After a lifetime of habitual sexual sin, today I’m still living in freedom from my sexual addiction and able to mentor others who struggle so they too can experience the freedom that I now enjoy. Needless to say, I love what I do for a living.
But I remember the many challenges I faced when starting out on my journey to freedom. In 2004, I was completing the online process of signing up as a new Covenant Eyes customer. Covenant Eyes monitors how you use your devices and reports your device usage to an accountability partner of you’re choosing. From day one, it’s been an invaluable tool in breaking free and maintaining my sexual integrity. But as I was signing up, I was challenged by the prompt:
“Enter the email addresses of your accountability partners here.”
What!?! Oh, yeah, that’s right. I need to have some accountability partners. Hmmm.
NOTE: At Covenant Eyes, we call accountability partners “allies.” Why? Because as Michael explains, the best accountability partners are like-minded friends and mentors who join with you in the battle against porn. These are people who understand the fight, and who have your back when the going gets tough!
When I Started Using Covenant Eyes
Before I go on, remember we’re talking early 2004 here. The general public first became aware that the internet even existed only about nine or ten years earlier. And Covenant Eyes was only a few years old. No one was out there talking about “best practices” with regards to how you go about choosing your internet accountability partners. We were the pioneers, and it was all still trial and error.
Strangely enough, the one thing I had going for me back then was that I’d gone through about eight years of recovery from my own sexual addiction, including breaking free from a pretty serious addiction to internet porn. The other advantage was that since I spent most of my career working in the computer industry, I had a deep understanding of technology tools and trends.
I think that’s why Covenant Eyes has worked great for me from day one because I had already acquired some hard-earned wisdom and knew better than most what I needed to bring to the table in order to get the most out of using this powerful tool for recovery.
5 Principles for Finding Accountability Partners
As for that daunting first step, finding and naming my accountability partners, here’s just a sampling of that same logic and common sense that helped me succeed in my recovery, and that I also learned to apply in my ongoing search for accountability partners:
1. Don’t follow conventional church wisdom.
As a recovering sex addict, I knew better than to follow the conventional pastoral counseling wisdom and go looking for what I call the “Local Moses.” Every pastor has one. You know, he’s the guy your pastor is so proud of–his Moses. So godly and devoted to his faith. So they think it’s inevitable that you’ll get better and stop on your own just by osmosis–by hanging around this person as he draws you closer to God.
Well, it seldom works out that way. While it never hurts to surround yourself with godly men, most Local Moses’ I’ve met have never struggled with habitual sexual sin anywhere close to the degree that I and most guys I know have. So the help they’re able to offer you is limited by their own personal experiences. Unfortunately, this makes them easy pickings when it comes to a recovering addict pulling the wool over their eyes as they struggle with living in the light of the truth. This leads me to #2.
2. Seek out like-minded, like-hearted peers.
What you really want to find are peers of your gender. But not just guys or ladies who also struggle. They need to be link-minded and like-hearted. In other words, they need to be at your level or beyond in terms of recognizing the depth of their problem with habitual sexual sin, and as equally committed to getting well as you are. Those last two parts are critical. Otherwise, you might find yourself linked up with some well-intended people who know they have a problem but aren’t as committed to getting well as you are–a sure recipe for stagnation and frustration.
3. Seek out the help of a mentor.
Okay, this may come across as a bit of an advertisement for my ministry. But, it’s really more of an endorsement for taking a mentoring-centric approach to recovery or getting well and staying that way. Working with a mentor–someone with significant sexual sobriety who’s living in freedom from habitual sexual sin–will give you structure and a plan that puts you on the most direct path to freedom yourself. But, also by virtue of your mentor-mentee relationship, you’ll be learning firsthand how to hold yourself accountable to another man or woman.
In addition, if your mentor is like most mentors and is working with several people at once, he or she should be able to recommend other like-minded, like-hearted men or women for you to contact and connect with for accountability. For instance, in BraveHearts, I’m currently mentoring over 40 men, most of whom are always on the lookout for good accountability partners.
