Passivity and denial. There might not be two traits more complicit in the eventual and certain demise of an addict. There is one word that stands in glaring contrast to these that comes to mind; one which implies action and rebellion against this indifference and repudiation of reality. Acceptance. Early in my sobriety I had an aversion to welcoming this action as one that I was proud to hold in my repertoire. I later realized that it was because my perception of it was skewed. I ignorantly believed it to be a stagnant, sterile state of being rather than seeing it for what it was; a true engagement in the reality of life. If I could not come to an acceptance of my own reality, I would never escape from its bondage. If we refuse to accept that we’re locked in a cage, how are we ever to escape it? George Orwell said, “the state of happiness in the individual can only exist in a state of acceptance”. Those familiar with him know he was anything but passive in his writings and his clairvoyance could hardly be that of someone in denial. Orwell’s wisdom was crucial for me in my growth because it highlighted for me what was so important about acceptance; that it is, in fact, a word of radical action. I think of Hellen Keller, someone who could’ve easily succumbed to her deaf and blindness and lost all hope for something better, or even normal. Instead, she came to an acceptance of her reality and because of this she was able to break through barriers that most would think impossible had she not actually done it. MLK Jr. who similarly had to come to an acceptance of a society where dominating beliefs that were held by many were cruel, ignorant, and unjust. Through his acceptance of this horrific zeitgeist of the time, he forged through unimaginable struggles and gave hope to the marginalized masses. In order to survive nearly 3 decades of imprisonment, Nelson Mandela accepted that South Africa was not yet ready to exorcize racial prejudices and barriers. This, of course, until it was; and he then went on to succeed in helping to dismantle their 50-year apartheid. This list goes on ad-infinitum.
As addicts, we must apply this same radical acceptance to the reality of our own lives. We must accept that we suffer from a condition whereby we hold the key to our own cage; the key to our own salvation. It is no coincidence that acceptance of our powerlessness over drugs and alcohol is the 1st of the 12 steps. Nor is it merely serendipitous that we call on the aid of our Higher Power in the 1st portion of the Serenity Prayer to “accept the things I cannot change”, for we cannot expect to harvest the courage to change things within our power nor to have the wisdom to know the difference between the two without first accepting what is. One of the most important things I have learned about acceptance from my journey in recovery is that I now know what it is not; it is not resignation. It is not submission to the blockades put in our path and it is not apathy towards people, places, and things that hinder our ability to live fully. Acceptance IS acknowledging the burdens we are forced to bear, becoming comfortable with the uncomfortable, and trudging the road to happy destiny despite the odds against us. And remember, you are not alone in your struggle; we here at South Orange County Detox and Treatment would be thrilled to walk with you on this journey, but it is on you to accept your reality and take the first step. Remember, accepting that we cannot do this alone is not a regression backwards, but rather the first step forward towards rebirth.