One of the most crucial components of successful recovery is accountability. When you first start to fight against your disorder and find your inner voice, it is going to fight back even harder. Therefore, it is critical you have someone, some way, or something to monitor your progress, keep you motivated, and push you forward and onward. It is the key to the prevention of relapse, and the safety net to catch you when you fall.
Early on in treatment, accountability is usually much more structured, planned, and regular. For me, it consisted of meeting with a treatment team on daily basis, along with bi-weekly weigh-ins and medical check-ups to monitor the rate and success of my physical and mental progress. Being watched so carefully motivated me, encouraged me, and ultimately scared me into following my treatment plan. However, as I improved and moved past the immediate danger zone, which often requires a period of intense treatment, the number of doctor visits began to diminish, and the number of watchful eyes started to turn the other way. This is when I had to learn to be accountable to myself.
Learning how to be accountable to yourself is a lifelong process. Personal accountability requires mindfulness, acceptance, honesty, and courage.
It is also important to keep in mind it is not something you can perfect. There are going to be many times when you fail to listen to what your body and mind needs, when you slip back into your old patterns, and when you let fear and hopelessness overwhelm your better judgment and inner truth. The important thing is to recognize and confront those moments. Use them as lessons to learn from, rather than mistakes to be ashamed of.
My journey of personal accountability began when I returned to school after a summer of intense treatment in a partial hospitalization program and a period of strict guidance by my parents. I spent the duration of June, July, and August holding myself accountable to meet my treatment team’s pre-requisites and expectations in order to move back to school for the start of Fall semester. In my mind, if I could get to the prescribed healthy weight and get back to my normal routine, my recovery would be over and all would be smooth sailing. Unfortunately, I did not realize heading away to school meant heading straight into personal responsibility and accountability for my treatment and future recovery progress.
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Suddenly it was my turn to single-handedly combat ED myself.
I would be lying if I said this was an easy task, and one that went without fail. In all actuality, it has been a continual and ongoing battle I continue to work on, modify, and improve upon each day.
At first I stuck to the routine I followed at home, making sure to record my daily caloric intake, monitor my weight on a weekly basis, and watch my activity level. Unfortunately, all too quickly I removed recovery from the top of my priority list. As the craziness and busyness of the semester started to pick up, I became lax on my meal plan, indulged in too much exercise, and used excuses of “too busy” or “too tired” to account for my recovery plateau. What I did not realize was by not learning to be accountable to myself, I was letting ED slowly slip back into my life.
After this initial setback, I realized personal accountability is what recovery is really all about. Being successfully accountable to a treatment team or even your family is a great first step, but it is not realistic long-term for a happy and independent life. Only when we learn to be mindful, aware, kind, and honorable to our mind and body’s cues, are we truly free.
Although I do not have a secret success formula for achieving personal accountability, I have come up with list of tips that have been extremely helpful in moving me toward this goal…
First, give yourself a weekly challenge.
Maybe this will be conquering a fear food or engaging in something spontaneous. Do something to challenge and test your distance from ED or whatever you are currently struggling with. Sometimes for me this is as small as cutting five minutes from my workout; regardless, anything counts!
Another way you can become more personally accountable is to journal.
As often as you can, write down how you are feeling mentally and physically and reflect. Try to be as honest as possible. Sometimes it takes physically writing out words to find some dissonance in our thoughts and behaviors.
Lastly, do not let life get bigger than yourself.
Too often today we neglect ourselves for thinking we “have-to-do” certain things and “need-to-be” a certain way. The truth is the only thing we have to do is love and be kind to ourselves, and the only thing we need to be is who we actually are. Give yourself time for recovery, because you deserve it.
As we move forward together in learning how to achieve personal accountability, we must remind ourselves why we ultimately want to be accountable. Being accountable to ourselves means recovery, and recovery means life, freedom, self-love, and happiness.
Let us not forget what is at the end of the road, and let us never lose hope.