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  • Writer's pictureSteve Braun

Authenticity in Recovery- The Key to Freedom!

By Steve Braun- RTC, CCRC



It seems at this time of year, everyone has a favourite Christmas movie they routinely watch. It’s a Wonderful Life,The Grinch, Elf, A Christmas Carol, Gremlins, Die Hard….you get the idea.


My personal favourite isn’t actually a Christmas movie, but I watch it multiple times over the holiday season because of the message it represents to me. The film is the musical, Les Miserables. I absolutely love it and have probably seen it at least 50 times. The story of courage, love, forgiveness and redemption absolutely resonates with me and the music gives me chills everytime I watch it.


For the second time this week, I’ve had it on in the background while doing some writing but this time however, I noticed something different that had me reflecting on it.


What I discovered… was the concept of authenticity and the importance of it in our lives.


The thought came about as I watched the main character, Jean Valjean, struggle to understand his own identity throughout the movie. Valjean, who has spent ten years on the run for parole violation is being pursued by the ruthless Inspector Javert only to discover that Javert has another man in custody for his crimes due to the striking resemblance they share. The unknown, innocent man will be prosecuted for Valjeans crimes if nothing is said–an opportunity for Jean Valjean to be free at last, but at what cost to his soul?


Valjean sings about it in the song, “Who Am I?” where he says,

If I speak, I am condemned.

If I stay silent, I am damned!

Must I lie?

How can I ever face my fellow men?

How can I ever face myself again?

My soul belongs to God I know

I made that bargain long ago

He gave me hope when hope was gone

He gave me strength to journey on

Who Am I?

Who Am I?

I’m Jean Valjean

Prisoner 24601


It is Valjeans ultimate decision to speak the truth and confess to the court, forever sacrificing his personal freedom, that has me reflecting on the pivotal role authenticity can play in our recovery journeys.


So important was it for Jean Valjean to be true to himself and what he believed to be right, that he chose to risk personal freedom in doing so. He knew that his soul would be protected at all costs, and with that in mind it was more important that he do the morally right thing even though the cost was extremely high. Valjean knew he must be comfortable with the man he sees in the mirror at the end of the day, for that is all that truly matters.





What is Authenticity?


Defining authenticity has been challenging as there are numerous factors to be considered, many of which are under constant debate between psychiatrists, philosophers and scholars. Reasons for the debate can be illustrated in a previous sentence I wrote describing Valjean being true to himself and what he believed to be right. The key takeaway being, what HE believed to be right. Authenticity varies according to each person’s inner moral compass.


Most commonly, authenticity can be described as living your life according to your own values and goals, rather than those of other people. This includes being true to your own personality, spirit and values while also practicing honesty with yourself and others. Values, morals, ideals and actions align. Taking responsibility for one's mistakes and accepting the consequences of being true to what you consider to be right. One of the rewards for adopting this attitude is appearing genuine which is an important characteristic as it creates trust in others.


Even though it can be difficult to measure a distinct characteristic of authenticity, there are a few key factors that are considered:


1. Self-awareness: Knowledge of and trust in one's own motives, emotions, preferences, and abilities.


2. Unbiased processing: Clarity in evaluating your strengths and your weaknesses without denial or blame.


3. Behavior: Acting in ways congruent with your own values and needs, even at the risk of criticism or rejection.


4. Relational orientation: Close relationships, which inherently require openness and honesty.


(Kernis-Goldman authenticity inventory 2000)



Benefits Of Being Authentic


Living an authentic life can be challenging. Being true to yourself means at times you may have to go against the crowd, risk being vulnerable, take the high road or travel a harder path. However, living an authentic life is vastly more rewarding than hiding your true self. Narrowing down the components of authenticity highlights the connection to self-esteem, coping skills, goal achievement and a myriad of other psychological benefits.


According to a 2017 study in the Journal of Health Psychology, “authenticity buffers the negative impact of loneliness on alcohol-related problems, physical symptoms, and depressive and anxiety symptoms”. It indicates that people in tune with their internal states are more likely to choose to live healthier lives. They will recognize the signs and symptoms of illness earlier, seek medical advice quicker, and be more aware when they are engaging in self-destructive behaviours. Authenticity can promote the essential psychological resources that give people perspective on difficulties they may experience and help them manage emotional and environmental challenges.


Other benefits include:


Less stress: Imagine staying true to yourself, saying what you mean and acting accordingly on a daily basis how much happiness and self respect you would feel! Being authentic to yourself is far less stressful than being someone you are not.


Confidence and self-esteem: When you are being genuine and doing the right thing, it is almost impossible to make a wrong decision. In turn, this leads to higher self-confidence and self-esteem, greater optimism, and more life satisfaction.


Trust and respect: With higher self confidence and self esteem, you not only trust the judgments and decisions that you make, but others trust you as well. Respect is earned for standing by your values and beliefs.


