“There’s so much grace in acceptance. It’s not an easy concept. But if you embrace it, you’ll find more peace than you ever imagined.” – Loretta LaRoche
Like all significant acts of healing, addiction recovery is a lifelong process – one that happens moment by moment. From the very moment we make the decision to attempt a new way of life, we will begin begin slowly making progress; inching forward towards our ultimate goal – serenity, long-term sobriety, and fundamental fulfillment. This lifelong journey of deliberate progress is often one of beauty and enjoyment. However, we will all experience frustrating and tedious moments during which we will want to throw up our arms in exasperation and scream, “When will the work ever be done?!” Despite continuous development, we may feel as if the headway we are making is not good enough; as if our improvement is too trivial to be adequately noticed and appreciated.
Self-Acceptance in Addiction Recovery
It is important to keep in mind that each individual is walking a separate and unique road to wellness, and that comparing your personal progress to the progress of others is futile. Your individual journey will be determined by a vast combination of factors, including your past experiences, the extent of your underlying issues, and your willingness to go to any length necessary in order to recover. Throughout the recovery process, however, we will all require a certain level of self-acceptance in order to continue growing and evolving. We will need to acquire self-acceptance in order to obtain authentic happiness and inner peace. The more time we spend working on ourselves, the longer the healing process will take – this is why you may hear some old-timers say, “I wish you a slow recovery!” Learning to meet yourself exactly where you are and becoming your own best friend will allow you to recover in a supportive and compassionate environment, and will greatly enhance the overall quality of your life.
Accepting Without Condoning
Accepting where you are in the moment does not mean allowing yourself to remain stagnant. Acceptance refers to recognizing the reality of current circumstances, and consenting to what is valid and truthful. Today, it is true that you are struggling with an addictive disorder that you know you need to overcome in order to live a happy and meaningful life. It is true that you are developing a realistic strategy for doing so – that you are setting achievable goals, staying focused (to the best of your ability), and immediately admitting when you make a mistake. Condoning, on the other hand, means adopting behaviors and attitudes you know are unhealthy and allowing them to persist. Condoning your current behavior would mean saying to yourself, “I’m fine where I’m at – no need to improve or strive for continued growth.”
The most beneficial stance you can take in your recovery is accepting where you are currently at while admitting that there is ample room for improvement – and acknowledging that a little bit of effort will be necessary in order to maintain ongoing restitution. Stop blaming yourself for your fallibility and shaming yourself when you make a mistake – start appreciating that you are putting forth an effort and accepting the fact that you are very human, very imperfect, and exactly where you are meant to be. The best way to befriend yourself is to accept yourself in your entirety, while encouraging yourself to continue striving for clarity and understanding.
Accepting Reality Allows Us to Live in Reality
Over the course of our active addictions, we became accustomed to distorting the facts in order to lessen our internal pain. Denial. We avoided acceptance at all costs, knowing that acknowledging reality would mean admitting that we had a serious problem, and that no one else was to blame for the years of wreckage and devastation we had accumulated. Although we may have been utilizing denial as a subconscious defense mechanism, we likely desperately cling to it long after we recognize that it has been playing the role of a distorted guise. We become experts at rationalizing, minimizing, justifying, repressing, and forgetting – we teach ourselves to cope with discomfort through any means necessary. The reality of looming death does not disappear; we simply mask it with a thick coat of delusional dejection.
Breaking through this deeply entrenched pattern of defiance is difficult, and it takes ample time and effort. One of the best ways in which to do so is to consistently check in with yourself; gage the reality of your current circumstances, and practice conscious self-acceptance. Where are you in your recovery today? Have you done everything in your power to enhance your personal program? Have you been honest, grateful, and tolerant of others? In what areas can you improve, and in what areas are you doing exceptionally well? Give yourself credit where credit is due! True change begins with the acceptance of reality. Facing the facts will open up a new world of possibilities, and give us a power and a peace we never deemed possible. Facing a painful truth is never easy – but from pain comes growth, and from growth comes an ultimate bliss.
Accept Yourself and the Rest Will Follow
Acceptance has nothing to do with submission, although we may, at first, feel that it does. On the contrary, acceptance is more of a conscious decision we make, based upon the awareness and understanding that there are certain things we cannot change (and many things we can). A beautiful range of options will present themselves as soon as we shift our focus from attempting to change things we cannot control to changing what we can. Change require courage, and self-acceptance is the very first step in making the ultimate decision to wholly transform. As we learn to accept ourselves as we are, we will gain an indispensable sense of bravery and self-confidence. Self-actualization is key.
Today, right now, in this very moment, take a minute or two to authentically consider where you are. Examine the vast amounts of progress that you have already made, and ponder how far you have yet to go. Addiction recovery is a beautiful journey of self-discovery and thorough emotional healing – if you want it to be. The decision is yours.
And it all begins with a little self-acceptance.