Monday, June 25, 2007

Is 75 percent honesty enough?

The women's meeting was interesting the other morning. We got on the topic of honesty and two of our newer members made the statement that they were working on honesty and that they felt that their "75 percent honesty" was enough. I scanned the meeting hall for a dictionary to no avail (every meeting hall should keep a dictionary on hand, the older the better, because some words, when the Big Book or Basic Text were written, had slightly different meanings. Meanings for words can change over time.)

So I rushed (well, I looked it up this morning, honestly) home and picked up my Webster's 2001. "Rigorous" is defined as 1) "Characterised by rigor; rigidly severe or harsh, as people, rules or discipline: rigorous laws. 2) severely exact or accurate; precise: rigorous research."

"Rigor," the root word, is best defined in this context as "scrupulous or inflexible accuracy or adherence." The synonym (opposite)? "Inflexibility, stringency." So, I guess 95 percent honesty is not enough.

Okay, I know, these were relative newcomers. But as we stay clean, the more we evade the truth, whether it's about ourselves or about others, the more it pinches. The longer we stay clean, it's said, the narrower the path. Honesty is a habit, in many respects, I think. When I came into the rooms I'd lied for so long that I had to monitor every word that came out of my mouth, practically. I didn't know the truth. My friends in the program helped me learn how to be more honest.

I recall early in recovery I was resisting returning to work because I resisted the low pay and felt that I didn't know anything but the "fast life," as we called it. I wasn't just addicted to drugs, boys and girls, I was addicted to the drugging lifestyle. Running in the bars and speaks until all hours of the morning, hanging around with low-lifes, always wanting to know what the buzz was on the streets; addiction to the lifestyle was part of my addiction that had to be broken.

I remarked to a friend who suggested maybe I'd better stay out of the clubs if I wanted to stay clean that "I don't know anything else." He said, in a word, "Bullshit. You've held a normal job, you came from a normal home; it's time to make some changes." Honesty, for me, was very slow in coming. Rigorous honesty took years, and still sometimes I fail.

I started with small things. "Cash-register honesty," as it's called; giving back change if given too much, telling the truth even if it's not what I want to say at that moment. I stopped telling tall tales just to get attention. Those little things set the stage for the ability to be more honest in all my affairs. But still, after all this time, it can be a result of habit. Yes, I can take that extra $20 the cashier gave me or I can give it back. I once went through a bank drive-through and the women was very nasty to me. She gave me an extra $100 back. I kept it because I rationalized she owed it me for her behavior. All that had to change when I got clean. My honesty muscle is now in good working order now because I've exercised it for so long.

I have two major pet peeves in the program. It's people on disability coming into the rooms talking about how much they're making under the table and the ones who are experts tax cheats, proud of how little they pay the government (that's us, you and me, you know) because they earn a lot of cash. Somewhere along the line, they didn't learn the "practice these principles in all our affairs" part of the program. When anyone steals, it costs us all; one way or the other, we all pay for others' dishonesty.

I don't like the current tax system, but I still chose to live in this country so I'm stuck with it. Unless I'm willing to go all out to change the system, then I cannot live here and pretend the system doesn't apply to me. That's my opinion, anyway.

I was on a user group the other day littered with doctors and Ph.Ds. The moderator of the group went on a hateful rant about alcoholics; they are "manipulative," etc., she said. I did talk to her on the phone later and told her I had been in recovery for over two decades. I was met with an uncomfortable silence. I hoped that she was talking about those not in recovery, but my guess is, somewhere along the line, she's seen something that shades her perception of even those of us in recovery.

The old saying goes "You may be the only Basic Text that someone ever sees." Does my behavior match our spiritual principles? Is 75 percent, or 95 percent, or 80 percent honesty enough? I honestly don't know. I only know I strive for 100 percent honesty. I'm not always successful, but I'm pretty close.

Well, enough wanderings for one day. Until tomorrow, have a great, honest day. I always feel much better when I do.


Syd said...

I see people in recovery for many years who seem to have deluded themselves into thinking that they are honest. Rigorous honesty means that you are willing to give up those things that keep us dishonest and are character defects. I'm not there yet.

Anonymous said...

another awesome post.

vicariousrising said...

Honesty is hugely important to me and has been since as long as I can remember. I have strived for 100% honesty, but one of my problems is what I call "sins of omission" where I just leave out big chunks of information or change how I say things so I am not actually lying when I know how things will be perceived. It is something I still have to work on.

Provocative post.

Shadow said...

i'm with you. i believe honesty is a black or white thing, either you are or you are not, you can't be half honest....

Christine said...

When I came in I didn't know what was the truth anymore. Working the Steps and doing my best to be honest has been a long row to hoe

Now when I catch myself in a lie, yup it still happens at times, I have to look at what is going on and why I might be so afraid

Its good to not have to try to remember all the lies and who I told what to about what. When I tell my story I hate that I have to face a roomful of people and tell the truth but its what sets me free, right?

Meg Moran said...

I once heard a guy share " Hi my name's blah blah and I'm an alcoholic.... I quit drinkin in 1990, quit smokin in 1998, and I THINK I gave up lying last week"'s a process, huh?