Integrity: Integrity is derived from authenticity. Who you are, what you do, and what you believe are aligned and congruent.


Ability to deal with problems: Being honest with yourself and others provides strength and openness to deal with problems quickly instead of procrastinating or ignoring them altogether.


Realizing potential: When you trust yourself and do what you know is right, you start to realize your full potential in life. You take control of your life instead of letting others dictate what's best for you.


Authentic and genuine people share a few key traits. They aren’t threatened by failure and can admit their faults. They respond to internal expectations rather than external ones and they tend to take time developing an opinion and speaking their mind. They are often less judgmental of others and have strong self-esteem, and are driven to fulfill their passion and purpose.


How To Be Authentic


Developing your authentic self doesn’t happen overnight. It is an evolving, ongoing and continuous process. So where do you start? In her book, The Gifts of Imperfection, Brene Brown writes, “Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we are supposed to be and embracing who we actually are.” What sticks out to me in this quote is the mention of ‘daily practice’ which implies that we must make a conscious, continuous and deliberate effort to achieve this.


One of the core principles of the 12 step program Alcoholics Anonymous, is authenticity. At least two of the steps emphasize the importance of an honest moral inventory, and the AA "chip" – a medallion handed out to commemorate periods of continued sobriety -- reads, "To thine own self be true."


Honesty is one of the four absolutes of AA - the others being purity, unselfishness and love. These absolutes navigate your recovery process. They are your guiding light and help you from straying away from your goal. Through honesty, you learn acceptance. Acceptance is the first step to taking charge of what you have lost due to being powerless. Being true to yourself is the only way to attain absolute control of the problem – alcoholism.


A good starting point for most people is by reflecting on your values. What changes can you make to live in accordance with those values? If there are discrepancies or belief systems which are no longer serving you, learning to let go and practice acceptance can be extremely beneficial, as verified in the earlier quote by Brene Brown. Here are some other steps to get started:


1. Identify your values- In order to live by your values you must identify what they are. Once they are established and a commitment of adherence is made, setting personal goals will make them possible to achieve.


2. Identify who you want to be- Start by identifying the gap between who you believe you are and who you want to be. This can be accomplished by writing down the qualities for both categories. If you are having a hard time identifying characteristics, ask someone for feedback!


3. Live with integrity- Take responsibility for your actions, including your mistakes. Own up to the choices you make, and work tirelessly to right any shortcomings. Be true to your word.


4. Communicate honestly- Say what you mean, and mean what you say. Be direct, assertive and keep your promises.


5. Don't make assumptions- Let other people’s actions speak for themselves and try to take their word at face value. Try your best to suspend judgement when it isn’t necessary.


6. Develop self-confidence- Confidence develops as fear is removed and self doubt dissipates. A strong sense of self and the assertiveness to stand your ground will help in challenging situations.


7. Manage your emotions- Emotional fluency and intelligence are a sign of maturity and wisdom. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can be extremely beneficial in improving this.


If you are struggling to get started with any of the above, simplify it by following the advice of author Werner Erhard: “Be authentic about your inauthenticity!” This requires vulnerability, taking risks and admitting your faults as they arise.




Recovery Coaching- Accountability for Authenticity



I’ve often said, I believe the true essence of recovery is discovering who we really are and becoming the best versions of ourselves that we can be. Not just for ourselves, but for others as well. This involves having the courage to be vulnerable, face and confront the fear and shame that surrounds showing our true selves to the world.


It is ironic that in the story of Jean Valjean and his willingness to give up his freedom, he in turn discovers that he will be more free than he has ever been! His actions are aligned with his beliefs and he is guided by the principle of authenticity, knowing it is the key to his salvation and redemption.


If you are not experiencing the freedom in your life that authenticity can bring, allow me to help bring it out in you. I’ve identified and provided a number of guidelines to obtaining authenticity but it can be a frustrating and overwhelming process achieving this on your own. Goal setting and personal inventory is where having a personal Recovery Coach can be extremely beneficial. Change requires determined, massive action and it is much easier to accomplish with a trained accountability partner at your side.


As a Certified Recovery Coach (CCRC-CACCF) with over a decade of experience in addiction and mental health disorders, I have helped hundreds of individuals at various stages of change and recovery. I provide custom, individual programs tailored to each individual's specific needs. Recovery is not a one-size-fits-all approach, and neither is your program. I provide a confidential, private time-out to step back and reflect on what's working in your life, what's not, and why. I work with motivated clients who seek personal growth, increased awareness, and a desire to show up strong in their lives regardless of their challenges. My coaching facilitates transformation toward clarity, self awareness, confidence and a renewed outlook for your daily journey.


Discover your authentic self. Call and book a complimentary consultation with me today and let’s get you the life you’ve always wanted–and deserve!


