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How to Maintain Accountability in Addiction Recovery

A married couple works with their counselor in family therapy.


Recovering from addiction or substance abuse is never easy or straightforward. Parts of your brain have been rewired due to substance use, and getting things back to normal takes work and, oftentimes, some outside help. In the process, there will be certain things that you may be able to do or ways to go about recruiting others to help that will be instrumental in your journey to recovery.

Make a Plan

While it may seem obvious once you think about it, it is not always the first move we take to accomplish things. However, without a plan, recovery becomes significantly more difficult. A plan is important because it sets a standard; it tells you what the conditions of success and failure are, and it tells you this explicitly. Of course, it is easier not to plan because then you cannot fail the plan. This does not mean that you are not failing; however, you are not aware of it as clearly because you do not have a plan to show this to yourself. A plan gives you direction; it tells you step by step what direction to move. While this can be confining or overwhelming, it is an important step to recovery. Making the plan alone, however, is not sufficient.

Let Others Know About Your Plan

It would help if you let others know about your plan. Making the plan establishes a degree of accountability with yourself—you are telling yourself what you need to do. Letting someone else know about the plan establishes some outside accountability. Now, this other person also knows and has expectations of you. This can be a powerful source of motivation to work towards completing the plan you have created. However, it is important that the person you let know about your plan actually cares whether or not you stick to it. Ideally, this is someone who is not struggling with the same issue or in the same way as you.

Find an Accountability Partner

Closely related to the second method of maintaining accountability is this step of finding an accountability partner. This can potentially be the same person who knows about the plan, but the accountability partner goes further than just knowing about the plan and expecting you to stick with it. An accountability partner is someone you meet regularly and with whom you share details about what is going on as you attempt to stick with the plan. This should be someone who deeply cares and holds you to stick with your recovery goal and is understanding and empathetic. This must be someone with whom you feel comfortable being completely honest.

Do Not Be Afraid to Get Treatment

Sometimes these first three options are not quite enough to help you with the journey to recovery. It is not shameful or wrong to seek professional treatment through a rehab center or other treatment facility. This can be an important and effective way of getting further accountability. The professional team at a treatment facility provides an additional layer of structure and accountability that can be extremely beneficial on the journey to recovery. Sometimes, the addiction is so powerful and aggressive that you are unable to handle things alone. Do not keep going in circles with your recovery if you need more outside accountability and assistance.

Surround Yourself with Friends and Family

While this may not be an option that everyone has, it is ideal to surround yourself with family and friends if possible. Whether a family member or friend is your accountability partner or not, having support in this way can be central to your progress in recovery. This can be a difficult process since family and friends may not always fully understand the nature of your struggle, and there will sometimes be conflict; at the end of the day, though, these are the people who are on your side, rooting for your victory. Fostering good relationships with family and friends and allowing them into your journey can be an incredible source of accountability and foster your recovery.

Avoid Sources of Temptation

It is of great importance that any people or places that may be sources of temptation are avoided. For some individuals with an addiction, there are certain people whom they can hang around and find themselves pushed in bad directions, tempted toward the substance again, and so forth. These bad influences must be avoided at all costs. This is a difficult thing to do in many cases since there are often established relationships and the person may be reaching out and trying to encourage you to come to hang out and spend time with them. Unfortunately, this should not be done. No matter how you are pressured, you must avoid hanging with anyone who will lead you into temptation. The same can be said for places. There may be certain environments, locations, or activities, like bars or parties, which open the door for temptation and substance usage. Any time you encounter a temptation of this sort, it is imperative that you avoid it. It may seem reasonable to think that the person or place is not directly connected to substance abuse. It is not a real concern—or to full yourself into thinking that you will avoid certain situations after you go or that you will be strong enough in the moment. But none of these things are true. As humans, we have easily swept away at the moment; you cannot rely on your willpower when you are in the situation. You must prepare in advance by thinking about places and people that open doors of temptation and closing those directions beforehand.

Maintaining accountability is an essential part of addiction recovery. These steps will allow you to begin making headway towards recovery, but there may be other things you find to help you as well. Everyone has individual differences, so be on the lookout for things that you know help you in recovery or make things more difficult and include those in the plan you make. A sure way of never recovering is never preparing to recover. You do not fall into recovery; you work at it. You have to muster your strength and courage, make a plan, gather support around you, and then give it everything you have. It is hard work, but it is doable work, especially when you have the right people.


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