4. Don’t look for just one–build an army.
People, no matter how well intending they are, will occasionally let you down when it comes to having your back. Sometimes they get distracted; other times they get caught up in their own battles. You may even find them getting complacent, thinking you’ve got everything well at hand and don’t really need them to stand watch for you.
That’s why from day one I’ve always sought to have at least three accountability partners. Sure, it’s a lot harder to find three people than it is just one. But with only one, there’s no safety net, no fallback. Like Scripture says, “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A chord of three strands is not quickly broken.” Pretty straightforward–three is always better than one.
5. Don’t make your spouse an accountability partner.
I’m sure my just saying this is going to rub some of you the wrong way. After all, on the surface, there are all kinds of noble and righteous reasons to make your spouse an accountability partner.
Don’t get me wrong, you are definitely accountable to her in many ways and in all areas of your life. But there’s a right way and a wrong way to hold yourself accountable to your spouse when it comes to maintaining sexual integrity. As far as her receiving detailed reports from Covenant Eyes, I don’t recommend it. The why’s and how’s behind this piece of advice will need to be covered in more detail in a future blog post.
6. You’ll find your best accountability partners in recovery groups.
Without question, the best place to find prospective accountability partners is anywhere you see people assembled specifically for the purpose of recovery from habitual sexual sin (and typically not in your run-of-the-mill men’s small group). We have a saying along those lines–if you’re not working on your recovery, then you’re working on your addiction.
Although I work with a lot of guys in private 1-on-1 mentoring, that’s just a starting point for most of them. But, it’s when they’ve progressed to the point where they’re sober and getting healthier and now want to connect with others in recovery that they’re primed and ready for rich accountability relationships. Those are your best prospects.
Where to Look for Accountability Partners
If you aren’t involved in a recovery group, where else can you look for an accountability partner? Jeff Fischer is a pastor who runs a purity coaching ministry for those struggling with sexual temptation. He recommends looking to the following “pools” of people for allies in recovery:
- Close friends – Who are your current close friends? Safe friends who know your story make the best accountability partners. Even if a close friend doesn’t know your story, they could be receptive to your need for accountability.
- Old friends – Go back in the past. What old friends did you have from high school, college, work, or church that you could get back in touch with? Who in your past was a support to you? Old friends can be brought up to speed quickly and will probably be a good option. It doesn’t matter if your friend is in a different part of the country; technology gives us many good ways to reconnect.
- Church small group member – If you’re in a church, you’re already in a place where you can get support. Yes, church members have sexual struggles just like the rest of us. They just don’t talk about them and they’re good at hiding them. Whom have you connected with in your church? Whom do you have good chemistry with? Maybe it’s time to test the water?
- Minister – A relationship with a minister is a good relationship to have anyway. Set up an appointment with your pastor, priest, deacon, or teacher. Most ministers understand the need for safety and confidentiality. Maybe your minister can help you get started for the first month while you look for another option. Or maybe you have a minister who has the time to enter into an accountability relationship with you.
- Counselor – A counselor is always a solid option. There is cost involved. Using a counselor long-term for your accountability needs might get expensive, but they will do a good job. Counselors also understand confidentiality. It is the nature of their profession to be a safe place for people to share deeper struggles. A counselor might also be able to help you with other local resources in your area you don’t know about.
- Support group – I love this option! A support group is an instant group of friends that will understand your struggles and probably a good pool to find an ally or sponsor. Look for a purity group in your area or online.
- Family member – For some of us, no. Family members are good general support, but it’s sometimes hard for them to ask the tough questions. I do know several sexual strugglers who have a close family member who is helping them. You may have a unique relationship with a sibling, parent, or cousin. If that’s the case, give it four weeks and see how it goes.
Where have you found your accountability partners? Share your suggestions and tips in the comments below.