Steve Braun

Call or Text: 778.932.1978




About the Author: Steve Braun RTC, CCRC


Steve currently resides in the sunny Okanagan in British Columbia Canada where he spends his free time camping at remote lakes chasing monster rainbow trout with a flyrod.



2. Identify who you want to be- Start by identifying the gap between who you believe you are and who you want to be. This can be accomplished by writing down the qualities for both categories. If you are having a hard time identifying characteristics, ask someone for feedback!




3. Live with integrity- Take responsibility for your actions, including your mistakes. Own up to the choices you make, and work tirelessly to right any shortcomings. Be true to your word.


References:


Bryan, J. L., Baker, Z. G., & Tou, R. Y. (2017). Prevent the blue, be true to you: Authenticity buffers the negative impact of loneliness on alcohol-related problems, physical symptoms, and depressive and anxiety symptoms. Journal of health psychology, 22(5), 605-616.


Lerner, H. (1994) 'The Dance of Deception,' New York: HarperCollins.


Harter, S. (2002) 'Authenticity' in Snyder, C.R. and Lopez, S.J. (eds.), 'Handbook of Positive Psychology,' New York: OUP.






Brene Brown- The Gifts of Imperfection


4. Communicate honestly- Say what you mean, and mean what you say. Be direct, assertive and keep your promises.




5. Don't make assumptions- Let other people’s actions speak for themselves and try to take their word at face value. Try your best to suspend judgement when it isn’t necessary.




6. Develop self-confidence- Confidence develops as fear is removed and self doubt dissipates. A strong sense of self and the assertiveness to stand your ground will help in challenging situations.




7. Manage your emotions- Emotional fluency and intelligence are a sign of maturity and wisdom. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can be extremely beneficial in improving this.




If you are struggling to get started with any of the above, simplify it by following the advice of author Werner Erhard: “Be authentic about your inauthenticity!” This requires vulnerability, taking risks and admitting your faults as they arise.


honesty, you learn acceptance. Acceptance is the first step to taking charge of what you have lost due to being powerless. Being true to yourself is the only way to attain absolute control of the problem – alcoholism.




A good starting point for most people is by reflecting on your values. What changes can you make to live in accordance with those values? If there are discrepancies or belief systems which are no longer serving you, learning to let go and practice acceptance can be extremely beneficial, as verified in the earlier quote by Brene Brown. Here are some other steps to get started:Through honesty, you learn acceptance. Acceptance is the first step to taking charge of what you have lost due to being powerless. Being true to yourself is the only way to attain absolute control of the problem – alcoholism.




A good starting point for most people is by reflecting on your values. What changes can you make to live in accordance with those values? If there are discrepancies or belief systems which are no longer serving you, learning to let go and practice acceptance can be extremely beneficial, as verified in the earlier quote by Brene Brown. Here are some other steps to get started: Through honesty, you learn acceptance. Acceptance is the first step to taking charge of what you have lost due to being powerless. Being true to yourself is the only way to attain absolute control of the problem – alcoholism

Through honesty, you learn acceptance. Acceptance is the first step to taking charge of what you have lost due to being powerless. Being true to yourself is the only way to attain absolute control of the problem – alcoholism.




A good starting point for most people is by reflecting on your values. What changes can you make to live in accordance with those values? If there are discrepancies or belief systems which are no longer serving you, learning to let go and practice acceptance can be extremely beneficial, as verified in the earlier quote by Brene Brown. Here are some other steps to get started:


A good starting point for most people is by reflecting on your values. What changes can you make to live in accordance with those values? If there are discrepancies or belief systems which are no longer serving you, learning to let go and practice acceptance can be extremely beneficial, as verified in the earlier quote by Brene Brown. Here are some other steps to get started:




1. Identify your values- In order to live by your values you must identify what they are. Once they are established and a commitment of adherence is made, setting personal goals will make them possible to achieve.




2. Identify who you want to be- Start by identifying the gap between who you believe you are and who you want to be. This can be accomplished by writing down the qualities for both categories. If you are having a hard time identifying characteristics, ask someone for feedback!




3. Live with integrity- Take responsibility for your actions, including your mistakes. Own up to the choices you make, and work tirelessly to right any shortcomings. Be true to your word.




4. Communicate honestly- Say what you mean, and mean what you say. Be direct, assertive and keep your promises.




5. Don't make assumptions- Let other people’s actions speak for themselves and try to take their word at face value. Try your best to suspend judgement when it isn’t necessary.




6. Develop self-confidence- Confidence develops as fear is removed and self doubt dissipates. A strong sense of self and the assertiveness to stand your ground will help in challenging situations.




7. Manage your emotions- Emotional fluency and intelligence are a sign of maturity and wisdom. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can be extremely

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