The Power Of Acceptance In Recovery From Addiction
What Is Acceptance?
Acceptance is an opening of your heart to the realities of life and to the ways in which you have been impacted by your life choices. It means you don’t fight against the realities of your life, but accept them for what they are and use them to grow as a person and move forward in life. It’s a major part of becoming a better person emotionally and spiritually and it can serve as a huge boost in recovery.
No less an expert in healing than Deepak Chopra had this to say about acceptance: “Nothing brings down walls as surely as acceptance.” These beautiful words can serve as a milestone for mastering the art of acceptance. It isn’t about actively fighting your life’s circumstances, but allowing the river of life to flow through you.
If that sounds a little too New Age for your taste, just think of acceptance as a way to forgive yourself for the problems caused by your drug addiction. You’ll no longer be agonizing over the mistakes you made, the people you hurt, and the so-called failures that you feel were caused by your addiction. With acceptance, you can forgive yourself for these concerns and heal your heart.
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How Acceptance Heals
Learning how to accept your addiction as a part of your life can help you isolate its causes and move past them. Addiction is often called a “monkey on the back,” but treating it as something that you should be ashamed of or something that is out of your control only gives your addiction the power to master you.
Acceptance breaks that control by giving you an honest assessment of the nature of addiction and heals the emotional and spiritual wounds which you have suffered. Your pain is very real as are the problems of your addiction. Acceptance doesn’t minimize the severity of these problems but helps you understand that they can be conquered.
Moving through the process of acceptance can help you heal in the following way:
- Honestly appraise your life
- Move past guilt, anger, and depression
- Learn lessons from your mistakes
- Apply those lessons to future decisions
- Teach you stronger feelings of empathy
- Open your heart to personal forgiveness
Basically, you’ll be looking at your addiction through clearer eyes, eyes that can now identify the personal weaknesses that contributed to your addiction and the strengths that can help you beat it. Everyone has personal strengths that they can use to improve their lives and accepting those can give you the self-esteem and the courage you need to recover.
What Can Derail Your Acceptance
On your path to discovering acceptance, it is easy to get derailed or off-track. This is especially true if you’re fighting a debilitating condition like an addiction. The following problems often follow people who are recovering from addiction and make it more difficult for them to gain acceptance:
- Relapse into use
- Personal grievances in hurt friends or family members
- Clinical depression and anxiety
- Struggles with a career or school
- Guilt that you’re struggling to defeat
- Exposure to negativity
- Difficulty adjusting to life outside of rehab
The key to recovering from these problems with acceptance is to simply get back on track. Yes, you might get bucked off the horse of acceptance by any of these nagging problems. But acceptance is calm and forgiving stead and it will stand by your side calmly and wait for you to get back on. And like any horse with riding, acceptance can be calmed and tamed to your own personal use.
How You Can Develop Life-Changing Acceptance
Anyone can obtain the acceptance they need to change their life and beat their addiction. Let me repeat that: ANYONE can! That means you, my friend. All it takes is an honest mind and a little hard work. But maybe you need to a little help getting pointed in the right direction. Follow these practices to master the skills necessary to gain personal acceptance:
- Mindfulness meditation – This practice is designed to make your more “present” in your daily life and to feel a more peaceful and relaxed state of mind.
- Create a beginner’s mind – What is a beginner’s mind? It is the state of mind you feel when you begin a new task without understanding anything about it. Your mind is free of biases and opinions about that task. Obtaining this state of mind is crucial for acceptance.
- Practice humility – Humility is the understanding that you have limitations and may require help. Accepting this part of your life can give you a stronger sense of your strengths and open you up to getting the help you need to recover.
- Understand your fallibility – I make mistakes. You make mistakes. Making mistakes is a part of life. Your addiction is a mistake. But like all mistakes, there is a solution. Accepting that you made a mistake and taking charge of healing from it will aide your recovery.
Learning acceptance is all about having the personal grace to master your addiction and gain the clearness of focus you need for a successful recovery. The best part is that you can master acceptance in your own unique way: you don’t need to follow a strict formula. Gaining acceptance with your own path is a crucial part of your recovery journey.
Dedicate Yourself To Mastering Acceptance
By now, it should be obvious that acceptance is absolutely necessary for your recovery journey. While we know that you have the strength to do it on your own, you might not feel confident enough to take it on by yourself. That’s where we can step in and help. At The South Suburban Council, we have the tools you need to recover from addiction. Contact us today – 708.647.3333.
Substance Abuse: The Power of Acceptance
Accepting reality enables us to live in reality.
What does this mean? When life pleases us and flows in accordance with our needs and desires, we don’t think about acceptance. But when our will is frustrated or we’re hurt in some way, our displeasure causes us to react, ranging from anger to withdrawal.
We might deny or distort what’s happening to lessen our pain. We might blame others or ourselves or we try to change things to our liking and needs.
Although in some circumstances denial is a useful coping mechanism, it doesn’t help us solve problems. Nor does blame, anger, or withdrawal.
