Checkbook Honesty


Do you judge yourself to be an honest sort of person?

  • How often do you calibrate your emotional response to elicit a reaction from another person?
  • How often to you engage in an argument with a knowingly faulty premise?
  • How often do you paint a picture of your life that is overly rosy?
  • How often have you spun a report for your boss?

My sponsor gnawed away at me in the early days of my sobriety with a thing he called “checkbook honesty.”  He rightly noted I would often:

  • Present myself as having figured things out when I hadn’t
  • Say things for effect rather than candor
  • Sanitize my true condition
  • Cloak my honesty in a protective shield so that I wouldn’t look too bad

He told me that the longer I stayed in the program, the deeper my bottom would become.  What he meant was that the longer I stayed sober, the deeper my admissions would become as to the truth about my life.  I had to get to my own checkbook in order, and until I could get there I’d never be honest, and without honesty I’d be forever trapped in the fog of my own spin.

For me, honesty had become a relative term.  As in, “I’ll only be as honest as the world around me.  I will shade the truth to match the fog level of my neighbor.”  The extent to which this game is played in our civic, cultural, economic and political lives has reached epic proportions.

  • Who can listen to a political debate without cringing?
  • Who cannot wonder about a doctor’s prescription given the influence of the drug companies?
  • Who can invest money in the stock market without questioning whether the game is rigged?

Checkbook honesty would appear to be in mighty short supply in today’s world.

My task was to simplify my life to see reality for what it was.  Like so many times in recovery I learned a lesson from a wise old soul.  I lived for a while in La Conner, Washington, and would drive in to Mt. Vernon for meetings.  Mary was a regular at my Tuesday night meeting.  She was an older Swinomish Indian woman with 20-plus years of sobriety, and a pillar in her tribal community.  After one meeting she stopped me in the parking lot.  I was shuffling along in a deep funk, lost in my own thoughts.  She said, “Pat, you don’t look so good.  Yet in the meeting tonight you spoke like things were great, like everything in your life was peachy keen.”

Her remarks stung me.  I said, “What do you mean, Mary?”

She paused a moment, took my hand, and with real compassion said, “Until you are ready to share where you actually are in the here and now, and not where you were yesterday or where you hope to be tomorrow, you’ll never get better.”

I got together with Mary later and asked her for advice on how to break my deeply held pattern of spinning the truth.  She suggested that when I came to a meeting:

  • I prepare nothing before I spoke
  • I draw only from my immediate experience
  • I not rely on my mind to find words, but only on my spirit
  • My spirit would guide me to the truth

Finally, I began to find my own checkbook honesty in the advice that Mary offered.

Just a thought…


If you would like to submit a post to Just A Thought, please contact Marsha at