Ask an Expert: What Does It Mean to “Show Up” in Recovery?

By Eli MachenMA, MSW, LCSW


The term “Show-up” refers to how we are to engage and live in relationships in general and, most importantly, with our loved ones. The word means to live with those we seek an intimate relationship with, in truth, authenticity, honesty, trustworthiness, integrity, dependability, and reliability. In other words, “butt naked” before another with whom you seek a relationship.

Living, speaking, and in all forms, truthfulness is the very foundation of any connection with whom we strive to achieve intimacy. Truth is the first of the building blocks of a relationship. Without truth, there cannot be safety; without safety, there is no trust; without trust, vulnerability will not happen, and vulnerability is a necessity for intimacy.

Learning to live in truth is a journey for those in recovery (or anyone for that matter). After having lived a life of deceit, lies, gas-lighting, and hiding from others out of shame and fear, this journey is true recovery’s ultimate requirement and goal.

Recovery in my conception is recovering to God’s original intent with us; to live naked without shame. And I do mean this in the figurative sense here! We have stepped into pure joy when we can experience being known fully and wanted and liked for who we are. And this goal is worth all the hard work of recovery.

The journey begins with full disclosure, including a polygraph to verify to your spouse your disclosure. Then there are the daily check-ins that include current sobriety; it is a constant verification of your whereabouts, timeliness to promises made, and time commitments kept. It is telling your spouse the truth no matter how much fear or pain it may cause. It is being transparent about all issues with your spouse. A life lived in this manner is a life free of shame and fear.

Showing up is the process of building a relationship beyond most individuals’ imagination. The process is from the beginning with truth, safety, trust, vulnerability, and then intimacy. This is what showing up means! It will exceed all expectations and pain involved; it is heaven on earth.