One of the most impactful stumbling blocks to an addict in recovery is the maintaining of secrecy. We as addicts must be open, honest, and transparent, so we do not put ourselves in a situation where secrecy has the opportunity to cause us to stumble.
Secrecy is a repetition of old patterns
When we were in our addiction, we maintained the addiction by keeping things secret. In an earlier post, we talked about patterns. The human brain likes patterns. It prefers to minimize brain activity and run on “autopilot” as much as possible. You can go back and read about the patterns of addiction in the earlier blog post: What does the recovery life look like?
Secrecy was a major part of that old way of thinking. We didn’t tell most people we used, when we used, how much we used, or why we used. Allowing secrets in our lives draws the brain back to that old pattern.
What if it isn’t a bad secret?
First, let me acknowledge that if you’re in the CIA or otherwise party to state secrets regarding national security, you know your aunts REAL weight, or you hold back how much money you make (or any “secret” like these), then that is not the type of secret I’m talking about.
I’m talking about secrets regarding ways you have been hurt. I’m talking about ways you’ve hurt people. I’m talking about sin you struggle with—I’m talking about feelings you have. Basically, I’m talking about secrets that have the ability to hurt you or somebody else (again, government assassins and people holding onto knowledge about their aunt’s real weight are excused).
If it isn’t bad, why keep it a secret?
Don’t make it PUBLIC knowledge
The bible tells us that we should open up to each other.
James 5:16 – Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.
We are not called to post our business on billboards. We are called to find somebody trustworthy, reliable, and wise to walk with us on this journey. That is why accountability partners (yes, plural) and a sponsor are so important. We tell these people the things that are going on in our lives, both good and bad, and they watch our flanks and our six as we fight the fight of recovery.
Even Jesus took three men with Him into the garden while He prayed concerning the crucifixion. He asked them to watch while He prayed.
Jesus took three men with Him. As addicts in recovery, we cannot have too much accountability. The more eyes we have (that we TRUST) watching us, the more difficult to slip.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 – 9 Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. 10 If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. 11 Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? 12 A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.
Being alone in this battle leads to our failure
As addicts, we walked the road of addiction alone for a long time. Many of us did so for years. Our very best efforts only caused us to be more deeply mired in addiction every day. It was until we reached out (whether willingly or not) that we started to get better. Why on earth would we forfeit all of the progress we’ve made doing it as a team, to go back to doing it alone. Alone being the method that caused us to go to rehab in the first place.
Secrets isolate us by default
When we choose not to disclose some things to anybody, we separate ourselves from those that can help us and put ourselves in a position that allows us to be surrounded and defeated. I’ve known people who have lived sober for decades and slipped back into addiction through ONE secret. That one choice to exclude those that could keep watch with him and he fell, and fell HARD! At the end of the day, feeling the need to keep something a secret should be a giant red flag.
Feeling the need to keep something a secret should tell you there’s a problem
Again, I’m not talking about failing to reveal your wife’s Christmas present you bought and hid in the closet. I’m talking about things like the URGE to use again (even if you choose not to). I’m talking about when that person who isn’t your spouse shows you attention that isn’t appropriate (especially if the attention makes you feel good). I’m talking about things that tear at your soul, causing you emotional pain. We could list a thousand different things. But I know this: each and every one of us feels it in our soul when we make the choice to keep it a secret.
The Holy Spirit warns us when we keep secrets
Every one of us who are believers feels it. I know because I have. When you come to a fork in the road, and you make the wrong choice, you feel it. You decide to proceed down the path that leads to relapse. The warning bells go off in your mind. They say, “Whoa! What are you doing? This doesn’t lead anywhere good. You need to call somebody and turn around. You should’ve gone the other way.” We choose to ignore it and go on, or we choose to listen and go back. We decide at that moment to set ourselves up for success or to set ourselves up for failure.
To the addict:
It does not make you weak to reach out for help. A smart man (or woman), a truly wise man, knows that all of us need help from time to time. We know that we need help, and sometimes those we love need help. We will have ample opportunity to return the favor for those that come to our aid. We have to get out of this mindset that asking for help makes us weak. We have to change our thought patterns that say real men can handle it on their own. The truth is, we can’t. The truth is that only an idiot would want to handle it alone and greatly increase the odds of going back to the hell we were set free from. A REAL man recognizes his weaknesses, and limitations, and gets the job DONE and done the RIGHT way, no matter what it takes, even if that requires a little help from our friends. Unlike The Beatles and Joe Cocker, we don’t want to get high with a little help from our friends; we want to stay SOBER with a little help from our friends!
To those that love an addict
You HAVE to understand that this fight is NEVER over. As an addict in recovery, I need always to remain vigilant. I may not always desire to use, but the possibility of me wanting to use is always there. I’m not saying that as addicts in recovery we want to use all day every day, but satan is patient and I can assure you he is vigilant. He waits for that perfect opportunity to give us a reason to make us want to use, and then he provides the means. There is nothing wrong with you keeping your loved one’s accountability partners accountable. They shouldn’t share with you anything they discuss with your recovering addict. That would be a betrayal of trust. But they can tell you “yes She’s been checking in regularly. She’s doing what it takes to stay sober.” We all have lives. Sometimes as accountability partners, we just get busy. We don’t intentionally drop the ball. But if the ball gets dropped, it doesn’t matter if it is intentional or not. So you as a person that loves an addict; as somebody that has a real and vested interest in their sobriety, keep the accountability partners and sponsors accountable. Make sure they are doing their job. They SHOULD appreciate your passion. They SHOULD welcome an extra layer of security for the man or woman you ALL care about so much.
At the end of the day…
All that matters is that we stay clean. We walk this path together. So let us both do whatever it takes to stay clean!