Here’s what the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous has to say about acceptance in AA.
“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 that way it is supposed to be at this moment.”
Ah yes, the old “Acceptance was the Answer” story on page 417 in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous.
Now the above quote is very lofty in my opinion, and I don’t agree that nothing happens by accident in this world. That would mean that when addicts overdose and die it is all a part of God’s master plan. Well, that is definitely not a part of my Higher Power’s plan.
However, living sober in accordance with AA’s spiritual principles requires the addict to live life on life’s terms. This means not judging everything and everyone around you and trying to be as helpful as possible in any given situation—or to at least have a tolerant attitude towards it.
And you guessed it: acceptance and serenity go hand in hand.
Acceptance in AA and the First Step
They say that the first step is the only step that you must do perfectly. So, how do you accept the first step? It’s more than just saying that you’re an addict or alcoholic.
Some people who identify themselves as addicts don’t even know what the first step really means. This is how I was taught step one.
First, there is the physical allergy that sets off the phenomenon of craving when an addict takes the first drug or drink. This leads to a spree, which comes to an end usually as the result of a consequence.
This is sometimes followed by a firm resolution to stop using or drinking altogether. Then we try to stay sober, and boy is that miserable, so then we come to the main problem….the mental obsession.
This is where our minds tell us we can control and enjoy our using and drinking.
Ah yes, moderation!
“I know the last 1,000 times I used or drank it was out of control completely, but this time it’ll be different.”
The unmanageable part of step one doesn’t just refer to an addict’s outer life being in shambles—it also refers to the fact that when the thought to use or drink comes into our heads, we can’t manage the decision whether to use or not.
Real deal addicts have truly lost the power of choice.
Step 1 Is About Acceptance
So the first step in AA is about conceding that we truly are addicts and we’re in a cycle we can’t get out of by ourselves.
So along with this admission in step one, there are certain behaviors that will follow to know that we’ve truly taken this step.
This admission means, “I’m screwed! I’m never going to get out of this! Help!”
In this scenario, we shouldn’t care about getting the perfect sponsor and going around interviewing possible ones over an extended period of time.
If we’ve taken the first step, then we need to grab ahold of the first person who has gone through all 12 steps, has a sponsor, and is willing to take you through the steps… immediately!
We will also make sure we start going to meetings every day, even if that means meetings on zoom.
There really is no excuse to not make 90 meetings in 90 days in this day and age.
If an addict thinks they have time to sponsor shop or get a sponsor when they get out of treatment instead of getting one while they’re in treatment, then they are royally screwed.
I have gotten out of the hospital or detox and immediately used, and I recently saw someone get out of rehab and check back in a short period of time.
People always ask, “What happened?”
It’s no mystery: they didn’t get a sponsor while they were in treatment, and they didn’t start working the steps like their life depended on it.
So accepting step one means it’s time to get busy!
Gratitude and Acceptance in AA
I’ve heard it said that a grateful addict will never use again, and I believe this to a considerable extent.
Gratitude is definitely an attitude, and it is a lens that us addicts have the opportunity to look through every day.
Perhaps we get cut off in traffic or we don’t get that big job promotion we’ve been hoping for. Maybe we think we’ve found the girl or boy of our dreams and things just don’t pan out. These are times when we can put pen to paper and see how fortunate we are.
We can be grateful that we aren’t in prison, that we have clean water to drink, that we don’t have to worry about our next meal, and so forth.
It’s a practice that sounds silly until we give it a fair shot. Recovery is about combating selfishness with the help of our higher power, so getting into gratitude is a life-and-death matter.
The disease of addiction is always about getting more and more in the attempt that one day we will get enough and then be happy.
But as we know, that day never comes, and we find ourselves in complete ruin. We can ruin ourselves in sobriety as well going after too much sex, money, and power.
If we are grateful every day that we are sober, then we realize that our sobriety is truly a gift, and we can accept life as it is and not demand anything from it.
Regaining Trust from Friends and Family
I can’t tell you how often I’ve gotten sober, had the opportunity to live with family, and demanded that they trust me again immediately.
As addicts, we prey upon the kindness of our loved ones and use it to our advantage.
When we want someone to give us money, we may hide our disdain for them temporarily and fake a smile so that they think the “old” us, before the drugs, is back.
When we get out what we want from them, we vanish into the night on a binge, and they feel foolish and hurt to know they’ve been conned one more time.
Just because we are working steps with a sponsor and going to meetings doesn’t mean all these wounds are healed.
In fact, most of us deserve no trust from anyone for the rest of our lives if we are honest about the situation.
Our sponsors may even suggest that we don’t make a formal amends to our loved ones for a considerable amount of time. Making amends is about them, not us.
We shouldn’t just haphazardly approach our loved ones to make amends just because we want to feel better. Our behavior must show that we are working strong programs, and either we will regain their trust back, or we won’t.
Family members may hide their wallets and purses, or constantly inquire whether we are high or not.
This is all as it should be, and we need to accept this reality if we are to stay free from anger and ultimately stay sober.
Resenting loved ones for not trusting us as quickly as we want them to is sure to lead us to relapse, and then all trust will be lost indeed.
Self Acceptance in AA
Getting into recovery is about discovering our true selves. In our addiction, our whole life and existence was about getting high and finding ways to continue getting high, no matter what the cost.
Once our motivation is not about getting high anymore, we may find we don’t even know who we are anymore, or we realize we never really knew to begin with.
Something as casual as going to the grocery store may cause us great anxiety just because we have to be around a great number of people in doing so.
Having a conversation will no doubt be awkward as we don’t know what to talk about if it’s not about getting high.
This doesn’t have to be a bad thing if we accept this situation with open arms. In fact, this is a great opportunity! This is how acceptance in AA can look when you really try.
How exciting it can be to finally discover who we are and find that we are pretty cool, funny, loving, and caring.
By practicing acceptance in AA, we can accept others as well. As humans, we are all imperfect, and we will learn to give ourselves and others a break as life is not easy.
Acceptance Truly Is the Answer
It turns out that as cliche as it may sound, acceptance truly is the answer for addicts in recovery.
It’s the key to happiness and serenity.
Acceptance allows us to hear and listen to a higher power with clarity. It’s through acceptance that we can walk through our day with faith, love, and hope.
I would love to hear your thoughts on acceptance in AA. Leave a comment below!