Acceptance plays an important role in addiction recovery. This simple act can have a profound impact on your sobriety, and on your life overall. Here’s how.
Learning to accept who you are is one of the single-most important things you can do on the road to recovery. So much of addictive behaviour is based on denial. If you’re not beating yourself up endlessly with negative self-talk, then you’re blaming others for your own mistakes. In either case, you’re refusing to accept reality. Overcoming addiction is impossible when you can’t accept the reality of your current circumstances.
The problem with living in denial is that it mirrors the sort of behaviour that leads to and reinforces addiction in the first place. Alcohol and substance abuse is a form of struggling against the reality of your current circumstances.
Recovery is a process that occurs moment by moment. Acceptance of oneself is key. It allows you to move through these moments, making incremental progress and refusing to work against your own best interest. But understanding this and accomplishing this are two very different things. By learning to accept your addiction disorder, you’ll effectively strengthen your recovery.
Acceptance in the 12 Steps
As one of the best-known recovery programmes in the world, the 12 Steps have become a near-universal set of guidelines for people trying to overcome addiction. The original 12 Steps were created to help alcoholics, though they’re used today to overcome a wide range of addictions and compulsive behaviours. Each of the steps in this programme must be completed in order, and this is the first one:
‘We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.’
This is a fundamental exercise in acceptance. The addict has to accept the fact that they can’t control the way they behave around their substance of choice. They can’t manage their own lives as long as that substance is involved. For those who have never struggled with addiction, it may seem like a small and insignificant step, but coming to this realisation and truly accepting it is intensely challenging.
Instead of denying the reality of your addiction, you’ll begin to devise strategies for overcoming it. For those in a 12-step programme, understanding their own limitations and shortcomings helps them find the confidence to undertake the additional steps. They’re able to take inventory of their wrongs, confront their own character defects, make amends to those they’ve injured and complete the other steps prescribed by their treatment plan.
To put it simply, accepting the nature of your addiction allows you to move along the path towards recovery.
Acceptance Has the Power to Transform
As we see in the 12 Steps, the process of acceptance starts with accepting who you are in spite of your shortcomings or character flaws. But this is only the beginning. It’s also important to accept situations and circumstances that are out of your control. In this sense, we learn to accept the circumstances of the world around us, regardless of how negative they may seem.
At its root, acceptance is a form of compassion. We learn to show compassion to ourselves in accepting that we are flawed. At the same time, we also begin to cultivate compassion for those around us. We learn to value ourselves, the people around us and the world in which we live – fully accepting that all of the above are far from perfect.
It’s important to note that none of this occurs overnight. Some people in the early stages of recovery may feel such a rush of relief in learning to accept those in their life that they cannot change. It’s a truly liberating state of mind – even when it only occurs on the surface. But as aspects of their recovery begin to go wrong (as they certainly will from time to time), they can lose that sense of compassion they felt for themselves. At this stage, it’s all too easy to begin beating oneself up for newfound shortcomings.
But when a person has matured in their recovery, they learn to resist the self-sabotage of negative self-talk. In place of that, they strive to address their shortcomings, hold themselves responsible and develop greater compassion for the other flawed people in their life. The transformative power of recovery has begun to take hold.
Mindfulness Helps Us Cultivate Acceptance
The transformative power of acceptance is far from an automatic process that occurs once a person admits that they are trapped in the cycle of addiction. Instead, it’s a discipline that must be developed over time. There are many techniques for developing this discipline. At The Edge, we incorporate mindfulness meditation into our treatment programme for precisely this purpose.
Mindfulness is an offshoot of Theravada Buddhism, which is the prominent religion practised where we operate in Chiang Mai, Thailand. But mindfulness is not an inherently religious practice. In fact, it has been widely adopted in the West as a treatment tool for overcoming psychological disorders such as depression and substance abuse.
Mindfulness meditation teaches us to take note of our thoughts, sensations and emotions in the present moment and without judgment. In the process, we build awareness of our present circumstances without attaching any value to them.
Practising mindfulness teaches our clients to accept themselves and the world they live in without judgment. It’s a skill that must be honed. During their time with our inpatient treatment programme, we introduce them to the tools needed to develop this skill. As they practise mindfulness in the future, they are actually practising the art of acceptance without judgment. This is one of the most important skills that a person can learn in the journey of recovery.
The Edge Can Help You Navigate Your Addiction Recovery
In order to enter into addiction treatment, a person has to accept that they have a problem in the first place. This is a difficult first step, and there are many more that follow. At The Edge, we’ll help you develop the discipline of self-acceptance through a combination of mindfulness meditation, cognitive behavioural therapy and physical training. Take that first step by contacting us today, and we’ll guide you from there.