Accountability and Recovery

Accountability SignIf I had a nickel for every addict I’ve heard say, “that doesn’t work for me,” I’d have a lot of nickels. What they really mean to say in most cases is, “I don’t like that, so I don’t do that, and I don’t stay sober, but it’s not my fault.” Addicts often have no concept of accountability and recovery, and they are often resistant to the accountability part. The problem is, it’s the vital means to the desired end. Without accountability, there is no real recovery.

Let’s back up a little bit. When I say desired end, I presume that addict really wants to stay sober. This is an important qualification because not all that say they do really want it. What they may want is for things to change, the misery that accompanies active addiction, the money problems, the relationship troubles, and so on, without actually changing anything at all. In fact, most untreated addicts would like to learn how to use and not have any of these problems. Of course, they can’t, but exactly what has to change is still a mystery to them. Sure, they have ideas about what needs to change, but a deep realization that their whole way of dealing with life, and their place in it, has not yet occurred. This is recovery in a nutshell: a process of realization that I must change everything to be sober.

The process of early recovery requires surrender after surrender. It only begins with surrender of substance use. All the surrenders after this are the giving up of many ideas, old and new (from the untreated addict brain) that simply do not work in regards to recovery. This is why accountability and recovery go hand in hand. Addicts want to be left alone by others. They are resistant to doing things any other way than their way. And they will use a myriad of plausible reasons why they should do things their way.

The truth is most of us walk into recovery with only a few sane thoughts. In my case, it was two: 1) I have been absolutely unable to stay sober doing it my way, and 2) I have been around 12-step groups long enough to see others actually getting the life I wanted. That’s it. But this came after everyone still choosing to be in my life started holding me accountable, particularly my mother. She did the impossible. She detached from me fully without abandoning me. She’ll tell you it was one of the hardest things she’s ever done, and she was 16 years sober herself at the time. She knew that accountability and recovery were essential. So, when I called needing a place to stay, declaring that I was going to get sober, she held me accountable and said, “son, I love you, and I’m glad to hear that you are wanting to be in recovery. But you can’t come here. You know what to do, I suggest you do it. If you really want it, it will be.” And she hung up the phone. There is much more to the story leading up to this call, but the point is clear: I had to be fully out of enabling options to really pursue recovery and ignore the voices in my head that made their own “suggestions’ about how to get it.

This was but a beginning, but a solid one at that. The lessons on accountability and recovery would play out for years, and continue today. The difference between those early days, weeks and months and now is that it isn’t the struggle it once was. I’m getting better at it each day.

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