Accountability

Being accountable may be one of the most difficult, but necessary, building blocks of recovery for an addict of any type. For porn and sex addicts, accountability is critically important. 

Accountability is about not keeping your acting out, relapses, bouts with temptations, close calls, and even emotional distresses secret. Keeping these behaviors in the dark will not only kill your soul but damage you physically and psychologically. 

Asking for help is not weakness, it’s strength. True strength comes through humility and it is extremely humbling to ask for help in something as deeply rooted as porn addiction.


Physical and Biological Effects

An article in Forbesmagazine written by Gina Roberts-Grey,“Keeping Secrets Can Be Hazardous to Your Health,”states, “Neuroscientists now believe it's biologically better for us to confess our secrets…. Holding on to them puts the brain in an awkward, compromised position…. When you choose to hold onto a secret, your brain's orbital prefrontal cortex simulates in your mind just how bad sharing the secret will be, imagining all the possible negative outcomes.”

Keeping secrets causes your body to ramp up the production of stress hormones. This stress reveals itself in a variety of physical effects, including blood pressure, gastrointestinal tract disorders, memory problems, and even learning difficulties. 

The higher the stress, the more resulting anxiety and the more “fight or flight” behaviors are exhibited. Irritability, depression, defensiveness, and paranoid tendencies are common. 

Several studies show that progressive porn use shrinks the prefrontal cortex of the brain, resulting in impaired cognitive function with decreased ability y to focus, short-term memory loss, and thus reduced IQ and learning potential. 

It is worth repeating here what was presented in the previous section, “Your Brain on Porn.” Continued and progressive porn use can produce numerous negative effects: degeneration of frontal lobes, reduced willpower, inhibited moral compass, reduced concentration, increased anxiety, erectile dysfunction, depression, withdrawal from friends and family,blurring of reality, development of self-focus perspectives and attitude, and narcissism. 

This incredibly inward self-perspective can lead to self-induced feelings of abandonment and rejection, and magnify any pre-existing emotional distresses like those discussed in section, “River Under the River.” In extreme circumstances, this damage to the brain leads to distortion of the personality and decisions of personal self-destruction. 


Spiritual and Scriptural Effects

These biological and psychological findings are simply put by scripture: 


Romans 6:23(NRSVCE) “For the wages of sin is death …”

And more specific to our topic:


James 1:15(NRSVCE) “then, when that desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and that sin, when it is fully grown, gives birth to death”


Resolution

The act of pushing through adversity in life strengthens one’s character, builds resilience, and creates moral strength and purpose. The act of simply confessing your behavior, or even sharing your struggles with another person, has tremendous healing power. The act itself is a significant step in decreasing the biological, psychological, and spiritual effects discussed above. 


Again, this very notion is supported in scripture:


James 5:16(NRSVCE) “Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed.”


Confessing your sin to a pastor or priest is highly recommended, and for Catholics even required for absolution. As you can see from what I’ve presented above, this requirement of confession is much more than a “church rule.” As revealed in James 5:16, as well as in many scientific studies, confession is freeing and healing of not only the soul but of the body as well. 

Confessing to a priest or pastor is step one, but being part of an accountability or purity group on a regular basis is an almost mandatory part of the healing process. 

As a counselor, I always strongly encourage my clients to participate in a group. Whether in group counseling or a peer group such as Sexaholics Anonymous, the group dynamic is instrumental in recovery. 

Being accountable isn’t just about confession. Sharing your story and your struggles frees you of the secrets that bind you; plus, sharing your struggle also helps others. In a group, hearing others who share the same battle helps you gain perspective and allows you to see that you are not alone. Someone else truly understands you. 


Here is a story of how sharing in a group has healing power:

There was a group of several men who were Vietnam war POWs. When they returned from the war, they had a very difficult time adjusting to life at home and getting back to “normal.” The soldiers were distant from their families; they withdrew emotionally from family and any regular activity. They couldn’t hold jobs and many had severe depression. Significant amounts of counseling and help to get them to cope all failed. It wasn't until several of the POWs were put together in a group and began to talk about their experiences that the healing began. In this group, they each shared their stories and began to see what it was like for others who walked in their shoes, and they saw that someone else really understood what they went through and what they felt. When this happened, remarkable healing took place.


Accountability groups aren’t just about sharing your struggles. Sharing victories is also part of recovery. Hearing the victories of others is empowering as well. 


