Contributor: W. Travis Stewart, LPC, NCC writer for Addiction Hope
The mind tricks occurring in major chemical addiction…all have a single purpose: to keep the addictive behavior going.
— Gerald May, Addiction and Grace
I know my own daily practice of prayer and meditation is not easy. One reason is that this practice opens my awareness to things about myself that I would rather not be conscious of.
— Gerald May, Addiction and Grace
It’s much easier to avoid the truth about ourselves. We do this a variety of ways. In fact, we might say that avoiding the truth about ourselves in a full-time vocation. It’s much easier to live within the illusions we have created about our lives than to see things plainly.
Everyone creates illusions. This comes as no surprise to us. The plot of nearly every romantic comedy ever made in Hollywood has taught us this. Man meets woman. Man withholds something from the woman for fear that she will reject him. Man spends 90% of the movie trying to keep up the illusion. Circumstances shatter the illusion. Woman is initially angry and rejects him. Woman forgives him and they live happily ever after. And we laugh because we are all playing the same game.
But the game can be played alone as well. Illusions are an individual sport. In fact, we are so adept at fooling ourselves we aren’t even awake to the reality that it is happening.
The illusions seep into every corner of our lives. We live by images in our minds of the way our lives are supposed to be; the way our lives have been; the truths about our parents or our career or our bank account. We even reframe our trauma so that we feel less vulnerable.
These images serve us, even the negative ones. Maybe especially the negative thoughts such as “I’m stupid” or “No one loves me.” They serve us in some way by protecting the way we have lived life, even if it is destroying us. 
Though they were developed to protect us, in the end the illusions enslave us, partially because, like the emperor who wore no clothes, everyone but us knows the truth.
To have freedom though, we must learn to listen to what the world is telling us about ourselves. Like the tone-deaf contestant on American Idol whose mother told him he was an amazing singer, unless we hear the brutal honesty of the judges, we will go on pursuing a dead-end goal.
President James A. Garfield reportedly said, “The truth will set you free but first it will make you miserable.” You have to ask yourself, “Do I really want to be free?”
Do you want to start down this path? No, of course you don’t. Will you anyway? If the answer is “yes”, start by considering the following:
- Has more than one person ever given me feedback that I didn’t want to hear? If the answer is no you are probably not willing to tell yourself the truth?
- If people do give me feedback about myself, is there a theme? What is it?
- Ask a few close friends to tell you the truth about how they see you.
- Make a list of things about yourself you prefer not to think about.
Beware of self-hatred. If you find yourself beating yourself up you are not telling yourself the truth. You are clinging to an illusion. Telling yourself the truth will not result in self-hatred or despair but rather in stunned silence followed by a willingness to ask for help.
Community Discussion – Share your thoughts here!
Many people struggle with honesty in their battle with addiction. Part of the recovery process is uncovering truth and learning to be honest with yourself and others. What has your path to honesty looked like in your recovery?
About the Author
Travis Stewart earned a Master of Arts in Counseling (2001) and a Master of Arts in Theological Studies (2003), both from Covenant Seminary in St. Louis, MO. Travis is a Licensed Professional Counselor in the State of Missouri and a writer for Eating Disorder Hope and Addiction Hope.
- I owe some of these thoughts to Bruce Edstrom, professional counselor in Dallas, TX
The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of addictions and co-occurring disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Addiction Hope, but an effort to offer a discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals. We at Addiction Hope understand that addictions result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an addiction, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.
Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on September 4, 2015. Published on AddictionHope.com