There are many ways to regard the battle between you and your addiction – countless analogies, comparisons and simplifications. They all revolve around the same thing – the loss of control, and how recovering from an addiction is about regaining that ability to decide what you want to do and where you want to go, without addiction chaining you down.
That alone makes it blatantly clear how addiction is, in many ways, a mental illness or chronic disease more than anything else. Like anxiety, depression, trauma, and phobias, it’s a condition that you entraps you and limits your ability to act, think and even feel. And mental illness and addiction are very often linked through comorbidity.
However, mental illness is rarely something you excise, or treat entirely with medication. The only way to completely combat a mental illness is to learn to live in spite of it.
Addiction is much the same way. You can reduce its symptoms, combat the allure, and learn to embrace lifelong sobriety. But in a way, it’ll always be there – the ability for you to relapse exists so long as there’s the tiniest will to do so. The key isn’t cutting that part of yourself out, or even forgetting about it. The key is living with it, and living in spite of it. Live in spite of your illness – live in spite of your addiction. Embrace a life free of the shackles of your drug of choice. How?
Through accountability, and responsibility. By being beholden to your purpose and your roles in life as a member of a family and society in general, you have much more to lose – and much more to live for.
What Makes Sober Living So Challenging?
Being sober is hard because it’s not special. It’s not exciting. You can make it out to be, but it’s better to be honest about these things. People chase the high for what it is – a high. At some point, it changes you – your brain adopts a new kind of internal circuitry, it almost rewires itself to make you chase that high, even when you’re beginning to realize that it’s destroying what you love and have worked so hard for.
Addiction seeps in, corrupts, and leaves you regretting what you’ve done. It’s a high that creates a low that begs another high – a vicious cycle.
Besides the addiction itself, modern society’s continued stigma means most addicts find themselves deeply ashamed of their behavior – yet still locked into it, unable to break out for the longest time. A lot of people have the capacity to, with enough to lose, find permanent sobriety.
But when your life is a mess in the first place, the motivation to better yourself goes out the window alongside your chances at a stable relationship, or a real career. And the end result? A cycle of addiction, depression, self-hatred, apathy and eventually, total cynicism and hopelessness.
Accountability is the way out. It’s not an easy answer, or a feasible one for many – but it’s the best one for continued, long-term sober living that lasts a lifetime.
Let’s look at it from another perspective – the one of general human psychology, rather than an individual’s motivations. As social creatures, a lot of what we do as humans isn’t just to benefit ourselves – it’s to help protect those we feel responsible for, and connected to. Our fellow family members, our parents and offspring, our pets and best friends. There’s a tight-knit group of people that we depend on, and that depend on us – and between two people, love breeds the need to depend on one another and protect each other for better offspring survival rates. And this interdependence and unconditional love toward one another evolved from the need to form a group for survival’s sake.
It’s part of our DNA, the need to be important to someone, and have others that are important to us too. Despite the migration towards more individualism, it’s hardwired in us to be responsible and accountable towards other individual beings, without asking anything in return.
To utilize that power – that evolutionary hardcoding – for the sake of recovery, is a bit like trying to override the changes made in your brain by substance abuse with an even older and more ancestral instinct.
Accountability in All Stages
To really understand how useful the power of accountability can be when reinforcing sober living, you have to go back a little further – and see just how pervasive and versatile accountability can be as an argument for continued sobriety.
As early on as the origin of your addiction, a lack of accountability and connection towards others can be seen as one of the driving factors of addiction. By being excluded from a healthy family, or by being underappreciated, you can foster the emotions and resentment that often leads to the sort of self-destructive behavior addiction is rooted in.
How Accountability Will Change Your Life
Accountability will help you grow your network of friends and loved ones, build a much stronger self-esteem and remove insecurity by giving you the sense that you matter. Even in cases of peer pressure, the desperate need to fit in with a crowd can further feed addiction, whilst an accountability towards others can help give you a strong argument for why you most definitely shouldn’t try something at a party.
As you move onward into rehab and recovery, accountability again plays a role in treatment. Healthy sober living environments, which are an example of post-rehab recovery options, often promote chores and group activity as a means to foster accountability and create an environment where individual recovering patients bond together to help each other, motivate each other, inspire each other, and even volunteer to help new people beat their addiction.
Sources of Accountability in Recovery
There are, thankfully, many ways to foster and grow accountability in a sober living environment, and many of these ways carry over into the long term, living outside of a recovery or rehab setting. Here are a few examples:
- Regular drug tests.
- Meeting sober living requirements.
- Getting a job.
- Replacing bad habits with healthy choices.
- Becoming an integral part of a family or group of friends.
- Group meetings.
- Partnered activities.
- Sober companionship.
- Volunteering in recovery efforts.
- Tutoring and teaching sobriety.
It’s Your Journey (and Your Recovery)
It’s important to be beholden to others – but remember to be beholden to yourself, as well. You are the one person you can always unconditionally love. Don’t just do things for the good of others – while being selfless is a virtue, you have to be capable of a little self-love, as well, and a lot of self-care. Especially if you want to be able to maintain sobriety for the rest of your life. Helping others is a great motivation for keeping sober, but remember what sobriety and healthy living does for you – and use that as motivation to keep going, as well.
With a healthy balance of personal and group accountability, you can maintain sobriety for the rest of your life – and pick it back up after a relapse, as well.