What Makes a Good Accountability Partner for Sexual Addictions?

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As the new year continues many addicts are searching for an accountability partner. This is necessary for those new to recovery as they take responsibility for their lives and begin (or continue) on the path of recovery. One of my mentors, Les Brown, would say, “Accept responsibility for your life. Know that it is you who will get you where you want to go, no one else.” In other words, committing to recovery, or starting a “reboot,” is accepting responsibility for your life. 

From this posture, you have realized that it is you and no one else who can make you successful. Still, you need the assistance of a good accountability partner in order to be successful in recovery. And there are certain criteria to look for in a good accountability partner when it comes to overcoming an addiction to pornography/masturbation.

In 12-step programs, this person is referred to as “the sponsor.” There are several groups related to sexual addictions that use this term as well. Generally speaking, those in recovery are usually already aware of the need for accountability and to have someone, the “accountability partner” or “sponsor,” who regularly checks in on them (whether daily or a few times a week).

Hopefully, this will be helpful to both those struggling with sexual addiction and looking for help from an accountability partner as well as those who are sober and interested in helping others as an accountability partner.

An accountability partner should have these three traits: honesty, discipline, and consistency. They should have a commitment to helping you become sober and maintain recovery. But I’ve identified three different types of accountability partners, which are below. Each one is a good option but, as we’ll see, there is a hierarchy of “good,” “better,” and “best” when it comes to the three types.

Good – Accountability Partner (AP)

Proverbs 27:17 instructs us that, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” This is where we can begin. You should look for an accountability partner who has an “iron sharpens iron” ethos: one truly committed to bettering and “sharpening” you.

Someone who has adopted the “iron sharpens iron” ethos and is truly committed to helping you and checking in on you regularly. This is also someone with whom you can be honest. You need to be willing to be honest with your accountability partner—and you need to feel they are being honest with you. Genuine accountability between you and your accountability partner demands being vulnerable with them, accepting what they point out to you, and doing something to fix it when you hear it. 

If you cannot be honest with them and/or if they will not be honest with you, then that person is not a good choice. Family members and close friends might come to mind as good choices but they are not recommended for this very reason—it can sometimes be most difficult with those who are closest to us to be honest and vulnerable for fear of shame and rejection.

Better – Accountability Partner Plus (AP+)

A better accountability partner is one who has the “iron sharpens iron” ethos and is also in a recovery program or has gone through one. This individual can be thought of as AP+ (Accountability Partner Plus). The person also should have the experience of being sober for more than one year. 

This individual has recovery-related experience they can share to provide necessary answers to your questions and tips for battling specific struggles. This person can also better inspire you on your own journey because they have been there before and can point to their own successes with recovery.

Best – Accountability Partner Plus One (AP+1)

The best, and most desirable accountability partner, is the one who has the “iron sharpens iron” ethos, the experience of being sober for more than one year, and a willingness to share knowledge and foster discipline in a coaching or mentoring structure. We might refer to this person as AP+1

This person is similar to the above type but this person goes a step further in having a more regimented and disciplined approach to sponsoring you based on years of experience and a gift for leading, coaching, and/or mentoring. They have the ability to transfer knowledge and discipline in a mentoring format without judgment but with firm guidance. And they have the ability to keep you honest, disciplined, and consistent in your own recovery.

So, to recap, here are the three types of accountability partners I’ve identified:

Good – AP (“iron sharpen iron” ethos)

Better – AP+ (“iron sharpen iron” ethos + recovery experience)

Best – AP+1 (“iron sharpen iron” ethos + recovery experience + coaching/mentoring ability)

The aim of the partnership between you and your accountability partner ultimately is to make both of you grow and maintain recovery. The visual aid of an iron blade sharpening another blade provides a practical model for our recovery. 

Lastly, while it’s important to seek out an accountability partner, we must never forget that true victory and lasting progress comes only from God Himself. As we read in Hebrews 4:12, “The word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” 

Let us lean always on God, then, as we seek true accountability in our fellow disciples committed to honesty, discipline, and consistency on the road of recovery.

Aaron Walter is a lifelong Catholic and former porn addict whose ministry, NewMenRising, is dedicated to pornography addiction recovery. He is a coach, mentor, and accountability partner. He is passionate about helping husbands kick their addiction and transform their lives and relationships. You can connect with him at aaronwaltercoaching.com and on Instagram.