Skip to main content
AddictionRecoveryRecovery Tools

The Principles of the Twelve Steps: Integrity

Integrity - Young man examining his reflection

Taking Ownership and Living With Integrity

With the fourth step and its principle, courage, behind us, we turn our attention to the fifth principle. It can be a difficult concept to grasp, so we’re going to have to break it down and take a close look at it. In the steps, once we have made our “searching and fearless moral inventory,” it’s then time to share that inventory with another person. By sharing this intimate look at ourselves and our past – warts and all –with someone else, we are starting to take ownership of all of it. And taking ownership is a necessary step in living with integrity.

What We Do When Others Aren’t Looking

Integrity means having strong ethical or moral principles and following those principles at all times. If you look in a dictionary, you’ll see an alternate definition. It will say something along the lines of “being whole or undivided.” It’s this second definition that really highlights the second half of the first definition. It’s not enough to have strong ideas on how we want to live. We have to follow through with those ideas. Furthermore, there is another, more colloquial saying that further illuminates the concept of integrity. It goes, “Integrity is what we do when others aren’t looking.” Taken further, the real us is who we are when others aren’t around. This is where we find the whole or undivided person. This is where we find the “real us.”

Talking the Talk Without Walking the Walk

There are stories in the New Testament of the Bible of certain groups of people worrying more about the letter of the law versus the spirit of the law. These people were the type to pray the loudest to let everyone know that they were praying, talking the talk without walking the walk. If you go to enough meetings, you’re bound to find a few of this sort. These folks have all the recovery clichés memorized and are quick to whip them out at a moment’s notice. However, it is these folks that are among the least likely to be living with integrity. They might not be doing something so heinous as taking a dirty chip or 13th stepping a newcomer, two common examples of acting without integrity in recovery. But they’re always the first in line when it comes to taking someone else’s inventory.

Real Courage Means Asking for Help

Living without integrity is a way of lying to ourselves. And we won’t get very far in recovery if we do. When we make the decision to live a life free of drugs and alcohol, we make the decision to take ownership of who we are and face life on its own terms. It can be terrifying at first and, fortunately, we don’t have to do it alone. Ocean Recovery has successfully helped men and women overcome substance use disorders since 2002. Many of our expertly trained staff members also have personal experience with recovery. They’ve been where you are now and are ready to help you start walking a new path. All you have to do is give us a call to start the admissions process today. Real courage means asking for help.

If you or a loved one are seeking a luxury rehab center in California, reach out to Ocean Recovery today. Our Orange County drug addiction treatment center has helped countless individuals overcome addiction and find lasting recovery.


Ocean Recovery has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations for our references. We avoid using tertiary references as our sources. You can learn more about how we source our references by reading our editorial policy.

1. Wilson B. Alcoholics Anonymous: The Big Book. Courier Dover Publications; 2019.

Last medically reviewed August 1, 2022.