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Five Principles of Recovery - Accountability

Five Principles of Recovery

. Accountability  .  Submission  .  Surrender  .  Compromise  .  Attitudes  .


Thus says the Lord, “Stand by the roads and look; ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; then walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls. But they said, ‘we will not walk in it’”

Jeremiah 6:16

“What we want and demand from the world needs to conform to our present needs, not to unconscious, unsatisfied needs from childhood. If distinctions between past and present blur, we will perceive loss or the threat of loss where none exists; and the awareness of those genuine needs that do require satisfaction rather than their repression for the sake of gaining the acceptance or approval of others.”

Dr. Gabor Mate


For those of us who are veterans in the battle against addiction, sustaining a long-term lifestyle of sobriety often seems impossible. Relapse rates continue to rise sky-high.

We are troopers though, so we keep on trying.  Through our own efforts and on our own terms, we attempt to engineer abstinence. Our white-knuckling sends us back into the ring for just ‘one’ more round. After another bashing, we end up man down, eating our own dust. Shame calls the shots.

As addicts, the odds are against us. We are fluent in failure. Somehow some of us survive. We meet defeat; but rise up again. Fresh convictions suggest our new stand is sincere. We offer assurances of self-control; make firm(er) commitments. We will finally inhabit the refusal required to abstain from the substance or process that is slowly killing us.

Despite best intentions, we are deluded. We cannot accept how addicted we actually are. It’s too painful. We are yet to recognize the extent of our denial; to acknowledge how this protective mechanism empowers self-gratifying acts that end in our destruction.

In a series of articles, we will explore Five Principles of Recovery, which if maintained, can offer freedom from the bondage of addiction. We begin with Accountability.


The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines ‘addicted’ as “exhibiting a compulsive, chronic, physiological or psychological need for a habit-forming substance, behavior or activity.”

As we repeatedly indulge obsessive actions, habits are forged, patterns established.

The change we seek is not simple. It involves a complex process of unlearning and re-framing. We must practice new responses when old stressors arise. Unresolved pain must be addressed. The false beliefs that activate lie-based thinking, busted.

Laying the foundation of a solid Recovery is going to require your full attention. If you wish to see what drives your  self-sabotage, do not lean on your own understanding – of anything. Question your perceptions and refuse all illusions. Avoid using externals to self-soothe.

Your journey to freedom will require re-education. But, be warned: as you learn anew, old adaptations and identities you adopted to protect yourself will rise up and resist. Temptation will taunt.

It’s in the smoke and mirrors moments of our lives that we need the clarity accountability offers. As shame sets in, or guilt trips you up, a back-slide can begin. There’s the first cover up; the pre-meditation, irritation, isolation. To prevent a retreat into the arms of your arch enemy, reality must be reflected. It’s an essential antidote.

An effective accountability partner will stand in authority, not assert control. They will act as your watchman on the wall. They will be on your battlefield, raise the Sword of Truth to defeat denial. As they point out lies and push against self-pity your plan to self-destruct will derail.

In the Book of Exodus, chapter 17, a biblical scene illustrates the accountability partnership.

At a low point in their wilderness crossing, the Amelekites attacked the Israelites. Under God’s charge, Moses instructed Joshua to gather his best men and fight. As the battle ensued, he would stand on the top of the hill with the staff of God in his hands.  Aaron and Hur would accompany him.

As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were victorious; when he lowered them, the Amelekites gained ground.

So, when Moses’ hands grew tired his companions Aaron and Hur held up his arms. In this way, Joshua overcame the Amelekite army with the sword.

In Biblical terms, the ‘sword’ is Truth. It’s a key weapon in the Ephesians 6 spiritual armor. It symbolizes God’s Word.

In your Recovery journey you will face many giants and fight many battles. Accountability partners can hold up your arms; encourage you as you become weary; fight for you when you feel defeated.

You can be set free.

Merriam-Webster defines accountability as “an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or to account for ones actions.”

The idea of owning our part seems easy. But, how can we take responsibility for those things we have not yet accepted as truth?

The protection denial offers sets up an impenetrable fortress around the mind. False beliefs and flawed perceptions stand guard at the gates. Only imposter identities may enter. Pride and fear are in charge.

For reality to take root, personal transparency must be prioritized. In the early stages of recovery, a primary task is to break down denial. Chipping away at lies, illusions and ideals can take months, even as much as a year. Relentless persistence is required. It involves a personal process of facing truth and nothing but truth so that God, and others, can help you break chains that bind.

The goal is to get honest about who you truly are, and all you have done; face how your actions have impacted all aspects of your life and everyone in it; own what your choices cost you. There can be no more sugar-coating, no more excuses.

Life is not easy. During the course of it, we tell ourselves stories; we rehearse narratives that exemplify appealing identities. We add villains: the preferred brother, the abusive father, the heartbreaker. Self-pity becomes a platform to pitch our protests: an accident, loneliness; no money. Or, there’s too much money, which justifies succumbing to temptation.

