By: C. W. Stratton
“Understanding is the first step to acceptance, and only with acceptance can there be recovery.” ~JK Rowling
Remember Your First Recovery Support Meeting?
When we entered that first self-help meeting, many of us were uncertain, confused and even a bit fearful. Right from the beginning, we were worried about what people would think of us. Would they accept us?
We immediately programmed our thoughts to take on the role of being inferior. Yes, many of us were in a vulnerable position when first attending that meeting and becoming involved in the recovery process. We may have lost a sense of hope and became consumed with guilt and shame about the things we did in our addiction. These thoughts and feelings began to take on a whole life of itself. At times, it was like trying to balance, happiness and sorrow at the same time. At some point the scale will tip, but in what direction?
Are You Just Saying You’ve Got Acceptance?
Just as we reflect on the contributing factors of our addiction, we must also look at the factors that keep us stuck, stagnant and incapable of “fully” incorporating acceptance into our lives. It’s quite simple to say “I have acceptance.” However, we may want to re-evaluate the use of acceptance, especially in the context of recovery and our addiction. Verbalizing these words, phrases or concepts sometimes aren’t enough. We must directly apply this to every aspect of our lives. We must look within and begin sorting out those harmful ideas, beliefs and feelings that we have harbored for so long.
We are all aware that recovery is an inside job.
Going back to that first meeting we attended, our readings said we were powerless and our lives have become unmanageable. During this time we also heard members of the group label themselves as addicts or alcoholics and accepted the fact they were powerless. Some of us acknowledged that a problem existed, but we had difficulty identifying ourselves as addicts or alcoholics.
This shouldn’t have been a difficult task if we allowed ourselves an opportunity to take an honest look at our lives and look at the damage we created along the way. There are those who weren’t too convinced this was the place for them because the members consistently discussed the importance of the identifier. Those two words (addict or alcoholic) always carried such a negative connotation and this thinking created a huge barrier right from the beginning for many. However, there were people in the meeting who felt right at home and had no problem admitting total defeat.
This was and still is imperative to the recovery process. These people sat in the meeting in all their glory discussing how problematic their lives were and how their addiction affected everyone around them. How can this be, you may say. There were those naysayers, but they continued showing up for the meeting and over time they began using the identifier; addict or alcoholic. It became almost second nature to say “my name is _________ and I’m a ______.”
Acceptance In and Out of the Rooms?
This isn’t to say that we consistently identify ourselves as such outside the fellowship; we need to keep up a balanced life. Within our network of recovering people this is more acceptable. Identifying as such with everyone we come into contact with may create discomfort or difficulty in our lives. There are those outside the fellowship who aren’t as understanding or knowledgeable, as we may want.
This doesn’t mean we are ashamed, it means we support anonymity. As many of us progressed in our recovery and began incorporating much of the recovery language into our lives, we began chipping away the guilt and shame that we held on to for so long. With further progress we may feel that we’ve resolved the shame and guilt. On the other hand, there are those unfortunates who keep these feelings hidden and covered up with material things and artificial presentation:
*”Multiple” Romantic Relationships
*Overuse of Intellectual Language
*Working Multiple Jobs for Appearance Purposes
*False Sense of Being Confident
Acceptance is an Inside, Not Outside Job
Some of the aforementioned have been known to create an illusion that everything is alright. If this is you, please re-assess where you are in your recovery to move forward. I totally understand that we don’t want to appear the same way we did before entering recovery. If we are willing to dress up the outside, we must be willing to get right on the inside, too.
Revisiting the concept of acceptance is quite fitting at this point. Years ago, someone told me that “acceptance” was an action word and critical to my personal recovery. Sitting and saying that I accept my circumstances was more of a surface response to certain questions and conversations.
Over the years and interacting with other recovering people, it came to light that many had a difficult time with someone outside the fellowships addressing them as addicts or alcoholics. Why is this? Do you not identify yourself as such during the meeting? Is this still the shame and guilt that have been hidden behind fronts we created around us:
*False Sense of Confidence
*People (we don’t just use drugs and alcohol, we use people as well)
Many will continue to make attempts to grow the fortress due to the pain associated with the shame, guilt and the need to hide from ourselves. Coming to terms with our reality and begin working on the core issues that placed us in those lovely seats at the meeting, is critical.
Recovery is a beautiful process that requires Honesty, Open-mindedness and Willingness.
Acceptance encompasses the person and is necessary in all our interactions. We must be honest in all our doings with others. We must stay open and teachable. We must willingly follow suggestions to progress in our recovery. In recovery, many will come, but only a few will be chosen. Those who are chosen are those who choose to learn to live a better life.
Think about this! A Self-help meeting is the only place you can go to and tell people how much you messed-up your life and then get a round of applause.
We Do Recover
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