The program of Alcoholics Anonymous has a passage on the concept of acceptance which states that acceptance is the answer to all of our problems. The first thought for many addicts and alcoholics is that this probably seems like giving up. If acceptance were the answer to all problems, there would be very little reason to do much of anything. For many of us, we used drugs and alcohol as a way to reach our own level of acceptance. From mellowing out to oblivion, drugs and alcohol became a way of dulling every problem or issue into neutral or bearable. Whether you’re facing normal life stress or dealing with an issue like major depressive disorder, drugs and alcohol have the illusion of helping us reach some peace. So then, how do we develop a healthy relationship with the concept of acceptance, and most importantly how do we stop making excuses or avoiding our responsibilities and consequences that may have risen out of our drug and alcohol addiction?
Drugs and alcohol are a lot like sunglasses. They block us from having to see the parts of our lives that might be too much for us to deal with. After removing drugs and alcohol, the sensation of life and its difficulties might appear to happen more often than when we were using or drinking. Most often, it’s actually just that we aren’t adjusted to everyday life without drugs and alcohol. Our problems were most likely there when we were drinking or using, it’s just that we either drank and used drugs in order to cope with our problems or through using we neglected our responsibilities, which led to consequences later on. Once we cleaned up, we needed to find new ways to deal with our problems and responsibilities.
By learning to embrace an attitude of acceptance to our responsibilities and problems, we stop resisting them. As this is easier said than done, this is the most important element of mindfulness, meditation, and Buddhism. Resistance is said to cause suffering, and so when we fight against the flow of life, we often find ourselves feeling depressed or unfulfilled. With drug addicts and alcoholics, feeling like life isn’t fair is a common response to having to face the wreckage we’ve caused while using and drinking.
Selecting one thing that is causing you to be angry or upset, writing it down on a piece of paper, and consciously facing the feelings that arise with this item is an extremely beneficial practice in developing an attitude of acceptance to difficult situations. Our bills are an excellent example of suffering. Instead of worrying incessantly throughout the day as to whether or not the power will be shut off, taking a deep breath and even calling the utility company to explain your situation and arranging a payment plan is a possible alternative. There’s no guarantee that calling will change anything as far as your power goes, but by facing your problems you’re actually accepting the fact that they’re there. The more problems we face without using, the better prepared for life we become.
Absolutely. You’ll hear it often in various recovery meetings that other members with more time will wish the newcomer a painfully slow recovery. This isn’t to say that anybody is wishing difficulties upon anyone as much as it’s suggesting that the only way for growth is through a period of discomfort. Usually, when we’re avoiding discomfort it’s because we’re getting high or drinking. If we’re facing our discomforts, we’re allowing ourselves to grow. Taking note of how your anxiety feels is a powerful way to help diminish it. Talking to a therapist about the feelings of depression or hopelessness is another way to help shine the light on the darkness in your mind. The more we take what’s often referred to as contrary actions, the further along we find ourselves in the recovery process
Yes and no. Much like anything else, acceptance comes with practice. Commonly referred to as a threefold disease or spiritual, physical, and mental, we have to align these three factors in order to lose the desire to drink or use drugs. Most of us developed addictions because we found that escaping our realities was much easier and far more pleasurable than facing our realities. But, when your reality isn’t one that you want to avoid, the likelihood of returning to drugs and alcohol lessens. Much like not getting caught in a lie, when we tell the truth we don’t have to remember what lies we’ve told. When we begin to face our circumstances rather than escaping them, we eventually find ourselves living an honest life that we no longer wish to escape. Much like the proverbial hole where the only way out is to climb out, we can finally climb out of whatever holes we have dug and through various guidelines and suggestions for living, we manage to avoid falling into anymore holes. That’s the concept of recovery, mainly the principle of acceptance. By accepting situations for what they are, we no longer wish to avoid or escape them. Instead, we resolve them and manage to live a life that ceases to be plagued by problems.
While there are many factors and faces to recovery, acceptance seems to be a principle that’s involved in any path you may decide to take. Whether twelve steps or an alternative recovery program, one of the core beliefs in recovering addicts and recovering alcoholics is that acceptance is a valuable resource and skill set to learn. By choosing one thing each day to consciously embrace, whether bills or even a co-worker we dislike, we begin to see our lives unfolding into a direction that doesn’t so closely resemble the way it was when we were using. Talking to a mentor or a therapist, finding a support group, and even exercising can help us break the habits that we might’ve fallen into when we were drinking and using. It takes time and effort, but eventually we will come to find ourselves accepting the things we can’t change, and going along for the ride clean and sober.
This post was written by Crownview Co-Occurring Institute, a mental health primary facility located in San Diego, California. Addressing mental health issues in depth along with the co-occurring substance abuse that may develop, Crownview is a leader in dual-diagnosis care. Visit them at www.CrownviewCI.com to learn more about what they do.