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Acceptance in Early Recovery

In twelve step group parlance, acceptance is the key concept to the first step of recognition of the problem with substance abuse and admission of the problem. As a principle of recovery, acceptance is the key to becoming comfortable with every aspect of what happens to a person during the course of their lifetime. No matter what may come up during the course of time, accepting the situation is always the precursor to making peace with what is.

Acceptance of anything allows us the grace to consider how best we will frame our response to the situation. It does little or no good to decide we will not accept something that happens. This is known as denial and does little to change or alter the situation or to help anyone involved. Many confuse the act of acceptance with agreement. While it is nearly impossible to agree with some parts of life, accepting them is the only way to create peace with the situation.

Let’s use the analogy of a car accident. Few of us would like to agree that we have been in a car accident, even a mild fender-bender can be irksome, expensive and ruin our day, not to mention the condition of our car and possible physical outcomes such as injuries. However, after an accident has occurred, it does little for any of the involved parties to be in denial of the accident. Therefore, accepting that an accident has occurred gives us the freedom to begin to respond to the situation with appropriate responses, such as calling the police and exchanging information with the other party(s) if necessary.

It is important that those in recovery begin to accept everything that happens in their lives, despite whatever feelings may come up about the situation. While we will seldom be pleased about the accident scenario above, accepting it is the first part of dealing effectively with it whether that means telling a loved one what is going on or finding an addiction treatment facility to check into . To continue to be in denial about the situation does more harm than anything else. Defenses begin to be built up that bar everyone from allowing the healing that needs to take place to begin.

To further the analogy of the auto accident further, denial about the accident would create the following problems: there would be no acknowledgment that the accident had occurred. This means not allowing for car damage, any personal trauma that may have taken place, no exchange with the other parties involved, and no possible repair of any part of the accident would begin. This may sound outrageous, but is a small example of what many addicts have done time after time in their past. Learning to admit that something is going on, then allowing it to exist, despite their fear of the situation or any other emotional response, is a great step toward overcoming the situation as comfortably as possible in as short a period as possible.

This may sound very simplistic, but acceptance is actually very key to recovery from addiction. Addicts have a personal history, many times, of living in a denial state that is like pulling the blankets over their heads and ignoring all situations that bring up any kind of uncomfortable emotional response for them. To learn to live in simple acceptance of the world around them is a very large step to take in overcoming a long pattern of not being able to cope with life on life’s terms. Recovery demands this kind of acceptance. Learning to practice it is a big key to mastering ongoing abstinence.

Kelly McClanahan has an MSW in clinical social work, with a specialization in substance abuse treatment. Having worked in this field for over 20 years, she is currently working on her certification as an addictions’ counselor.


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