You may be responsible, but are you accountable? While similar, these terms mean two different things. Consider a group project; many people can display responsibility by contributing to a task or initiative. Accountability, however, belongs to the individual judged on the completion of the project and their level of follow-through.
A sober individual’s ‘group project’ may be their recovery from alcohol addiction – clinically known as ‘Alcohol Use Disorder’ (AUD). In this case, there may be an assortment of individuals contributing to the ‘project’, such as a treatment professional, sponsor, or loved ones. However, the person pursuing recovery is the one who needs to maintain accountability and ensure deliverables are being met. In other words, the person needs to take their Recovery Circle’s contribution and ensure they are holding up their end of the bargain – remaining sober. Maintaining a sober lifestyle can be challenging, but fostering personal accountability can aid in achieving long-term recovery.
What is Personal Accountability?
Accountability in recovery isn’t just about following through with a plan; it’s about realizing how each decision can help or hurt the people involved in the plan. It’s about taking personal responsibility for your choices each and every time.
A person’s alcohol addiction can hinder their ability to make responsible choices and remain accountable. The reason for this is, many alcoholics struggle with reality and accepting repercussions for their actions. For some, it’s easier to continue drinking than to risk ‘failing’ at sobriety. Further, Individuals with AUD, a chronic illness, may struggle with remaining committed to their treatment plan or recovery journey because commitment begins with a level of acknowledgment. Once an individual takes responsibility for their addiction and past behavior, then begins the journey of accountability. Most counselors agree that accountability is critical to the recovery process. But what are the best ways to empower people with AUD to embrace and demonstrate accountability?
Use Technology to Build Accountability
Having the right recovery tools available during crucial decisions can make all the difference in staying on track with a sobriety program and becoming more accountable. Leveraging recovery technology that provides individualized data that can help people with addiction avoid the “justification trap” and empower them to make better decisions. Having data easily accessible can help strengthen a person’s accountability.
Through the pervasiveness of wireless access, many cloud-based tools and smartphone-based applications have appeared on the market to assist people struggling with addiction. Studies have shown that the convenience of technology usually leads to better outcomes in addiction treatment. “If you are using technology as a form of accountability, a key component of your success lies in researching the technology and making certain it is convenient to you. No technology is effective if it is not used,” writes Cyndy Adeniyi, counselor and founder of Out of The Woods Life Coaching, in a blog.
Having access to personalized, real-time data can help establish a personal connection to one’s treatment journey and can help people learn about themselves and their triggers. Where are the decision lines? How far is too far? When did I falter, and when did I succeed? Real-time data puts the power of decision-making directly into the hands of the individual, allowing the person to rely on person-centered facts instead of emotional reactions.
7 Steps to Embracing Accountability
1. Find an accountability partner.
Most addiction recovery programs emphasize the importance of fostering relationships with individuals who understand your struggle, support your efforts, and refuse to be a negative enabler. More than having someone to turn to when you’re feeling triggered, embracing friendships with accountability partners can help you remain committed to your recovery plan and show up for yourself and others when called upon.
2. Create a personal accountability statement and write it down.
The statement doesn’t have to be long, but it should include why you’re choosing to be accountable and the risks if you don’t keep that promise to yourself. “Deciding to be accountable is an intimate part of recovery that only the addicted person can choose to make”, writes Addiction Counselor Michael J. Formica, MS, EdM, in a Psychology Today article. “Choice is an interior process.” Keep your recovery statement in your wallet or purse, so it is always with you, and share it with your accountability partner.
3. Learn where your personal triggers are and create healthy strategies to manage them.
Addiction triggers can include certain situations, people, or even one’s own mood. This isn’t about avoiding situations you dislike or those that make you uncomfortable; it’s about recognizing situations that pose an immediate threat to your sobriety and, ultimately, your accountability. These instances could include a family gathering with an abusive family member or a birthday party filled with old drinking buddies. Depending on the situation’s risk factor, you can choose a healthy substitute for alcohol and still participate. However, other scenarios may require complete avoidance of an event, person, or situation that could jeopardize your recovery efforts and hinder your ability to remain accountable.
4. Find assistive technologies that work for you.
If applicable, make alcohol monitoring technology another ‘partner’ in your Recovery Circle. Online support platforms and the burgeoning world of smartphone apps have opened many new doors to easy and economical ways to track your sobriety status, stay connected to those who support you, and remain accountable. In late 2017, the first-ever U.S. Surgeon General report on ‘Alcohol, Drugs and Health’ recognized “8 National Principles” to refocus efforts in AUD treatment. One of which was embracing technology to boost recovery initiatives and improve outcomes in a productive yet discreet way. Soberlink is an excellent example of intuitive remote alcohol monitoring technology. The system combines an alcohol testing device with wireless technology to transmit real-time tests through a cloud-based portal. Despite being in or out of addiction treatment, Soberlink allows individuals to easily strengthen their accountability by sharing test results with members of their Recovery Circle, helping them continuously honor their sobriety commitment.
5. Consider participating in a support group.
The best-known 12-step program is Alcoholics Anonymous, but other accountability programs include LifeRing, Celebrate Recovery, Self-Management and Recovery Training (SMART) Recovery, and Women for Sobriety. Since formal recovery programs often host daily meetings and can be found in most locations, they offer consistent opportunities to engage in and boost accountability. Whether it’s a faith-based program or a secular one, the key is to find a Substance Use Disorder program that fits you and then participate regularly.
6. Celebrate your progress, even if it's small.
When you remain committed to your recovery journey, be sure to reward yourself in healthy ways. For example, if you use Soberlink in your treatment plan, use the system’s Advanced Reporting feature to track testing data so you can monitor your progress. Once you’ve hit a month of sobriety, as indicated on the reports using green dots, consider rewarding yourself with a nice dinner or new desirable clothing item. Accountability during recovery is no easy feat and should be rewarded appropriately whenever possible.
7. Share your successes with others.
Perhaps it’s in group at an addiction treatment facility. Or maybe it’s while speaking at a recovery meeting or conversing with a family member or friend. Sobriety and remaining accountable require a forever effort, so it can be motivating to hear someone say, “this is what worked for me today.” Sharing your success with others can be mutually beneficial—that’s why it’s often referred to as an accountability or recovery “circle.”
Whether you are under the care of a clinician for addiction treatment or getting sober on your own, maintaining sobriety is hardly an easy task. Fortunately, strengthening personal accountability can be the key to successful, ongoing, and sustained substance abuse recovery. To help improve accountability in recovery, consider utilizing Soberlink – the Gold Standard in remote alcohol monitoring.
About the Author
Pamela Tabar is a healthcare writer in Cleveland, Ohio.