Rose Bush

Frequently, people in recovery paraphrase Alcoholics Anonymous (4th edition, 2001, p. 417) and remind each other,  “Acceptance is the answer.”  The context of what they are paraphrasing can best be explained by the following quote (p. 417):  “And 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.”

Another source (A New Day, 1989, p. 174) has this to say about acceptance:

“Today the goal is to accept circumstances and situations as they are, rather than as we wish them to be. When we ‘go with the flow’ instead of trying to dodge adversity or bulldoze our way through it, the quality of our lives improves greatly…..acceptance brings release from our problems. Peace of mind follows, in contrast to the frustration and anxiety we had known before.”

There is a great deal of wisdom in these quotes. They clarify that most of our problems (physical, emotional or otherwise) would not exist if we would just “accept life on life’s terms.” They also emphasize that most if not all of our problems, frustrations, and anxiety are a by-product of having unrealistic expectations that we can control whatever is in our environment (including ourselves)  to match our personal specifications.

People in recovery are also quick to point out the only thing we can change is ourselves. If one accepts this as truth, then one cannot be disappointed, angered, or otherwise negatively influenced by unrealistic expectations not being met. We do not direct the play, we can only influence a single actor—–ourselves and how we respond to our reality.

For instance, yesterday evening I got to watch “everyone else” eat cookies and “high-end” chocolate at an event I attended. Numerous people graciously offered me some of each.  I could have accepted their offers and eaten cookies and chocolate for quite some time.  Then, since I am a diet controlled Type II diabetic, my consequent blood sugars would have made me very sick. I cannot control my body’s reaction to specific foods.  I’ve tried doing so many times in the past, and I have found doing so always gets me in trouble. So, I can either accept this and enjoy what I can eat—–or I can eat high-sugar  content foods and suffer the consequences. Being happy with my life on life’s terms gave me much more peace of mind than I otherwise would have had.

Another example is my tendency to be a “people pleaser.” Some of you may wonder what that term means. To me, it means I have a tendency to want other people to always react positively to me. Wanting others to always accept and like me is not a realistic expectation—–besides that, it is a rather selfish one that expects those in my world to realize “it’s all about me.” I am amazed, after all these years, at the extent to which I allow unrealistic expectation to rob my of peace of mind. I have made a lot of progress in this area, and  I am glad I do not unrealistically expect myself to be totally free of this character defect…..if I did, then I’d just be failing at acceptance once again and adding to my frustration.

Please comment on your thoughts about acceptance—-what it is and what it means in your life. I look forward to reading your comments. I will be away from Internet access for several days, so I may be slow in responding to your comments. Thank you for your patience.