Personal Responsibility In Recovery

Even when we work with a therapist, listen to podcasts, watch videos, and read books, personal responsibility in recovery is still an important concept.  There are recovery things that other people cannot do for us.  We’re responsible for:

  • Showing up and being an active participant in recovery.
  • Being consistent in the work we do.
  • Finding and displaying courage when we need to.
  • Remaining willing and open to the process and the experiences we have to have as part of the process.

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The Highlights

Accepting responsibility for you recovery does not mean that you are to blame for creating this problem or doing something wrong.  Responsibility and blame are two very different things.  Responsibility in our context is power!  Please remember this as we move forward.

No matter how much help we reach out for in recovery, no matter how much information we consume and how many questions we ask, and no matter what instruction, information and guidance we get from other people, there are parts of this process that remain 100% our own responsibility. We have personal responsibility in recovery. We must accept this personal responsibility and act on it.  Where does personal responsibility in recovery show itself?  At a minimum, in these areas:

Showing Up

You have to show up to your own recovery. At the most basic level this might mean attending your therapy sessions or doing your exposure homework.  It also means finding resources, then consuming them and making an effort to learn and understand without demanding that you be instructed on every concept word-by-word. Questions are always OK, but questions about your recovery are most productive when you consume first, digest first, then clarify what you’ve read or been told.  There is professional help to be had.  There are books. There are podcasts.  There are videos.  There is a ton of psychoeducational content on various social media platforms.  Avail yourself of them. Read, listen, and learn, even when that takes time and effort. Part of personal responsibility in recovery is showing up, which means being an active participant in your own improvement.

Be Consistent

Sadly, like most of today’s concepts, I cannot teach you how to be consistent.  I can tell you that being consistent means doing the work of recovery even when you don’t want to do it.  Doing that exposure even when afraid. Resisting the urge to “rest” when you know that rest is really just a good rationalization for hiding from what you fear.  Consistency involves making a plan and sticking to it, both long term and day-by-day. Waking up, thinking about how you feel, then deciding what you will do that is not being consistent. Consistency means accepting that doing the work on the “bad days” is when the work pays off the most, then doing it. This is what consistency looks like. If I could tell you HOW to be consistent, I certainly would, but I am not aware of a way to instruct you on consistency steps. I don’t think your therapist can tell you how to be consistent. It’s just a thing we have to do because we know that we have to do it.  Being consistent is part of your personal responsibility in recovery.

Finding And Displaying Courage

One of the most important parts of personal responsibility in recovery is finding and displaying courage. This, sadly, is entirely up to each of us. There is no way for me or anyone else to make you courageous or to make you feel courageous. There are no steps that we can teach you for being brave when you need to be brave.  Unfortunately, being brave is one of the pillars of recovery, especially in the early stages. You can say that you are not brave and can’t be brave.  You can say that you just refuse to be brave. That’s OK.  But if you put the brakes on when it comes to courage and bravery in recovery, there’s not much that someone like me, or your therapist, can do for you. We can root for you and tell you that we believe in you, because we do.  But finding your courage and using it is – in the end – entirely up to you.  I think that courage is a thing that we can build on, even when we start feeling not so brave.  That’s a good thing, but that doesn’t happen until you take responsibility for getting that ball rolling. That’s a crappy deal, isn’t it?  I get it.

Remain Willing And Open To The Experiences Of Recovery

You don’t have to like the fact that recovery is based on doing scary, difficult things. Nobody likes that!  I didn’t like it. I can tell you that.  But in the end even when you don’t like how this works, you have to be willing and opening to having the experiences of recovery. That means buying into the process, then accepting that you have to give it your very best shot to see that it works for you. It means that you have to know going in that you will be scared and uncomfortable, but also that being scared and uncomfortable on purpose is the whole point of the exercise. Being open to that experience and willing to have it because you know WHY having it matters and HOW to use that experience to your benefit is critical.  Are you open and willing to the experiences of recovery? Are you just doing the things you hear me talk about because you hope you’ll feel better, or do you understand why you have to do them and how this works? Are you doing the things while also trying to feel OK while you do them?  People like me can lay things out for you and teach you the theory behind what we say. We can explain how the mechanics work.  We can answer questions and try to clarify things for you. But if you do not arrive at willingness and openness, our usefulness becomes limited.  I can tell you THAT you can recover this way.  I cannot tell you that you SHOULD.  That – getting to a place of willingness and openness – is part of your personal responsibility in recovery.


There are some other episodes of The Anxious Truth and editions of The Anxious Morning that might be helpful as you consider your responsibility in recovery.

Episode 003 – Courage

Episode 213 – Responsibility Is Not Blame

Episode 192 – Exposure Is More Than Just Doing Things

The Anxious Morning – Consistency Is Vital

The Anxious Morning – Misconceptions About Courage And Being Afraid

The Anxious Morning – Recovery Forces Our Hand


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Recovery tips. Updates on recovery resources. Encouragement. Inspiration. Empowerment. All delivered to your inbox! Subscribe here FREE.

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Podcast Intro/Outro Music: "Afterglow" by Ben Drake (With Permission)






Founder and host of The Anxious Truth podcast. Graduate student and therapist-in-training. Author and educator on the topic of anxiety disorders and anxiety recovery. Former anxious and depressed person.