If you have ever watched a documentary on wild animals, you probably know the two primary defenses these animals employ to protect themselves from predators. The animals that form herds or communities are constantly protected by their numbers. When attacked by prey, these animals flee danger together. It is those that don’t remain with the herd that are usually killed, typically the young, old, or weak.
1 Peter 5:8 describes our enemy [the devil] as a ‘roaring lion, who walks around, seeking someone to devour.’ This passage is not just an effective word-picture of the realities of daily temptation, but an important warning to flee and stick together.
Sticking together is absolutely an essential part of addiction recovery. James 5:16 tells us that in order to be healed, we need to be transparent with one another through confession. God created us to be in community and relationship with not just him, but one another.
Notice in Genesis 2, after God created Man, he created Woman because ‘it is not good that man be alone.’ God did not design us to be completely isolated from other people. Even though Adam was in intimate communion with God, he still was not complete until God gave him a partner.
Those who struggle with addictive behaviors especially tend to have difficulty forming and maintaining accountable relationships. They resist accountability because it is contrary to the way they have become comfortable living; they live as rugged individualists, or Lone Rangers. Most addicts don’t want to be held accountable. They don’t want anyone to look over their shoulder and want to be the boss of their own recovery program.
But those who do not remain accountable to others in their recovery simply don’t recover. This is not, however, just an issue of control; addicts are also hiding. Allowing another person access to look over your shoulder can leave one feeling somewhat naked or exposed. After hiding behind their masks for so long they have convinced themselves that no one will truly accept them the way they are – they are afraid of intimacy.
Accountability relationships should be supportive and encouraging relationships, although many do not fully utilize the support available to them. It is not uncommon for men to tell me they relapsed, and while they thought of calling their accountability partner for support, they didn’t. Sometimes they were afraid they would bother him, felt ashamed, or simply didn’t want to stop.
I once asked a group of men how they feel when they receive a call for support from their accountability partner. They told me they actually feel important when they are asked for help. It not only helps the person calling, but strengthens the partner as well. They feel valued, and more tightly bonded together as ‘brothers in arms.’ The Bible describes this as ‘iron sharpening iron'(Prov. 27:17).
For those who have difficulty calling their accountability partner when they are feeling tempted, I encourage you to call sooner. There comes a point when you already have decided to act out, and if a call for support is going to be made, it is essential to call way before reaching this point. One of the best ways to train yourself to call your accountability partner for help is to practice. Call your accountability partner when you have a victory. It is much easier to reach out when you feel victorious, rather than shamed. When you call before you are in trouble, it strengthens your confidence, relationship, and may help you prevail over or avoid temptation altogether. You are putting your fears to the test when you call your accountability partner and challenging those old beliefs that you will not be accepted as imperfect. How do you feel when your accountability partner calls you for help? If you feel at all valued, encouraged, strengthened, bonded or closer to him, chances are this is how he feels getting a call from you.
Together with your accountability partner, you are much more likely to succeed in your recovery (Ecc. 4:9-10; Prov. 17:17). For animals in the wild, fleeing danger together is a matter of life or death, and so it is also with us.