The Accountability Factor
By Anna McKenzie
What’s the key to staying in recovery long-term? We know that our social groups have a certain degree of influence on our thinking and behavior. If the people around us are sober, positive, and supportive, we are encouraged to pursue our recovery process; if the people around us are substance users, negative, and unreliable, we feel isolated in our efforts and may return to substances as a result.
We crave alignment with our social group. That’s why our sense of personal responsibility tends to increase when we know someone else will be proud of us or disappointed in our choices. When we make the commitment to recovery, we can find strength in aligning with those who share our lifestyle and values. This is the power of accountability, and it can be found in many different places: sober living, outpatient groups, therapy, 12-Step groups (or 12-Step alternatives), support groups, alumni groups, and even online communities and sober apps.
Finding a Support System for Addiction Recovery
When you leave the treatment setting and begin your new lifestyle in recovery, where should you start? What should you be doing to stay sober and satisfied? According to PsychiatryOnline.org research, there are four key components of addiction recovery:
1. Renewing a sense of possibility (restoring your hope and optimism about the future)
2. Regaining competencies (equipping yourself with education and using your skills)
3. Reconnecting and finding a place in society (aligning with your social group)
4. Reconciliation work (rebuilding your identity outside of substance use)
One of the best ways to start this journey is to become active in a therapeutic or abstinence-focused group. You want to make new sober friends and feel part of a community that shares the same goals.
The reason 12-Step groups are popular is because they provide social support outside of treatment and are often very accessible. They have also been known to help sustain recovery. In fact, a study conducted by the National Library of Medicine (NLM) revealed that the odds of staying sober at 3 years grew by 35% from the one-year mark when participants were involved in Alcoholics Anonymous (AA).
Additionally, data gathered by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) indicates that having a positive relationship with a sponsor improves participation in a 12-Step program and the ability to stay sober. A sponsor is like an accountability partner who can both challenge and encourage you. Just as having a trustworthy connection with your therapist increases your chance of achieving recovery, your connection with a sponsor can improve your ability and desire to maintain recovery.
Here are a few important aspects of being in a 12-Step group that can really help you thrive in recovery, according to another NCBI study:
- The spiritual element of recovery (connecting to a Higher Power and/or reconnecting with yourself)
- Completing the 12 Steps
- Serving as a sponsor for someone else
These three elements have been “associated with length of sobriety.” Why might they be so critical? Each one involves a certain level of accountability. If you’re accountable to yourself and/or a Higher Power, have committed to others in the program to complete the 12 Steps (and reconcile as you can with those you may have wronged), and serve as a sponsor — an accountability partner to someone else — you have reached a high level of accountability that upholds your recovery lifestyle. You have many more reasons to be sober and live a fulfilling, connected life than to be using alcohol or drugs in isolation.
More Ways to Gain Support for Your Recovery
There are more support systems available to you than 12-Step groups. You graduated your treatment program with a set of peers; engaging in your alumni group can help you stay focused and motivated in recovery. Sober living can help you step down from treatment within a substance-free community environment. You can also choose from groups and activities offered at a local outpatient center. Outpatient programs, churches, and community centers may also provide certain types of support groups. Volunteering and service opportunities allow you a chance to give back while boosting your spirit and helping you feel more engaged in your recovery.
Finally, you also have the option to download sober apps that can help you stay on track. Some apps provide readings, motivational quotes, ways to track your sober days, social networking, and even virtual sponsorship.
Looking for in-person support and accountability? We at Rio Retreat Center at The Meadows offer client-focused programs and workshops that can help you become more motivated in recovery. We want to support you on your journey to staying sober for a lifetime. Contact us today to find out what options are available to you.