The disease of addiction is extremely enigmatic. In fact, it’s only relatively recently that we’ve begun to really understand the disease. Years ago, the common belief was that people who suffered from addiction were actually choosing not to control themselves. As such, they were seen as bad people who were weak-willed, selfish, and worthy of punishment. This is why most substance abusers were relegated to prisons and insane asylums. The idea was that imprisonment would force them into sobriety while the fear of additional punishment would discourage them from any additional substance abuse in the future. However, it didn’t exactly work out that way. Many of the people who’d been incarcerated for their substance abuse quickly returned to their previous exploits after being released from prison. Clearly, there was something more to substance abuse than what it seemed on the surface.
Today, we have a much more enlightened understanding of addiction than in years prior. We know that addiction is a disease of the brain, causing altered structure and functioning and people to behave in self-destructive ways despite the repercussions they could face. While this seems bleak, the silver lining is that there are forms of treatment available for those who have become addicted. There are a number of different inpatient and outpatient programs that help addicts regain their independence and break their reliance from mind-altering, chemical substances.
But it’s often said that the real work in recovery begins after completing an addiction treatment program, and in a sense that’s correct. While in rehab, a person is in the protected, safe, drug-free environment of the rehab, making it much less likely that the individual would experience a relapse. After getting out of rehab, a person must assume complete responsibility for his or her sobriety. But, it is also important to hold your loved one accountable, since they are still trying to figure out how to stay sober. He or she must stay away from the people or places that might put their sobriety at risk. Learning the right actions to take and relapse prevention all around is your best defense against your loved one relapsing.
First, let’s define the concept of accountability. In short, it refers to the act of being responsible or the condition of responsibility. Oftentimes we talk about responsibility and accountability in terms of adulthood and things like caring for oneself, one’s offspring, tending to one’s home, maintaining a career, and so on. But when it comes to recovery, there’s much more to it than just that.
There’s also a sense of duty and obligation. Again, this is referenced in the above definition. Holding your loved one accountable includes playing your part. In the case of recovery, the obligation is more to self than to anything else since the one in sobriety is most harmed by substance abuse. Therefore, maintaining accountability is a two part process, the individual has to learn to hold themselves accountable but as a family member or friend, you must play a part as well and call them out when they may be struggling or slipping up.
Addiction recovery is as much a lifestyle as a concept. For a person to successfully overcome the disease of addiction, he or she must have the determination and conviction to sustain his or her sobriety indefinitely; or, he or she must be obligated to him or herself, wanting to maintain a sense of health and wellness. For many people, this is an ongoing struggle since the structural and functional brain changes that result from addiction result in a complete change in one’s behavior, cognition, and even personality to a degree. Therefore, the individual must be trying to overcome some of the neurological changes that resulted from his or her substance abuse disorder. It’s also difficult because over the course of active addiction, a person gets in the habit of neglecting his or her basic bodily needs, neglecting relationships, and in many cases behaving in ways that cause others very significant harm. These are some very difficult, deep-rooted behaviors to overcome, but with a strong sense of accountability, a person will find him or herself capable of maintaining sobriety long-term.
There’s another aspect of responsibility and accountability that’s a bit unexpected. In addition to having a sense of personal responsibility, part of holding your loved one accountable is knowing one’s own limits and how to compensate for them. In other words, it’s important to know when to ask for help from others. For many people in recovery, the longevity of one’s sobriety is dependent on many things, including being able to acknowledge when his or her sobriety is in danger and being able to reach out to others for help in times of need. This actually shows others that the individual has perspective and is able to objectively, responsibly assess his or her situation. Only by maintaining perspective and being honest with oneself will a person be able to ask for help when it’s needed. This is another major component of accountability.
Another sign that accountability is important is the fact that it’s the main tenet of the tenth step of Alcoholics Anonymous. According to the tenth step, a person must implement all of the previous on a daily basis. There’s no one there to ensure that he or she does this; instead, he or she must take it upon him or herself that all the tenets of the twelve-step method are upheld, allowing a person to maintain his or her sobriety indefinitely. Being able to objectively assess the situation and implement the lessons that have been learned over the course of recovery is an important ingredient for the longevity of one’s sobriety. With a strong sense of accountability, one is sure to have lasting success.
If you or someone you love is suffering from addiction and would like to discuss treatment options, call Intervention Services toll-free at 877-478-4621. We’re available anytime, day or night, to help you or your loved one begin the journey back to health and happiness.