While we all have different journeys in recovery, most will agree that accountability is a crucial component when it comes to staying clean and sober. Once we admit we want to rebuild our lives—whether it’s to a close friend, a family member or all our followers on Instagram—it becomes a lot harder to just pick up a drink or pop a pill. After all, who wants to risk having to come clean and admit we lost focus for a sec—or, er, three years? Accountability is how we stay on track and we all have people, places and things that have helped us reach our recovery goals. This is how accountability has worked for Lisa.
What does accountability mean to you?
Accountability means different things to me in different aspects of my life. In the most direct sense, it’s meeting my obligations and showing up for the things I’ve committed to. Walking through the door of my office, paying my bills, trying to be a good wife, calling my sponsor, calling my mother. These are all things I’ve made actual commitments to do. They are real-world things for which there are fairly immediate, tangible consequences if I were to blow them off.
Then there’s accountability to myself. I always tell my sponsees something I heard once: “Just don’t be a jerk.” Every night that I can go to sleep feeling like I wasn’t a jerk that day goes into the win column and helps me stay sober for one more day.
Does the fact that people know about your recovery play into you staying sober? How?
I don’t think about it often, but now that you mention it, it definitely does. I’ve basically shouted from the rooftops about my disease and recovery so I don’t put my friends, family and co-workers through another downward spiral in addiction. I’m fortunate that the support I’ve received from them has been tremendous. I consider staying sober to be the living amends I can make to them for all of the years that my behavior was awful and I couldn’t show up for things that mattered. It’s really the most important way I can demonstrate my gratitude to them, so that makes it important.
Who or what are you accountable to in your recovery?
My list of specific people includes my immediate family, particularly my husband, my sponsor and my sponsees. I don’t have children. I’ve been with the same incredible sponsor for all of my 13 years of my sobriety and she has no qualms about calling me out when I deserve it. I love that and need it. My sponsees are inspiring women and help get me out of my own head. Because they feel accountable to me, I feel accountable to them.
Mostly, though, I’m accountable to myself. Sobriety has given me a life beyond my wildest dreams. It would be entirely on me if I picked up a drink again and blew it all. Over time, as you build a new life in recovery, you start to actually have something to lose. When I was drinking and using, I felt like I had nothing to lose.
How important is having a community to your staying sober? Why?
Community is critical to me. In my active addiction, I felt so completely alone and scared. Learning that I’m not alone, that there are so many others like me who feel the same way and struggle with the same disease, has been one of the most important elements of my recovery. I remember the first time I went to my outpatient rehab after getting out of detox. I heard someone describing the compulsion to drink and how he used to just want to shut the door on the world and be alone in a dark apartment with a bunch of booze and coke. I thought, “Whoa! I’ve found my people!” We understand each other’s brains. Not feeling alone changed my life.
Have you ever relapsed? Is there anything you could have done that might have prevented that?
I have been fortunate enough not to relapse yet. I always say, “yet,” because I don’t say I will never drink again. That statement has always been too overwhelming to me. I’m seriously a “one day at a time” person. Each day so far I have gotten up and made a decision not to pick up a drink that day. For that to happen, I have to take the next right action and put my sobriety first. I was told early on that a healthy fear of relapse is a very good thing. I remain terrified of relapse.
What advice do you give someone who wants to get or stay sober?
Get connected. There are so many incredible people out there who have changed their lives and genuinely want to help the next person do the same. You can find so many resources and tools online and, if you’re inclined, in meetings. You don’t ever have to do this alone.
And be kind to yourself. It’s not like you put down the drink and become this fantastic person. All you have to do, one day at a time, is not pick up a drink, however you are able to make that happen. A woman in a meeting once said that any day I didn’t drink was a perfect day. It’s true.
How important do you think transparency is in your recovery?
Transparency is a huge part of my recovery. By speaking up and being transparent, I hope to help the next person who is struggling. Feeling alone in addiction is a nightmare, absolute misery. I think that whenever someone else holds up their hand and says, “Me too. You’re not alone,” it makes it a little easier for someone to ask for help.
How does it feel to earn people’s trust back now that you’re sober?
It’s great, but it’s also an ongoing process. If I’m in a bad mood or having a down day (I still have depression relapses periodically), the close people around me express concern. That’s fair enough. They have reason and the right to question me and be concerned. I have only myself to hold accountable for why they feel that way.
But it’s also great that now, 13 years later, I can say to any of them, “I’m going on this trip and I’ll be gone for a few days on my own,” and no one thinks, “Oh, she might drink and we need to be worried about it.” It’s a gift that I have to continue working hard at to keep. I know how easily it can all disappear if I make the wrong choices. But the possibilities are endless if I make the right ones.
For the ultimate in accountability Soberlink’s Share Program provides recovering individuals a technology to build accountability and structure. The program is designed for those who want to share their sobriety with their support network.