Breaking Through Denial: Honesty is Essential – 412

In conversation with Barb W, we dive into the vital role honesty plays in the journey of recovery, particularly in accepting and working the first step.

The Challenge of Honesty

We kick off the discussion with Barb reflecting on the necessity of honesty in recovery. Honesty often starts with acknowledging our own denial and deceit, both to ourselves and others. 

Barb’s personal story details the emotional and psychological impact of living with an alcoholic. She talks about her initial denial and how her attempts to control the situation often manifested in deceit. She justified her behaviors under the guise of love, but they ultimately contributed to an unhealthy environment.

Step One: Admitting Powerlessness

Spencer and Barb explore the essence of honesty in the context of the first step: admitting powerlessness over alcohol. Barb explains how her journey towards honesty began with recognizing her inability to control the alcoholic behavior that surrounded her, despite her many efforts.

Barb shares a poignant letter written by Lois W. during Bill W.'s battle with alcoholism. This letter resonates with Barb's own feelings of despair and eventual surrender, capturing the essence of hitting rock bottom and the subsequent surrender to powerlessness.

Finding the Path to Honesty

Barb recounts her initial steps in Al-Anon, emphasizing the slow and difficult process of getting honest with herself. She describes baby steps, a gradual peeling back of layers of denial, and the significant impact of having supportive, closed-mouth friends in recovery. 

A crucial aspect of Barb's journey was the practice of self-affirmation. Encouraged by her sponsor, she struggled but eventually succeeded in telling herself “I love you” while looking in the mirror. This practice marked a turning point in building a healthier relationship with herself.

Embracing Change and Responsibility

Barb admits that her early days in Al-Anon were marked by resistance and partial commitment to the steps. It wasn’t until she experienced her “second surrender” that she wholeheartedly embraced rigorous honesty and accountability, leading to significant personal growth and recovery.


Towards the end of the episode, Barb is asked what she would say to her younger self entering recovery. Her response encapsulates the core message: “You are not alone.” She emphasizes the importance of the relationship with oneself and shares how hearing someone say, “I’ll love you until you can love yourself,” was transformative. Barb turns the question around to Spencer, who echoes Barb’s message, “You are not alone”, adding “It will get better.”

Readings and Links

We read from

  • the Al-Anon/Alateen Service Manual, p. 23 (the paragraph ending “This is our denial.”)
  • Blueprint for Progress, Al-Anon's 4th Step Workbook, Honesty, p. 11.
  • a letter from Lois. We're not sure where you can find this — if you know, please let us know and we will add the link here.

Barb has a TikTok about recovery.

Upcoming topics

We will be doing more episodes on the Steps. What is your experience with each step? Please call us at 734-707-8795 or email with your questions or experience, strength and hope. Or just leave a comment right here.

Music from the Show

Billy Joel – Honesty
Demi Lovato – Anyone
Carrie Underwood – Jesus Take the Wheel

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.