By: C. W. Stratton
Acceptance – It Is What It Is
“Humility means accepting reality with no attempt to outsmart it.”―
Remember Your First Recovery Support Meeting?
“Set the standard! Stop expecting others to show you love, acceptance, commitment, & respect when you don’t even show that to yourself.”
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 vulnerable 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 their own. 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?
“Let go of certainty. The opposite isn’t uncertainty. It’s openness, curiosity and a willingness to embrace paradox, rather than choose up sides. The ultimate challenge is to accept ourselves exactly as we are, but never stop trying to learn and grow.”―
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 pretty 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. Just saying these words, phrases, or slogans isn’t enough. We must directly apply the intent to every aspect of our lives, and that means looking within and begin to sort out those harmful ideas, beliefs, and feelings we have harbored for so long.
We are all aware that recovery is an inside job.
Do You Accept or Deny the Label?
Going back to that first meeting we attended, our readings said we were powerless, and our lives had become unmanageable. During this time, we also heard members of the group label themselves as addicts or alcoholics and accepted that 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.
Some 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, people in the meeting felt right at home and had no problem admitting total defeat, which is essential for the process to begin.
In all their glory, these people sat in the meeting discussing how tough 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 ______.” With these simple words, they demonstrated their acceptance.
Acceptance In and Out of the Rooms?
We typically don’t identify ourselves 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.
Not disclosing our identity doesn’t mean we are ashamed; it means we support anonymity. Working a recovery program, progressing in our recovery, and making changes meant we were no longer embarrassed and accepted that we were addicts. Still, we did not have to tell everyone.
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:
- Fancy Clothing
- Fancy Car
- 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 those mentioned above can 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 ready to get right on the inside, too.
“I am my own biggest critic. Before anyone else has criticized me, I have already criticized myself. But for the rest of my life, I am going to be with me and I don’t want to spend my life with someone who is always critical. So I am going to stop being my own critic. It’s high time that I accept all the great things about me.”―
Acceptance: It’s an Action
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 specific 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:
- Material Things
- False Sense of Confidence
- People (we don’t just use drugs and alcohol, we use people as well)
Many will continue to hide due to the pain associated with the shame, guilt. We were coming to terms with our reality and working on the core issues that placed us in those lovely seats at the meeting.
Recovery is a beautiful process that requires Honesty, Open-mindedness, and Willingness.
Acceptance encompasses the person and is necessary for all our interactions. We must be honest in all our doings with others, as well as stay open-minded and teachable. Click To Tweet
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.
Bio: Craig W. Stratton MS, ASCAS
Craig is an Adjunct Professor at Hudson Valley Community College. He brings his personal experience of 22 years in recovery and his education to his students, ensuring that the next generation of substance abuse counselors understand the knowledge of addiction, but more importantly, know a representative of the addicted population.
Bringing this human element to his classes, he advocates for recovery and, through his teaching and actions, will help remove the stigmas and myths associated with faceless addicts.
Combining his passions with a purpose is one of his goals. He has worked to help marginalized populations understand their addictions and introduce them to the benefits of recovery as a Case Manager for the homeless and those in the Drug Treatment Court.
He has also counseled adolescents, adults, and couples over the last 14 years in various agencies and worked extensively on Alternatives to Incarceration to incorporate treatment and not incarceration for nonviolent offenders.
Follow Craig on Social Media and His Site