Before I decided to get clean and sober I was addicted to lying. Everything was at the very least an exaggeration or embellishment of the truth. I didn’t really regard it as a problem until the last few months because I felt that most of it was harmless. But I’ve come to learn that for me, honesty is paramount to almost every other virtue. Everything out of my mouth was almost certainly a lie, I lied when the truth would have served me better. I can get into the fact that the reason I lied was almost always linked to fear. I felt insecure about who I was and the realities of my life, so I would lie to everyone about almost everything as a way to hide the truth, which I found to be either embarrassing or inadequate. I never realized that in doing so, I was actually separating myself from the possibility of peace of mind and happiness.
When I was lying to others I was ultimately lying to myself. I was reinforcing the idea that I needed to lie in order to be liked, to be loved, or to be worthy of others. This was especially true if the lies worked. If I lied about something and it actually made me seem more interesting I would justify its utility and need for more lying. We are all aware that lying becomes a vicious cycle; you have to lie continuously to keep the lies going. I wrote my book as an antidote to this type of behaviour. I figured that if for once in my life I was completely honest about everything (which I was in the book) then I would finally be free from this horrible cycle. This actually was a freeing experience and definitely added to the liberation of my soul from this toxic fabrication I allowed it to become. Some days I’m almost tempted to tell people that if they didn’t read about it in my book, chances are it was a lie.
Lying for me was the single biggest contributor to my downfall in terms of my mental health. It got to the point where I couldn’t even be honest with myself. My self-deception had taken me down such a horrible road that I was lost inside myself. I didn’t even know who I was anymore because nothing in my external life seemed to have any basis in reality. I lost touch with reality and therefore lost touch with myself. The problem with lying pathologically as I used to, is that you can’t actually rectify any problems. A huge relevant factor in fixing a problem is actually being able to identify the problem. If I wasn’t capable of being honest about what the problem was, I wasn’t going to be capable of remedying the problem. This was a cycle I fell into deeply.
Quitting drugs and quitting drinking weren’t remotely sufficient to fixing my life, and that’s because I wasn’t capable of being honest. It’s the single biggest reason why I continued to relapse despite making explicit promises to myself, to others, and even to God, that I would never drink or use drugs again. I couldn’t be honest with anyone or myself. Dishonesty, much like the majority of my problems, is all rooted in fear. For a long while I was incapable of being honest with myself because the truth seemed so awful and horrible that even mere glimpses of it would send me into emotional collapse. Looking in the mirror became impossible because I no longer even recognized the person looking back.
Honesty goes a long way in alleviating anxiety and acts as a barometer for other moral virtues. If I’m being honest with myself and with others I find that I’m much more likely to treat others properly because I’m not justifying or rationalizing my way into selfishness or immoral behaviour. The other thing about living an honest and truthful life is it allows me to not have so much fear. It reduces anxiety because I know to my core that I’m being an honest and truthful person, and it frees me from the emotional chains and burdens of secrecy. If I’m committed to telling the truth, and more importantly, facing the truth, then I’m more likely to behave in a manner that is conducive to a strong moral rectitude and a character that is worth upholding. It’s hard to behave selfishly or immorally if I’m committed to being an honest and truthful person, because the means of which I normally went about being an immoral or selfish person are all rooted in the dishonesty of self-deception, rationalization and justification. There’s that old adage that says “the truth will set you free” and I believe that to be true. It’s especially evident and liberating if you’ve lived a lie for so long. Honesty not only helps with reducing anxiety and insecurity, but it allows me to be a person that I don’t have to be ashamed or embarrassed to be. The truth is the truth, and lying seems to be merely a maladaptive tool rooted in the inability to accept the truth. But once I accept reality, I can start living in a manner where people think highly of me, and I begin to think highly of myself. Not in an egotistical way, but in a way that perpetuates my growth and usefulness to others, and eliminates feelings of worthlessness, self-hatred, and insecurity.
- Jack A. Bingham
Author of Obsessive-Compulsive Dramatic: My Fight Against OCD, Borderline Personality Disorder, and Addiction