Everyday Integrity: Why Small Moments Matter in Recovery
Let’s say you get to work late. No one sees you come in, and you’re getting ready to fill out your timecard. Are you honest about what time you really arrived…or do you say you were there on time?
In small moments like these, many people are left unsure of what to do. While honesty is always the best policy, does it really make a difference in these small, almost insignificant moments of life and work?
The answer is yes – especially if you’re in recovery.
The Guiding Principles of Recovery
Recovery is founded on a number of guiding principles that help people know how to live life sober, including honesty and integrity, among many others.
So for people in recovery, integrity isn’t just a buzzword. It’s the principle that should ground and govern your recovery on a daily basis, at home and at work. When you feel tempted to make a decision or to act outside of your internal belief system, it can become challenging and risky for your recovery.
Here’s why those small moments of integrity matter:
- They dictate our future actions.
Small actions form lasting habits over time. And it doesn’t mean you’re a bad person, some of this is just science. In behavioral psychology, the theory goes that we develop habits and behaviors by what gets positively reinforced. So if you act outside of your personal belief system and you don’t experience any consequences, scientifically, we’re more likely to do it again. Without even trying to do anything wrong, small actions of dishonesty can become recurring habits if we’re not careful. And in recovery, living in accordance with our beliefs – and only affirming healthy habits – is pretty important.
- They reflect our internal belief system.
Small moments when no one is looking really put our beliefs to the test. Do we really do what we say we’ll do? Will we act in accordance with what we believe? Let your small, everyday actions be a testament to recovery and the values it stands for. If you notice you’re starting do make small compromises, do what you can to acknowledge it and fix it, knowing that small things can become big things in the long-run.
- They can become a daily reinforcement.
Small moments at work, at home and in recovery can be a daily reinforcement of where we are and how far we’ve come. Consider the earlier example. For some people before recovery, getting to work late could be a reminder of the night before: using, staying up late, showing up to work hungover, lying about it to keep your job. In recovery, it’s different. Now if you’re late, it might be because you simply overslept, got a late start or hit a red light. Doing this quick mental exercise could even be a humorous reflection tactic. You might be late, but at least you still have your recovery. You have mental clarity and a lot to be grateful for – and it’s small moments (yes, even the bad ones) that can remind us of that.
Taking Advantage of Opportunities
Convinced? If you are, you can start thinking of the ordinary, mundane moments as opportunities for a stronger recovery. Here’s how to infuse integrity into every moment, big or small.
- Be: Yes, even in the small things. At work, this requires some wisdom, so work with a recovery coach, sponsor or mentor to navigate how to do this with tact. Dishonesty may have become a habit when you were in active addiction, but recovery sets you on a new path, where your life has a new sense of transparency, affording you the ability to be honest. Enjoy it and live by it.
- Have regular check-ins: Speaking of a recovery coach, sponsor or professional mentor, it can help to have someone keeping you accountable. Whether it’s a weekly meeting over coffee or a quick 10 minute phone call, make it a priority to check-in with people you trust and people you know will challenge you and ask you the hard questions. It can make all the difference.
- Learn to accept failure: You will mess up – and that’s okay. Recovery doesn’t mean you’ll automatically tell the truth 100% of the time, or show up to work on time every day. But it does give you the framework to keep striving for better. The goal is never to be perfect, it’s always to make the next day better than the day before it. If you make a mistake or go against your own personal integrity, recovery gives you the ability to accept failure and fix it next time.
- Remember your “why”: As you live with integrity, you might notice people who aren’t. And unfortunately, sometimes the bad guys get away with it, and sometimes it even helps them get ahead. In the moments you feel like giving up or giving in, pause to remember your why. Honesty. A new life and new opportunities. Sometimes, a quick moment to find perspective is all you need to keep going.
Said best by W. Clement Stone, “Have the courage to say no. Have the courage to face the truth. Do the right thing because it is right. These are the magic keys to living your life with integrity.”
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