On Keeping Integrity Intact in Recovery

“There is no such thing as a minor lapse in integrity.” – Tom Peters, American writer on business practices, best known for In Search of Excellence (born 1942) When we have been through treatment for addiction – or even if we have not – and are entering our period of early recovery, we often carry with us tormented memories of the person we were in the grip of our addiction. As such, we cast a heap of blame and recrimination upon ourselves and continue to accumulate mountains of self-guilt and pain as the days go on. Never mind that we have chosen to be in recovery, that we have made the often difficult and arduous choice to not only come clean and sober, but to remain that way. What is so hard to get rid of – and get over – is the nagging belief that we are totally lacking in recovery. We not only believe that others look upon us that way, but we firmly believe it ourselves. What is integrity? Merriam-Webster defines integrity as “firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values” and gives a synonym of “incorruptibility.” Integrity also refers to a concept of consistent action, values, methods, principles, expectations and outcomes. It is our honesty and truthfulness of our actions. The opposite of integrity is hypocrisy – where someone espouses integrity but actually has none, although he or she professes to be full of integrity. The interesting point to be made about the importance of integrity in recovery, however, is that just as we choose sobriety, we can also choose to build up our integrity. Put another way, we can and should choose to regain our integrity. Just because we’ve had some tough times – and who among us hasn’t – is no reason that we should also let go of our integrity. We have values, core beliefs that we’ve come to recognize as important to our recovery. If we should lapse and fall back, even briefly, into our addictive patterns, this doesn’t mean that we can let go of our integrity. We can have integrity – even if we slip and go back to drinking or doing drugs. The key is that we recognize what has happened and strive to regain our sobriety. There is no shame or blame in the fact that many in recovery lapse. A lapse can occur to anyone at any time, even those who have been solidly abstinent for many months or years. Lapses are usually only temporary, but left untended – in other words, we don’t do anything to get back on the path of sobriety – they will often lead to a complete falling back into our addictive behavior. But allowing our integrity to fall by the wayside along with our sobriety is, well, simply inexcusable. Just as a woman can’t be a little pregnant, a person can’t be a little shy of integrity. We either have integrity or we don’t. But even if we don’t have it or have never had it, we can still build up our stores of integrity. Yes, it takes work, and a lot of self-analysis and making inroads through counseling or spiritual self-assessment, but it can be done. If we want to continue to make progress in our recovery journey, it actually must be done. Striving to maintain our sobriety, we should also strive to maintain our integrity.

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