Denial is more common than we may realize. Everyone alters reality somewhat by perceiving events in accordance with our personal biases. Yet, sometimes we unconsciously use the defense of denial to make reality more palatable. Examples are:
Denial helps us cope with a potential threat or uncomfortable facts and feelings, such as our eventual death. We also deny reality when the truth would put us in conflict with someone else or ourselves.
Although denial may be helpful temporarily to cope with stress, a better defense is suppression, which is the conscious decision not to think about something. For example, a cancer patient may be served by deciding not to think all the time about dying, so that she can find the courage to undergo difficult treatment.
Denial is a core symptom of codependency and addiction. We have a distorted relationship to reality — often acting against our best interests. Addicts and codependents use denial to continue addictive behavior. Meanwhile, we endure destructive consequences and painful relationships, partly due to denial and partly due to low self-esteem.
Try to convince an attractive woman who thinks she is unattractive that she isn’t. Try to tell an anorexic that she’s too thin, an alcoholic that he or she drinks too much, or an enabler that he or she is perpetuating his or her child’s drug addiction. The last three examples illustrate how such denial can be viewed as resistance to change. Many people leave when they come to Al-Anon and learn that program is to help them change themselves, because at first, most go mainly to “help” (change) an alcoholic.
Codependents also typically repress their feelings and needs. This denial also postpones real acceptance of a situation. Pretending to ourselves that something doesn’t bother us enables us to take constructive action, set boundaries, or find solutions the problem.
Paradoxically, all change begins with acceptance of reality. Herein lies our power. Facing facts, including those that we dislike or even abhor, opens us to new possibilities. Acknowledging a painful truth is not easy for most of us, especially if we’re used to denying or controlling our feelings and our circumstances.
We often associate acceptance with submission and acquiescence. But acceptance of a situation or person can also be an active expression of our will — a conscious decision based upon knowledge that there are certain things we cannot change. This also prepares us to be effective agents of change. New options present themselves as our focus shifts from changing the impossible to changing what we can.
The Need to Control
The inability to give up control in defiance of facts to the contrary is another primary symptom of addiction and codependency. One of the early authors on codependency, psychiatrist Timmen Cermak, believes that codependents and addicts “control their lives by sheer force of will.”
We have a belief that things could and should be different than they are. This creates irritation and disappointment. However, there are always challenges in life. People are unique and behave in their unique fashion. We become frustrated when things don’t go as we expect them to or when people don’t behave the way we think they should. There is a certain amount of pride and arrogance in this assumption. Psychiatrist and author Abraham Twerski adds that the addictive thinking that underlies controlling behavior exemplifies “a delusion of omnipotence.”
In trying to change things we can’t, such as other people, we’re exerting our determination in unproductive ways, often creating more frustration and problems. It’s hard enough to change ourselves. Such fruitless efforts can be considered a defense to accepting things we don’t like about a person’s behavior and the pain it causes us. We might try to get someone to stop smoking because we’re worried about the health consequences of smoking.
The first step of Alcoholics Anonymous, Al-Anon, and Codependents Anonymous addresses control. It suggests that we admit we’re powerless over our addiction, which for codependents, includes people, places, and things.
Letting Go of Control
Recovery requires us to accept life on its own terms, to accept our powerlessness and our limitations and to accept those of others. Letting go is not easy. It’s a constant challenge for addicts and codependents, because of our internal anxiety and dis-ease and our illusion that we have control over more than we actually do. When we start to let go, we feel tremendous anxiety and often depression and emptiness. We begin to feel what our attempts at control have been trying to avoid, such a loneliness, anxiety about making needed changes, grief for love that is lost or dead, or fear that an addict may die from an overdose.
Changing What We Can
Change requires courage. The second line of the Serenity Prayer asks for courage to change what we can. Changing what we can is a healthy response to reality. This is how we become effective agents of change. A coach, counselor, or 12-step program can provide much-needed support.
Making a decision is the first step. Then change also requires patience, for our heart is slow to catch up with our intellect. Gathering information and resources, surveying our options, thinking through different outcomes, and talking it over are all part of the planning phase. As we take these preparatory steps, we build courage and confidence.
Earlier, I wrote that acceptance can be an act of will. It may take the form of a positive a change of attitude. Sometimes, that’s all we can do. There may be nothing on the outside that we can change, but acceptance of a situation brings peace of mind and allows us to enjoy the moment. A disability might limit us to cloud-watching or listening to music, both of which are more healing than enduring fear, anger, or self-pity. If we don’t feel ready to leave an unhappy or abusive relationship, we can find happiness in other areas of our lives, which may in fact change the relationship or enable us to leave later.
When I was a young mother and lawyer, I felt guilty about not being a stay-at-home mom and also for working late in order to climb the corporate ladder. When I accepted that I had chosen to compromise, but could also make a different choice, my guilt vanished.
Here are some exercises to think about. More are in Chapters 5 and 9 of Codependency for Dummies.
- Make a list of things over which you’re powerless.
- How do you feel about them and how do you react to the situation?
- What would happen if you accepted things as they are?
- What realistic options do you have?