One of the secrets of success in addiction recovery is knowing which battles to pick. There are certain things in your life that you are going to be able to change, but there are lots of things you can’t really change. Wasting too much time on this latter category will make your new life unnecessary difficult and it will become a source of dissatisfaction.
What is Acceptance?
Acceptance means recognising that something is beyond your ability to change so you can stop trying to fight it. It is not about becoming completely passive so you are willing to just accept whatever happens to you – it is this type of acceptance that keeps us trapped in addiction. In order to practice acceptance properly, you need to be completely honest with yourself and have a clear understanding of your motivations.
There are certain elements of your life that are beyond your control, and it would be waste of your time and energy to fight against them. Some examples in this category would include:
- The economy
- Your genetic inheritance
- Your childhood (it’s over already so you need to accept it unless you have a time machine)
- Your culture
- Other cultures
- Other people
- The weather
- The government
In some cases (e.g. your government), you will have a limited ability to generate change, but in these cases it is important to be clear about your abilities. The mere fact that you don’t like the current government is not going to do anything so getting worked up about it is a waste of your energies.
Mindfulness and Acceptance
One of the most important things you need to learn to accept is the present moment, and this is what mindfulness is all about. A lot of our suffering is due to the thought ‘it shouldn’t be this way’, but this thinking is illogical. The present moment is already here, and there is nothing you can do to change it. Sure, you can take action to change the future, but you can’t do anything to change what is here right this second. The best you can do is learn to accept whatever is happening now as this is the path to serenity.
Acceptance is a path towards serenity but it is important to remember the wise advice of the serenity prayer:
God grant me the accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.