoy standing up for ourselves. Little by little, we will become more honest people and start down the path to becoming happy, joyous, and free.

Please share this post if it has helped or will help others close to you, or leave a comment.

Ernest

7 Comments

  1. Thanks for the post.

    These qualities are a necessity for us to grow as a person. Being in charge of ourselves through principles that have stood the test of time through spirituality is a Rock to Stand on.

    Most have been in a place where we are tempted to do the wrong thing and our principles guide us through temptation.

    Blessings on you and thanks for sharing.

    How long have you been sharing in this way?

    • Thank you for the comment. A house made of bricks will stand for centuries, as you said. It is amazing what alcohol can do to a person’s character. I have been sharing like this for about a month online. I get a lot of ideas based on these types of comments and my past experiences. Thanks again!

  2. I’m not an alcoholic that stumbled upon this post, and continued reading because I am interested in the spiritual principles listed. Despite not being an alcoholic, I’m guilty of two areas of dishonesty:

    1. “We often said yes when we really meant no, for example.”

    I just find it SO HARD to turn someone else down, especially if that someone is a person really close to me. I don’t want to hurt them, but I don’t know how to reject them in a ‘nice’ way such that they don’t feel hurt, so I often decide that it is better for me to be overloaded.

    I know this will be bad for me in the long run, but I am just stuck in this helpless circle not knowing how to get out.

    2. “A major one is allowing resentment to creep into our hearts instead of speaking up for ourselves.“

    I have a very major resentment in my heart regarding one of my close ones. Part of it was from her, part of it was from the people that both of us knew. She often voiced out her opinions on me, but (being the passive-aggressive person I am) I simply clam up. She knows that I resent her, but probably not to what extent: a very sharp and poisonous thorn that is thrust deep into my heart, bringing me pain whenever I think about her/see anything related to her.

    It’s torturing the life out of me.

    How would you suggest for me to change the situation I am in?

    • As I kind of stated, I am also guilty of accepting to do things that I really have no interest in, or simply lack the time. This can stretch me thin to the point I am not focused enough on the things I find most important, but it is getting better.

      Resentment can creep in and we often end up passive aggressive. In the past, I’ve resorted to writing my thoughts down in a letter, because I simply have a hard time expressing feelings face to face. Resentment is a poison, just like you said. I’ve heard it said that resentment can be likened to drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die. While this is a bit harsh, I hope you feel me on this. I would suggest writing down your feelings and then presenting them face to face, or simply hand her the letter. If it can’t be resolved, then avoid her like the plague. This may be very difficult if you wish that you were both close. I hope this helps.

  3. WOW, That was good. I worked the steps approx. 25 years ago and I was fortunate to have a sponsor who was connected with a lot of people who had a lot of years of sobriety. I was at a retreat and met a man in failing health that was sponsored by one of the first 100 . The first thing he asked the group “WHATS THE PROBLEM” we were aware of what it said in the big book. (obsession of the mind, allergy to the body) and that he did his steps over a week end I believe and that he had to travel some distance to meet with him. Back to your site. I found it on point with message in fact well written and relatable.
    Best of wishes to you, I think you will help a lot people
    Good for you,
    Brett

    • Getting a sponsor is always the way to go. Of course, we are defiant by nature so it can be tough to accept the “suggestions” a sponsor sometimes imposes. Sometimes we have to humble ourselves and also admit that we really have made a hard time out of life.

      Thank you for the comment. I always like to hear stories about people making it out of hell into the light.

  4. Your 12 step spiritual principles should open many folks eyes. The steps listed is a guide that we all can follow to obtain smooth relationships and live a life in harmony with our spouse and others.

    Faith should be at the top of the list because without faith and a closeness to God, then a person would have no sense of inner peace and experience a loss of direction in life.

    A post I wrote also touched on honesty, which I feel is a very important part in life. Couples experiencing love & honesty is the glue that holds together life’s basic core in regards to relationships in our society.

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