Acceptance is a facet of recovery that challenges many of us. It can be the impetus for pushback and resistance regardless of how much sober/recovery time one has. Initially, we begin by learning to accept the basics of recovery: our powerlessness, our mental health, and our addictions. As we progress, the areas in which we may need acceptance shift, or broaden, and the work continues. We may ask ourselves why we are not where we think we should be in our lives, and finding acceptance around that can be a thorny process. It means holding space for the fact that our addiction or mental illness more than likely postponed our hopes and expectations of being doctors or lawyers or from saving the world from zombies. Don’t worry; you can still do all of these things, though not on your original schedule. In fact, you may find yourself capable of doing a heck of a lot more!
Another difficulty for a some folks is the time and energy spent trying to please others. People-pleasing behaviors are pretty common when a lack of acceptance is involved. Behaviors like:
- Shifting one’s reality—environment, opinions, friends, likes, dislikes–in order to please others.
- Ignoring your own needs (see above)
- Seeking approval from others in an effort to find happiness
- Making others more important than yourself
- Being inauthentic or a chameleon in order to “fit in”
Sure, accepting that we are enough as we are is not easy, especially at first. We ask for “spiritual progress not perfection,” right? However, we may be asking ourselves why we aren’t prettier, thinner, or more handsome, or why we don’t have better clothes or that cool car, or that guy or that girl. These thoughts are harmful, not helpful. As we create this ever-growing list of what we think we should have versus what we do have, we will come to find acceptance moving further and further away. Bottom line is, negative self-talk is terribly detrimental to the recovery process. It prevents us from being in the “here and now.” It prevents us from loving ourselves, which makes it more of a challenge to love others. It disallows us to accept love into our own lives. Our efforts to please others or subscribe to the expectations of others act as a filter that prevents change yet encourages codependence.
Acceptance takes time. It takes effort. It takes willingness. It is understanding that things are as they are: you pay your taxes, you obey the speed limit, you listen to your parents, you don’t drink and use, you practice self-care, you go to meetings and call your sponsor, and you take direction.
Surely, the challenges that lead to or distract from acceptance are many; in truth, writing it is even a bit nebulous because the concept is almost undefinable. Frankly, acceptance is best learned and discovered by simply beginning to take contrary actions that lead to letting go of old behaviors so we can be less reactive and more accepting in the face of adversity and discomfort. To aptly quote Joseph Rogers, “It’s easier to work with the laws of the universe than to bash our heads against them.”