We are experts at articulating our case; at colluding with cause to explain our crime. Distractions are our go-to defense.  They explain why we smash up everything around us; sabotage every opportunity offered.

Denial serves a purpose. You could never in your right mind do such despicable things if you understood that at the centre of it all is your own selfishness; that you are the architect of the ruins that lie around you.

Unless you were fully insane, you could not rationally keep on breaking bad. To continue to self-destruct without constraint, you must dumb down your conscience; call what is bad, good.

The side-effects of addiction are degenerate behaviors that are entirely immoral. You simply cannot get away with the abuse, the stealing, the lying, the adultery, promiscuity and self-harm, unless you re-arrange accepted standards of right and wrong. To serve your addiction you will have to become desensitized to all that calls you to account.

When you finally face reality, accepting all the evidence will be devastating. As truth hits hard, you will bear witness to the murderous effect you have had on your life; be called to stand at the graveyard of bad choices. Put it all to rest.

Acceptance is a critical step. Without it, wounds within you will continue to war against God’s better purpose for your life. When provoked, they will assert again. Old behavior will play on repeat.

Your accountability partners will walk you through the valley of weeping; guide you to doorways of hope; hold up your arms.

As you begin to accept your part and who you really are, you can partner in your Recovery process. You can look through the lens of your past and see a different future; understand that you are not your behavior, that despite it all, the offer of personal redemption always exists.

Are you the person who makes jokes to diffuse a situation; gets aggressive when you are challenged; lies to vindicate; manipulates; threatens suicide; refuses to eat; eats too much? Who are you really?

And, why have you been hiding in the shadows of life? Come forward, introduce yourself. There is a new future to build.

Through self-esteem shifts, you will be able to bear your wreckage. Discovering strengths and owning weaknesses will empower you to refuse future invitations to injure yourself and others.

Yet, you may ask: so if I have reached these good and true levels of self-awareness, why do I need accountability?

Because sustaining sobriety is not a solo act. Recovery is a life-long journey that you cannot walk alone. Period.

Because old-patterns run deep; scars carve into your soul; temptations remain both bitter and sweet. Because relational conflict can set off old alarms; hurts scratch about in unmet needs; trials test you.

In Recovery, the requirement of personal responsibility must ascend to much higher levels than the world-at-large would expect.  

Whilst you are now able to experience yourself more accurately, you also need to educate the people who will become your accountability partners, so they may stand against wrong attitudes that can arise.

To serve you, and save you, they will need to recognize warning signs that suggest trouble is afoot; call you out on typical behaviors before they catapult you backwards.  If your self-deceit persists your best intentions will begin to break down.

When any person commits to a new path that promises life-enhancing reward, they start out strong.

It’s the same with addicts. We begin passionately, convinced that some new revelation is The Answer.  We identify specifics, involve others; apply ourselves. Then, over time, we lose traction. Our interest wanes and our discipline slips. We fall behind. Soon we are offering excuses that expertly explain why we cannot, or will not, continue.

We have all been there – think of an exercise regime or a university degree.

Whilst failing an exam or wasting funds on a gym contract are not good reflections of either self-control or consistency, Recovery is quite another matter.

It is a matter of life and death.

In Recovery, accountability is critical. Without accountability partners, blind spots will drive you straight back. Once your partner discerns old attitudes arising, they can step in and begin an enquiry, get you to a group, help you consider what unmet need lurks behind your behavior.

The Recovery Journey is never static. Life is a pilgrimage; everything shifts and changes along the way. You change too. There are accomplishments and setbacks. Many variables come into play.

Your Recovery needs constant attention. As you mature, you will experience life differently. These different levels will require that you face different devils.

Challenges will never cease. What will change is the way you view them. You will develop the emotional capacity to cope. You will get better at the battle. Facing truths about yourself will no longer threaten your stability. They will re-align your perspective. Life will no longer appear so overwhelming, problems so catastrophic.

You will learn to persevere, to push through; to endure. Resilience will restore clarity. Your character will strengthen. Hope will stand within reach.

Your thinking can change. Romans 12:2 (AMP) guides us: do not to be conformed to this world (any longer with its superficial values and customs), but be transformed and progressively changed (as you mature spiritually) by the renewing of your mind (focusing on godly values and ethical attitudes), so that you may prove (for yourselves) what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect (in His plan and purpose for you).

Never forget, addiction loves darkness.

An accountability partner will reach in and take your hands, lift you into the light.


By David Lacey

Human Assets Manager

David has been in Recovery for six years. He plays a key role in both the Management and Multi-Disciplinary Teams of Healing Wings. He stands testament to the fact that when we bravely face personal truths, new opportunities open up. He is a man who stands firm in faith. He does not bend or blend. Compromising the integrity he has worked so hard to regain is just not an option.

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