Personal Reflection

After struggling with porn and sex addiction for over 35 years, I felt that no one understood me. It just wasn’t possible for anyone to know what I was going through. The self-loathing, the self-rejection, the loneliness (even though I was married for many years of it), the emptiness, and the hopelessness I felt truly had me in an emotional state that was very dangerous. It wasn’t until I was met with an ultimatum from my wife and a priest that I started attending an accountability group at a nearby church. I remember in that first meeting that the protocol when a new member attended that everyone gave a five-minute version of their story. Hearing their stories, I was moved to tears. I thought to myself, “These guys actually understand me; they get what I am going through!” Just knowing that I was not alone and essentially seeing that freedom was possible delivered a boost of hope that gave me the strength to move forward and face the difficulties that lie ahead. The healing and growth from years of these meetings is what led not only to my own freedom but to my motivation to help others through it as well. 

I feel the pain of those that battle this addiction, and my heart breaks as I see the bondage men and women are in, yet I know that freedom is possible. I know with all my heart and soul that it doesn’t have to be like this. Your life doesn’t have to be like this. It can change. But you cannot do it alone. 


Finding Accountability Partners

The thought of finding someone to share this type of personal struggle with can easily bring feelings of fear and anxiety. Here are some tips to get started. 


Where to look for partners

· Purity groups.Another huge benefit of being in an accountability or purity group is the instant group of people who share in your battle. Most groups offer a member list with contact information so you can call (or be called) a supportive person when things get tough (or ideally before they get too far). 

· Close friends.A close friend whom you can confide in is a good possibility. This person already knows a lot about you and your life history, and it’s highly likely that a close friend will accept your struggle. In some cases, you may find that your friend is also battling porn addiction. In these cases, sharing your story may inspire your friend to seek help. 

· Pastor.Most pastors will welcome requests to help someone with an addiction. There may even be a purity or accountability group in the church or one nearby that they can recommend. An added benefit is that many pastors have some counseling training as well. 

· Other resources. There are organizations that offer paid services for accountability or coaching. Puritycoaching.com is one. They have an accountability jump-start program.  


Not Recommended:

· Spouse.Your spouse is the very person you have caused significant trauma to by your behavior. While your spouse is likely very supportive of your recovery, discussing your battles directly with her will only cause her additional personal distress and pain. 

· Internet accountability groups. There are several internet accountability apps and groups available. This is NOT the same as using a porn filter or blocking software such as covenanteyes.com (which I highly recommend). No, I’m talking about apps where you log in daily and passively track your temptations, progress, and so on. Some even offer you the option to communicate with others via email or messaging in the app.  This may seem like a good option on the surface, but I see too many clients who get in trouble when they rely on their electronic devices as a tool in their battles. Often, they find themselves getting triggered from using the device, even though they are now using it for support—the problem is right in their hand. In my mind, it’s not much different from holding a purity group meeting in a strip club or an AA meeting in a bar! It’s simply not an ideal situation. But that is just my personal slant; many people support these apps. If you do choose to use one of these app’s, do so with caution. 


Picking a Partner

In looking for an accountability partner, also consider that you will likely be a partner to the other person as well. So, learning how to be a good accountability partner yourself will guide you in choosing someone to support you. 

Here are some tips on being a good partner:

  • Be compassionate.As you already know, this addiction is hard. Being compassionate and empathetic to someone is powerful. Being accepted and affirmed for the person they are is critical to the healing process. Remember, though, that compassion and affirmation are NOT the same as permissiveness. 
  • Be tough. Don’t let them get away with comments like “I just wanted to” or “I just couldn’t stop myself.” Ask what triggered them. What feelings were they experiencing in the hours or days prior to acting out? And if they didn’t have a fall, talk about what’s going on in their life. It’s entirely possible that their current stresses, if not discussed, may be a catalyst for a fall tomorrow. Take to heart chapter 5, “River Under the River,” when talking to your accountability partner. When you begin the 40-day process in this book, use it as a guide when talking to your partner—both in sharing your day and in asking them about theirs. 
  • Share victories.This is very important. No matter how small they seem, share your successes and encourage your partner to share his as well. If you only talk about battles and difficulties, you’ll likely feel depressed and defeated. By developing this practice, you will notice that over time your discussion of victories outweighs the discussions of falls and battles. Remember to praise your partner for achieving victories. 
  • Daily connection. Make a commitment to contact each other daily. Maybe even set a regular time. The more structured and consistent your communication, the more likelihood of success. 
  • Connect in person or by phone. Do not contact each other by email. It’s too passive and too easy. Talking directly to your partner will provide more interaction and the very act of the discussion empowers healing. 

Remember, accountability and sharing in a group is foundational in recovery. Do not try to do this alone. Of all the suggestions and steps I offer for recovery, this is the most important one

Next Section: Understanding Boundaries

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