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Acceptance in Addiction Recovery



Overcoming addiction is a process that doesn’t simply happen overnight, and it can be easy to become imbued with negative thoughts that leave you questioning your level of commitment or ability to succeed.

Guilt, shame, anger, and frustration can all present obstacles to achieving a lasting outcome that will open new opportunities for happiness.

While harmful emotions can hinder your progress toward building a brighter future, with an attitude of acceptance and expectant hope for the things to come, the unhelpful thoughts or feelings don’t have to keep you from achieving great things.

Understanding why you are where you’ve arrived and the steps that can be taken to improve the situation allows you to harbour an attitude that can help to liberate those affected by addiction from the stifling limitations of addiction.

What is Acceptance?

Much of addiction as a whole is driven by an inability to recognize the symptoms taking place around oneself, and proceed to accept responsibility for the results following from destructive habits and actions.

The underlying nature of such tendencies can follow the patient upon entering into a treatment program and can halt any progress that might otherwise be made.

By recognizing the reality in front of the patient and being able to fully process the circumstances that exist, the problems and issues that landed them in a rehabilitation program can more easily be addressed.

How people deal with events that happen in life goes a long way toward determining their ultimate outcome, and one way that people can distort facts they’re presented with is through denial.

When facts conflict with our rationale or the end-results of our choices doesn’t produce the outcome we’d hoped, it can be all-too-easy to neglect the reasons for why our experiences didn’t go as planned.

In the world of addiction and alcoholism, this quality is all too prevalent, as the consuming nature of the disease pushes aside anything that is inconvenient to its pursuit of attaining more drugs or alcohol.

How Denial Manifests Itself

There are many ways denial can manifest itself in the lives of everyday people, many of which remain unrecognized until consequences become impossible to ignore. Denial can come in many forms and varieties, some of which may include:

  • Self-deception
  • Rationalizing
  • Minimizing
  • Repression
  • Forgetfulness

Although we may feel scared or threatened by a situation, using denial to cope might feel better in the short-term but can also pose problems when left unchecked, or place unnecessary burdens on oneself that may not otherwise exist.

This most certainly applies when it comes to recovering from a crippling addiction to a destructive substance, as much of the culprit for what leads to this condition lies in the underlying behaviours that cause one to use in the first place.

Building a strong foundation for progress that is rooted in acceptance rather than denial gives the addict the greatest possibility to overcome the damaging effects of addition, by being free to deal with the root causes that enable addiction in the first place.

How Denial Can Be Overcome

After finally hitting a breaking point, or reaching the end of a long line of poor choices and consequential negative outcomes, an addicted person becomes forced to deal with the unavoidable problems they now face in their lives.

Getting to this point may happen quickly for some, while others may take years, decades, or almost a lifetime. In the world of recovery, this destination is commonly referred to as “rock bottom,” and it can be the only possible route that produces a total reversal from previously established norms.

When a long list of problems surmount and the point of rock bottom is finally reached, the immensity of the problems the addict faces can force them into confronting their issues, as well as the behavioural issues of denial often attached to them.

As bleak as the situation can often be, it may also be a rare opportunity for the person to begin the process of accepting the state they are in, and embark down the road of repairing the dysfunctional aspects of their thinking and habits that they may not have even been aware of prior.

How Acceptance Heals

Commonly, it is assumed that acceptance involves submission, but in the addict’s case, it is rather a matter of directing their will and energy toward facing something long ignored (a choice).

For those suffering from addiction, control often lies at the centre of their compulsion and denial tendencies.

Letting go of this need to control each outcome in their life and instead focus clearly on the path in front of them is often the main objective for restoring a healthy and normal balance.

Attempting to control or manipulate other people in our lives is a fruitless endeavour that could rather be spent on more meaningful or constructive aims.

For the addict, acceptance is a choice, and making the decision to put their illusions of control to the wayside and finding the courage to change can often seem monumental at first.

This is where patience becomes a key factor in the struggle between our mind and heart, as the process between making the conscious decision to change course and the will within to overcome the anxiety and fear involved can sometimes be a long and difficult struggle.

Change won’t happen overnight and coming to the full realization of why old behaviours will no longer suffice and acknowledging reality as it is are central components of real and meaningful change.

Having a clear understanding of factors that can or cannot change and where our efforts will be squandered is helpful enabling the addict to determine where they should emphasize their attention on the road to recovery.

During their journey, it is imperative for the recovering addict to stray from any negative habits or emotions that would challenge their newfound conviction for a turnaround, and remain hopeful and focused on the healthy choices that lay before them.

Addressing issues of guilt, anger, and depression while keeping honest about one’s own emotions and responsibility are key areas to focus on to make real progress.

Acceptance is a key factor in the healing process, as it can lend a firm structure in helping the addict:

  • Go beyond the limiting negative emotions of anger, guilt, or depression
  • Gain insight and knowledge from past mistakes, learning from them to grow and move forward
  • Apply lessons to future choices that lead to balance instead of chaos
  • Increase the capacity toward empathy within the addict, giving structure to the will for recovery
  • Begin opening the heart and mind to productive and positive feelings and emotions, such as personal forgiveness and a drive to succeed

With proper guidance, counselling, and care, the recovering addict will be able to approach their situation with new eyes that will allow them to see their weaknesses and poor choices more clearly, correcting them for the right reasons that produce a healthier lifestyle.

