Acceptance is absolutely key to recovery from any addiction, including alcohol. Indeed, it is highly significant to note that Step One of the Twelve Steps starts: “We admitted… .”
It goes on to say: “… we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.” The Twelve Steps have helped millions of people around the world to recover from alcoholism for more than 80 years now.
It is of primary importance to admit, which involves accepting that there is a problem. As with anything in life, there is no chance of finding a solution until we first admit there’s a problem.
With all addictions, the other side of this is something that is strong in most active addicts. That is denial.
Addicts will come up with all sorts of excuses and reasons why they do not really have a problem or why they could never give up. But this must be overcome to move into the solution, which is recovery.
Acceptance is the answer to all my problems
In the book titled Alcoholics Anonymous but more commonly known as the ‘Big Book,’ there is much written about denial and the need to find acceptance. To admit that there is a problem, someone has to see that how they are drinking is not normal – that their behavior is a long way from what can be considered ‘social drinking’, which most people do with no problem.
It is also to accept that this is a medical issue and that alcoholism is an illness. Some people still struggle to accept this, but as far back as 1956, the American Medical Association recognizes alcoholism as an illness.
One of the most popular passages from the Big Book is about acceptance. It’s from a chapter written by Dr Paul Ohliger, who died in 2000 in California aged 83.
The chapter was originally called ‘Doctor, Alcoholic, Addict.’ But, in recognition of how many people found these particular paragraphs useful, it was changed in future editions to ‘Acceptance Was the Answer.’
Dr Ohliger wrote: “Acceptance is the answer to all my problems today. When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing or situation – some fact of my life – unacceptable to me, and I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment.
Nothing, absolutely nothing, happens in God’s world by mistake. Until I could accept my alcoholism, I could not stay sober; unless I accept life completely on life’s terms, I cannot be happy. I need to concentrate not so much on what needs to be changed in the world as on what needs to be changed in me and in my attitudes.”
Mind, body and soul
Acceptance needs to be wholehearted and complete. Someone with a drink or other addiction problem needs to acknowledge that there is a sickness behind their actions and to recognize the insanity of repeating the same things expecting different results.
It helps to accept that the illness is of mind, body and soul. Someone needs to accept this and find the solution to the malady of these three aspects of being a human being.
As the Big Book puts it: “… for we have been not only mentally and physically ill, we have been spiritually sick. When the spiritual malady is overcome, we straighten out mentally and physically.”
Humility and acceptance
However, acceptance can be fought furiously, sometimes until the problem can be ignored no longer. That is all too often and tragically, when someone ends up finally being told to leave their home, a relationship ends, they get sacked or lose a good business, get physically sick, crash a car, lose their driving license, or even find themselves in prison due to some aspect of their addiction.
Clearly, it is better to cut through denial and excuses to find acceptance before anything like this happens. These questions, entitled “Twelve questions only you can answer” give a strong indication if someone needs help or not with their drinking.
One of the key traits to find that will help with recovery is humility. For many people, it is the humiliation of where their addiction has finally dragged them in life that causes them to have enough humility to admit and accept there is a problem.
Then, they may finally ask for help – and have a chance at saving themselves and transforming their lives as many millions of people have done. This includes many who were once written off by those around them as hopeless cases.
Acceptance doesn’t mean someone necessarily likes it – but it does mean they are facing up to facts.
Many people find the solution starts when they give up resisting and fighting. It’s what is meant by the addiction recovery phrase: “Surrender to win.”
Once acceptance has been reached, thankfully, there is a great deal of support and help available. This can be from booking into a recovery center with expertise in alcoholism and addiction treatment, to meeting with a therapist for one-on-one therapy, or attending an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting or a Twelve-Step group relevant to the specific addiction.