How Acceptance Can Help You in Recovery

“Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

courage to change the things I can,

and wisdom to know the difference.”

 – Serenity Prayer

Acceptance is one of the most core concepts in recovery literature, and yet it remains one of the harder ideas to get to grips with. The theme of acceptance could have easily appeared in the opening paragraph of the first text that inspired you – but you might have heard it in a hundred different contexts since, making it tricky to pin down.

Acceptance is a broad but deeply personal term and it’s up to you how you integrate it into your life. Today, we’ll give you some ideas showing you how it can become a vital piece of rebar to strengthen your recovery.

What is Acceptance?

Acceptance is best described as an emotional state or act where you open yourself up to what is real. The details of exactly what is being accepted may change depending on your particular journey or general stage. Still, underneath it all, it means letting go of the lies that can blinker us and staying focused on the truth of the matter without harsh self-judgment or conflict.

Acceptance is:

  • aiming to approach reality with objective eyes.
  • considering and accepting how past life choices brought you to this point.
  • not fighting against harsh truths and trying to look at them with clarity.
  • dispelling lies and false thinking that we’ve developed to protect ourselves.

This most common metaphor is a good one:

Acceptance places you in life like you’re standing in a rushing river. You can’t actively fight against it unless you want to get bowled over. You can inspect and even redirect the many things that float by, but you can’t affect the direction that they came from. 

Accepting What?

Long-term substance abuse traps us in denial and false thinking processes that touch many aspects of our lives. When we talk about acceptance being synonymous with recovery, there are many situations it can apply to, but it is especially important to look at how it interacts with the following:

Addiction Itself

It’s important to remember, especially for friends and family members of addicted loved ones, that the addiction itself needs to be accepted before anything else can happen. This realization is a turning point that often fits between the contemplation and preparation stages of recovery, and until the person suffering from drug or alcohol abuse sees it is a real problem – and a condition that could benefit from external attention – there’s no way they will check into rehab or engage fully with their treatment plan. 

Before this moment of acceptance has occurred, trying to talk to someone about their substance misuse can be frustrating. They will likely deny that they have a problem, argue with you outright, or avoid the topic altogether. Acceptance doesn’t always come all at once – there is often a tremor before a landslide of realization. 

The Work of Addiction

Substance use treatment itself is hard work. This can be a tough one to accept for people new to their recovery journey – admitting to ourselves that we are suffering from a disease is frightening, and we can build up hope for easy treatment. You need to accept that there will be no quick fix, that recovery is a long road, and will demand a lot of effort and motivation on your part.

Although you’ll be bolstered by the support of therapists, doctors, and friends, you will have to take personal responsibility for your recovery. You can always reach out for help, but owning your role in your future is important and will help recenter and focus your motivation.

Processing and Giving Space to Other’s Pain

When we’re deep in the darkness of addiction, we deny ourselves the chance to think plainly about other people’s experiences. Substance abuse brings a lot of pain into the lives of the people who care about us. They’ve watched us lose control in ways that seemed to defy logic, have fought with us, experienced us dropping the ball on critical responsibilities, and witnessed the emotional rollercoaster of addiction get the better of us. 

This doesn’t heal overnight, and sometimes it never does. When rebuilding trust, we first must accept the impact our addiction had on others’ lives. The most important thing will be to give them space, recognition, and our humility.

Self-deception, denial, and negotiation are common responses to intense stress. These are unconscious defense mechanisms and perfectly normal emotions to experience. However, you can’t build a castle on such shaky foundations. Even if it’s scary when you can see exactly how far there is to go, acceptance places you on solid ground that you can build on. After that, you build up. 

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