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The Importance of Learning to Accept Things in Recovery


Learning to accept things in recovery is not only going to make life much easier, but it may even be vital in order to ensure long-term recovery. When people become obsessed with changing things that cannot be changed, it leads them to become frustrated and depressed. It also means that the person will be wasting time that could be better spent focusing on areas of their life that they could change. In fact, a common reason for why people fall into addiction in the first place is that they become overwhelmed by the things that they feel unable to accept, and they then turn to alcohol or drugs as a means of escape.

What is Acceptance?

The easiest way to describe acceptance would be to say that it means receiving what is being offered by life. It involves not reacting to what is there by trying to change it or by trying to resist it. When people accept things, it means that they acknowledge that this is the way it is meant to be, and that it would be wrong or illogical for them to put up any resistance to this.

Acceptance Does Not Mean Accepting Everything

Acceptance does not mean just giving up and accepting everything as it is. It just means that the person is willing to accept those things that they have no power to change. The person stops wasting their time on things that are beyond their control so that they can focus on things that they can control. The logic behind acceptance is summed up by the serenity prayer, which is an important part of the 12 Step programme:

God grant me the serenity, to accept the things I can cannot change, the courage to change the things I can change, and the wisdom to know the difference.

The type of things that people may need to just accept in recovery would include:

  • The person will need to accept their genetic inheritance – this may put limits on what the person can do, and it can make them prone to certain diseases.
  • People will get old, they will become sick, and they will die. There is nothing that people can do to prevent this from happening.
  • The actions and behaviour of other people. It is not possible to make other people behave in the way that we would like them to behave. We have to give them the freedom to be themselves- just as we have the freedom to be ourselves.
  • The political situation in the world may also be something that we just have to learn to accept. There may be very little you can do as just one person, and it can be very frustrating if you try to take on the world alone. This does not mean, of course, that we cannot contribute to change – it just means that we have to learn to accept our limited impact on the rest of the world.
  • One of the most important things that the person needs to accept is their own human frailties. Those individuals who set standards for themselves that are too high in recovery will end up becoming very disillusioned and dissatisfied. Self-acceptance is the key to a strong recovery.

It is important to distinguish acceptance from learned helplessness. By becoming more accepting of things, the individual will not be passing over responsibility of their life to other people. Instead, they will be taking responsibility for all of those things they can change and not wasting their time on those things that they cannot change. Learned helpless, on the other hand, is where individuals have such low self-esteem that they feel unable to do anything to help themselves – it means that they believe that everything in life is beyond their control.

The Benefits of Learning Acceptance in Recovery

The benefits of learning acceptance in recovery will include:

  • Developing acceptance is the key to developing emotional sobriety. Once the individual has managed to develop a high level of emotional sobriety, they will find that life is easy to manage and they will enjoy long periods of serenity.
  • By accepting the things that cannot be changed, the individual will be avoiding a great deal of suffering. They will be reducing their own load in life and making things much easier for themselves.
  • The person will be free to focus more on the things they can change. This means that they will get more done and achieve better results.
  • The individual will be far less likely to relapse. They will no longer have to deal with the frustration of pushing against and immovable object and they will no longer be able to use this as an excuse for relapse.
  • By learning to be more accepting of life, it will teach the person a bit of humility. This is important because humble people are nicer to be around, and the fact that they do not feel responsible for knowing everything and fixing everything means that they enjoy far more inner peace than the average person.
  • The reason for why people become trapped in addiction is that they refuse to face reality. By learning to be more accepting of life, the person is able to deal with life on life’s terms. This means that they no longer feel any need to run away and hide from things.
  • The individual will have far less stress in their life, and this means that they will sleep better at night, and it will reduce their risk of suffering from stress related illness.

How to Develop Acceptance in Recovery

Developing acceptance in recovery is unlikely to be something that people will be able to do overnight. It takes time to walk away from the bad habits of a lifetime. Some of the things that the individual can do to develop acceptance can include:

  • It is important that the individual learn to examine their worries and concerns to see if these are things that they can actually change. If the person decides that these worries are not within their control, they have to learn how to let go of them.
  • In order to be able to examine worries and concerns the individual needs to develop the ability to self-reflect. Techniques such as meditation can be very good for teaching people this type of skill.
  • The person needs to be willing to let go of the idea that they are fully in control of their life. They are not in control of everything that happens to them and believing that they are is the route to great unhappiness.
  • It is important for people to learn to be more humble. This means that they do not feel threatened by not being in control of everything, and that they are willing to acknowledge their weaknesses.
  • It is also important that the individual can accept that all humans are fallible –nobody is perfect, and it is unreasonable to expect them to be perfect.
  • The individual needs to be willing to let go of some of their most cherished beliefs. They need to be willing to keep on learning and keep on changing.

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