The Importance of Accountability in Healing

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Recovery from substance abuse, addiction, and co-occurring mental health disorders is a journey that requires humility. Humility is necessary as it allows an individual to recognize that they have a problem that requires outside guidance and support to overcome. It also sets the foundation for an individual to foster accountability, crucial not only to the recovery process but also to reaching transcendental stages of growth and healing throughout life. 

Fostering accountability throughout recovery is not a one-and-done thing; it is an ongoing process. Individuals seeking recovery must understand the importance of accountability in healing and recovery to establish and maintain sobriety and persevere beyond inevitable hardships that surface from time to time.

Addiction: The Avoidance of Accountability

Addiction impairs the brain. Repeated drug or alcohol use alters brain structure and functioning in areas responsible for learning, stress, decision-making, self-control, and pleasure. When individuals are actively using alcohol and other drugs, they become stuck in patterns of instant gratification. As a result of substance use disorder (SUD), individuals may seek out substance use at the cost of healthier or more important things. 

For example, it is common for individuals to isolate themselves from friends and family to use drugs and alcohol. They may struggle to feel connected to others and themselves. As a result, feelings of guilt, shame, depression, and more are all common for individuals struggling with addiction. Breaking free from these problematic behavior patterns requires an individual to recognize and come to terms with them. 

This is the essence of accountability. Individuals who are in active addiction experience a lack of accountability over their own actions. They may, instead, blame their lifestyle, peers, or other situations for their chronic substance use. Additionally, many individuals use alcohol and other drugs in an attempt to self-medicate their distress, leaving them in a vicious, perpetuating cycle of substance abuse. Therefore, recovery demands individuals confront their substance-using behaviors and associated underlying causes to kickstart their healing process. 

Consequences of Avoiding Accountability in Recovery

Learning how to be accountable is easier said than done. Unfortunately, many people who are in addiction treatment miss this mark. The risk of relapse increases significantly when an individual dismisses the importance of accountability in their life, especially when holding themselves accountable for their past substance abuse. 

Avoiding accountability can lead to a wide variety of consequences. In addition to an increased risk of relapse, some consequences may include the following:

  • Developing an unhealthy replacement habit for substance abuse
  • Denying the severity of drug abuse
  • Placing blame on others if or when relapse occurs
  • Worsened interpersonal relationships
  • Falling back into problematic behavior patterns throughout recovery
  • Worsened cognitive inflexibility

Strengthening Accountability in Treatment

Accountability is a vital skill required to live a life of independence, growth, and prosperity. In recovery, strengthening accountability plays a key role in an individual's lasting sobriety. Without it, an individual will not be properly equipped to recognize personal faults and take responsibility for them. 

Professional treatment is often required to help individuals heal from addiction and its effects. Likewise, treatment can help clients to take accountability for their past while helping them paint a clearer picture of the type of person they want to become. 

Individual Counseling

Treatment facilities often use various interventions and approaches to help individuals recognize and overcome the underlying causes of their SUD. Individual counseling is one intervention that can help individuals foster accountability throughout recovery. 

Working one-on-one with a professional, clients will discuss challenging life experiences from their past and address how those experiences may have played a role in their substance abuse. For many, unresolved trauma is a common contributor. However, biological, psychological, and social factors must also be addressed in treatment to help clients achieve lasting recovery. In this case, professional support becomes instrumental in strengthening accountability. 

Group Counseling

Group therapy interventions are also often used in treatment. These interventions strive to help clients recognize the role that social support plays in helping individuals remain accountable for their actions. In group therapy, individuals will have the opportunity to connect with peers who are also working to establish and maintain sobriety. With time, this sense of peer support becomes paramount as group members begin to rely on one another for accountability. Members can help one another stay on track and maintain responsibility long-term. 

Accountability Throughout Long-Term Recovery

While accountability can be significantly strengthened throughout treatment, how can an individual continue to strengthen accountability throughout long-term recovery? Completing a treatment program is something to be proud of. However, it does not mark the end of an individual's recovery journey. Likewise, strengthening accountability is an ongoing process. Fortunately, there are ways that individuals can foster accountability after treatment, including the following:

  • Learn to apologize: Taking accountability for wrongdoings done to others (especially when under the influence) often requires apologizing and asking for forgiveness. This skill is necessary for developing and strengthening interpersonal relationships of all types. 
  • Set clear expectations: Setting expectations can help an individual remain on a sober path throughout recovery. It may help to set a personal curfew or attend gatherings with a sober peer to keep personal expectations clear and prioritized. 
  • Lead by example: Individuals who feel confident in their sobriety may feel that by sharing their stories and perspectives, others in early recovery could benefit from it. Speaking on personal experiences – especially sober achievements – can be valuable as it can help other individuals understand the importance of accountability. 

Although strengthening accountability is an ongoing process, it is necessary to establish and maintain sobriety in recovery. Leaning into professional and peer support during treatment can be instrumental in fostering accountability. Beyond treatment, individuals can benefit from learning to apologize for the actions of their past and to lead by example. Pathways Recovery Center is an addiction treatment facility that understands how challenging it can be to hold yourself accountable for your substance abuse. We can provide the guidance and support you need to strengthen accountability and recover from addiction. We offer a variety of services, including individual and group counseling, 12-Step programming, and holistic therapies. To learn more, call us at (888) 771-0966.

Clinically reviewed by 

Moses Nasser
Dr. Moses Nasser, a double board-certified physician in Family Medicine and Addiction Medicine, with expertise in holistic healing, addiction medicine, and psychiatric care, holds an X-waiver to prescribe buprenorphine and has extensive experience in mindfulness-based customer service and medication-assisted treatment.

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