In broad terms, accountability simply means having the willingness to take responsibility for our actions and behaviors. Cheers to that. It certainly sounds easy enough on the surface.
But what about those of us who’ve gone through the emotional wringer while facing our feelings for the very first time sans drugs or alcohol? Of course, I’m talking about those of us in recovery, particularly those who are newly sober.
Breaking the physical and cognitive patterns associated with addiction can be quite challenging. I know. I’ve been there. It requires time, patience, and perseverance—all things that we recovering addicts in our most fragile states (i.e., when we FIRST enter into recovery) have very little of.
I’m not sure I’ve ever known anyone to admit that getting sober was easy. If I have, they probably weren’t a true-blue addict or alcoholic. For us, getting sober is one of the most uncomfortable things—if not THE most uncomfortable thing—that we’ll do in our lifetime.
Getting sober means confronting things we used to constantly run away from, pushing through our deepest and darkest fears, and looking in the proverbial mirror to face our addictions. All without a drink or a drug. And while it’s likely the most empowering thing we’ll probably ever do, we shouldn’t do it alone if we want to maintain long-term sobriety.
That said, accountability takes on a new meaning for addicts and alcoholics. Because we’ve spent so long avoiding looking at our faults we often can’t see what they truly are. This is why we generally need to lean on outside forces, whether that be in the form of support groups, sponsors, accountability buddies, a Higher Power, or all of the above.
While recovery can, indeed, seem daunting, I promise you that so many people have done it successfully. And once you get past the hump (i.e., the early days), it does get better. But, most people who’ve had success with this whole getting sober thing will tell you that in order to maintain your recovery, accountability is crucial.
Here are some tips for staying accountable in recovery:
Recovery meetings. Support groups in the form of recovery meetings such as twelve-step meetings are arguably some of the best tools you have at your disposal. For starters, they’re generally free (twelve-step meetings have suggested donations, but that’s it). Moreover, they provide you with the opportunity to build connections with a community of individuals who all share the same common goal: getting and staying sober. Not only will recovery meetings provide you with access to specific tools that can help you stay sober, but the recovery community you plug into can help keep you accountable. Accountability for one’s sobriety is essentially built into these groups, so you’re two steps ahead the minute you walk into a meeting. Let the people you meet in the rooms hold you up until you can begin to hold yourself up. Then, let them hold you up some more. You can return the favor when you’re ready by reaching your hand out to someone who’s struggling more than you are. It’s a beautiful collaboration.
Have accountability buddies. Whether you find an accountability buddy in your recovery group, at your rehab, or in your everyday circle of trusted confidants, it can be very helpful to create relationships with people who understand your struggles. These people can support you in your efforts to stay clean and sober, and they can be honest with you when you’re perhaps not being honest with yourself. Again, when we first get sober, we’re often so out of touch with our emotions that we don’t really know when things are going sideways. The people you trust who know that you’re primary purpose is to stay sober can help you to recognize when you’re in slippery territory—territory they feel could lead you to a potential relapse. They’re also the people you can lean on if and when you encounter triggering situations.
Get a sponsor. Most people think of sponsors as specific to Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), but they can actually be valuable assets to any recovery program. Think of a sponsor as an accountability buddy, but one who possesses more recovery wisdom and, in most cases, more years of continuous sobriety than you do. This person can hold you accountable for your sobriety and help guide you through the next steps in your sober journey while following the principles of your recovery program. A sponsor uses his or her firsthand experience with addiction to help you navigate the right path for yourself moving forward. Ideally, a sponsor is someone who has the opportunity to get to know you on your recovery journey over time. This way, they can start to understand what your triggers are so that if you ever find yourself in vulnerable territory emotionally, he or she can help redirect you toward your primary purpose (to stay sober and, ultimately, help others) if and when needed.
Learn what your triggers are and maintain an awareness of these. This doesn’t mean you should actively avoid triggering situations as this isn’t always possible. But you should still know what your triggers are so that you’re prepared if you ever find yourself in a precarious situation. This will enable you to do whatever it is that you need to do in order to keep yourself on the straight and narrow path. Whether this means removing yourself from the situation entirely (if possible) or making a call to your sponsor or accountability buddy.
The people and tools that help keep us accountable can also help lift us up when we feel like we’ve lost all hope. They can remind us of the things that we, as addicts and alcoholics, so swiftly forget. These things include the damage that alcohol, drugs, and other compulsive behaviors cause us and those we love.
Please remember that our minds are the same minds that have historically convinced us that it was okay to drink or use drugs despite the chaos and destruction we left in our wake. If we’re true-blue addicts and alcoholics, we should never try to recover on our own, nor should we want to. And, guess what? We don’t ever have to. There’s a big and beautiful life waiting for us on the other side of one of our biggest illusory fears—asking for help.
Kembali Recovery Center can Help
If you or someone you love is struggling to get sober or stay clean, Kembali Recovery Center can help. Contact us today to learn about our treatment program. You never have to do this alone.