When discussing an addiction or struggle with pornography and masturbation, you will be hard-pressed to find a “solution” that doesn’t include getting an accountability partner. With any addiction, having an external person as a mentor of sorts is essential to full recovery. These accountability partners allow us to not feel as isolated, help us stay on track with our goals, and can lift us up when we may be close to (or hitting) despair in our struggle.
When I was recovering from my addiction, I knew an accountability partner would be helpful. However, as a woman, I had trouble thinking of someone who would be a good “fit.” Finally, out of desperation, and after multiple failed attempts at breaking free, I asked my roommate to keep me accountable to my goals. She had never personally struggled in this area herself but told me she was honored and humbled that I brought her such a personal request. Immediately after sharing with her, it felt like the weight of the world was lifted off my shoulders. My “hidden” struggle finally had less power over me after being brought to the light, and sharing with her removed all excuses I had been making for myself over the years.
While this was helpful, my friend often shared she didn’t know how to best help me as an accountability partner. Weeks and months would pass without an intentional check-in, and when we did have one, neither one of us really knew what to ask or share. Over the years, I had a few different accountability partners before experiencing full freedom in my addiction, and during that time, I learned a lot from those successes and failures on what makes an effective accountability partner and check-in.
What It Takes
As an accountability partner, there may be a lot of pressure to make sure you are doing a “good job” by keeping your partner free from falling at all times. However, the most important role of an accountability partner is to be someone’s support. It is vital to remember you are not their Savior (spoiler—they already have one), and therefore, you are not the only thing protecting them from falling back into their addiction. Instead, you are there to check in, receive their Covenant Eyes Accountability Reports, offer distraction if necessary, pray/fast with them, ask questions, and most importantly, listen to their answers.
Check-ins should happen as frequently or more often than they fall into their addiction (i.e. if they fall monthly, check-ins should be every one to two weeks; if they fall weekly, you should check-in every few days; and if they fall daily, you should have daily check-ins scheduled). Having the same time for check-ins scheduled will ensure they are happening consistently, and you should have a pre-set, agreed-upon time limit to avoid over-committing.
On average, check-ins should only take 5-10 minutes at most but can last longer depending on the person’s needs. The check-ins should also be like a natural conversation you would have with a friend, just with a little more intentionality. Below, I have mapped out a suggested guide of what your check-ins can entail. Hopefully, this will provide you with better direction for your conversations and give you more confidence as an accountability partner!
1. Ask about their life.
There is so much more to a person than their addiction, but unfortunately, when on the road to recovery, it can feel like that is all it’s about. Asking your accountability partner about all aspects of their life can be critical in helping them make the connection that there is more to life than their addiction.
Questions such as, “What was one thing you loved doing this week?”, “How was work/school?”, or “What is something you are looking forward to next week?” can all be helpful questions to aid in this.
2. Ask about their temptations and triggers, not just their falls.
Oftentimes, check-ins can sound like a quantified list of successes and failures and be left there. A poor example of a check-in could look like:
“Did you fall since we last talked?”
“How many times?”
“Did you do our recovery plan after each time?”
“Cool. Talk to you next week!”
Instead, start by asking about their triggers. Questions such as, “Did you experience any temptations this week?”, “Were you triggered by anything yesterday?”, and then, “Did any of these triggers lead you to fall?” can help build from the leading causes rather than simply starting with the end result.
When someone does fall, you should ask about what was surrounding it:
“Did you fall into your addiction?”
“What were you doing leading up to your fall?”
“I was scrolling through social media.”
“Did you see anything that made you more tempted?”
“Yes, it was accidental, but I saw an image on a friend’s page that triggered me.”
“That’s helpful. Do you think you should take a further step back from social media to avoid future triggers?”
“Yes, I think I should remove it entirely.”
“Great. How can I help make that possible?”
[discuss new plan]
Within this, remember that being an accountability partner doesn’t mean all the work rests on your shoulders. I recommend that those working to break free from addiction should also be reaching out to their accountability partner every time they experience a trigger (not just when they fall).
This conversation could look like this:
“Hey (accountability partner), I just wanted to reach out because I was just triggered.”
“Thank you so much for calling. What was the trigger?”
“I just had a really stressful conversation with my mother, and you know how that usually gets me in my head and increases my temptation to fall.”
“Completely, do you want to talk about the conversation?”
[discuss as necessary]
“Thanks, that really helped talking it out.”
“Of course, let’s pray together to help protect you from further temptation after experiencing that trigger.”
[pray together, offer to fast for each other, set up a plan for your next check-in, etc.]
3. Ask about their counter-measures.
In order to recover from an addiction, it’s important to not just remove all of the potential triggers or causes for extra temptation (e.g. phone in the bedroom, social media apps, harmful music and/or movies, etc). But to also add in positive measures that allow you to fill the gaps in your life without your addiction.
These additions should focus on developing personal relationships as well as spiritual goals as appropriate. Examples of questions guiding this could look like:
- How many times did you see friends this week?
- How many times have you talked on the phone with a friend?
- What plans do you have next week to see people?
- Are there any new hobbies you are interested in starting? Can anyone join you?
- How has your prayer life been?
- What has God been saying to you in prayer?
- What other books/materials are you interested in to help you in your spiritual journey?
4. Ask to pray/fast with them.
It’s one thing to say you will pray for someone, but to stop right there and do it in the moment can be incredibly powerful. If the person is religious, I highly recommend praying with them at the beginning and end of every conversation or check-in. This keeps the conversation centered on the right thing and ensures the Holy Spirit is the one truly guiding the journey.
Other than prayer, fasting is another powerful tool when helping someone overcome their addiction. When struggling with lust (desires of the flesh), implementing fasting as a way to practice dominance of the will over bodily desires can directly help someone learn how to control their lustful desires just the same.
Fasting from sweets, media, alcohol, or other “comforts” are great ways to offer sacrifices in order for additional grace to help someone in their addiction as well. These sacrifices can be done by the person with the addiction or by you, the accountability partner, as motivation as well as give additional grace for your friend.
An example of this in a check-in could look like this:
“Alright, it sounds like you’re back to struggling more often again. I would like to offer up a small sacrifice to bring in additional grace and motivation, would you like to join me?”
“Yes, I think that would be helpful.”
“Alright, how about we give up the internet after 10:00 p.m. every night, and if you fall, we will move it up an hour each time.”
“Yes, that sounds like a great challenge, and I think it will help me not fall again.”
“Great, I will be praying for you and look forward to talking tomorrow!”
Keep up the great work!
By implementing these four aspects into your check-ins, I guarantee you will notice a change in energy and motivation towards seeking freedom. As someone who needed an accountability partner, to become one for several others, remember that you are amidst a great battle, and by simply showing up you are already ahead. These questions and conversation tools will hopefully set your partnership in the right direction and make your check-ins that much more successful.