Avoiding the negative emotions such as guilt or anger sometimes associated with a close friend or loved one can help keep the patient on the healthy path, giving them the space to work on acceptance rather than control.

Acceptance in the 12 Steps

Rather than continuing to avoid the problems the recovering addict is dealing with or fall back into denial, acceptance happens in spite of any weaknesses or shortcomings, bringing them along in the journey toward restoration rather than ignoring their causes or impact.

Much like the first step in any 12-step Anonymous programme, the first task on the path to overcoming the stronghold of addiction means first admitting we are powerless to stop it, and only from there can be work on tackling the necessary hurdles to halting its control over our lives.

Accepting what we can control as well as those things that are beyond ourselves will set us on a realistic trajectory, however long and difficult it might be, for true success in attaining a life devoid of harmful chemicals and habits.

How to Develop Self-Acceptance in Recovery

The process of growing and maturing as a recovering addict and foregoing our earlier lifestyle is about discarding the negative thoughts and beliefs that held our additions in place while the addict continued pursuing them to wrongful ends.

Countering the self-sabotage and negative beliefs that once held that addict’s attention involves being ruthlessly honest and accepting oneself for who they truly are on the inside.

Building up amounts of self-acceptance that can replace and push aside the patterns, beliefs, and instincts that led the addict into their downward spiral can be a grand awakening that enables and empowers the recovery process along toward a brand new set of ideas.

The overarching idea isn’t simply to accept your flaws without doing anything about them, but rather with the understanding that these are the set of unhelpful behaviours that are to be worked toward defeating in the process of conquering addiction. Some ways to help foster self-acceptance could include:

  • Asserting your new attitude and confronting the negative thoughts within oneself since criticism is no longer needed but positive support
  • Realizing clearly that the goal in recovery is long-term progress, not overnight perfection
  • Having realistic expectations of working from where you are now, not turning into a saint before dawn
  • Granting yourself compassion and a level of care you would have for a close friend
  • Believing in yourself, and learning to rely on your own sense of intuition
  • Understanding you are a human being with flaws and mistakes like everyone else

Cultivating Acceptance Through Mindfulness

Like any other skill, staying sober must be cultivated through practice and strict adherence to being rigorously honest and aware of one’s own actions and inner state at all times.

One of the methods that can help to foster these qualities within is through the practice of what is commonly known as “mindfulness.”

Finding its roots in Buddhism, mindfulness involves seeing matters as they actually are and learning to let them be, rather than attempting to manipulate or distort them to our own ends.

In mindfulness, the practitioner becomes intimately aware of their surroundings, as well as their own inner thoughts, feelings, ideas, and emotions in order to better comprehend the worlds inside and around them as they genuinely exist.

By simply building a stronger awareness of ourselves and the world around us, we can then become able to see things as they really are without judging them, a central concept at the core of mindfulness practice.

This is a new way of thinking and looking at things that must be introduced and practised before it can be adequately implemented but when applied correctly, can lead to meaningful results for the patient combating denial.

Finding a level of mindfulness that lets the patient observe their life, choices, and future free of judgement allows them to better accept where they’ve been, what has become of it, and where they want to go from here.

Using The Serenity Prayer

Resisting the way things are and demanding everything goes exactly how we want it to is part of the underlying imbalance that leads to addictive behaviours.

In our pursuit to alter reality and control circumstances, we can often become blind to the damage we are doing not only to other people, but ourselves also. When things don’t go as planned or we fail to get the result we had hoped for, resorting to drug use and alcoholism may be the only outlet available we allow ourselves to take.

However, once we have our intentions focused solely on making improvements in our life for the better, we can practice every day to gain back lost ground against addiction by putting our willpower into practice.

One great way of accomplishing this is with a prayer asking a power greater than ourselves to help us know the difference between the things we can change and the things that we can’t.

This is called the Serenity Prayer, and it has been a mainstay in narcotic and alcoholic anonymous group meetings for decades. The prayer starts by asking for the serenity to accept the things you cannot change from your personal higher power, and from there asking for the courage to change what you can with the wisdom to know the difference.

Saying the serenity prayer can be an effective way to combat unhelpful emotions and ideas, learning to put into practice the notion of letting things be rather than attempting to manipulate events to our liking.

Addiction is often a crippling and consuming condition that takes everything a person has away, leaving them grasping for any way possible to get back on their feet.

As desperate as the situation may be, understanding where we are and what we can realistically do about our problem goes a long way to helping get back on the right track.

While results likely won’t come overnight, with a clear and focused set of eyes, we can observe ourselves and our actions as they are rather than getting caught up in destructive thinking patterns.

Acceptance can be a powerful tool that allows the addict to build a firm foundation for their long road back to sobriety and freedom, and taking the journey one day at a time could be the perfect way to a happier, more rewarding life.

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