Are you in recovery from addiction or SHD (secondhand drinking | drugging)? Likely, then, you have heard these sorts of phrases: “Live and Let Live,” “Let It Go,” “…to accept the things I cannot change.”
Don’t you hate when people try to make something that is darn near impossible to define, let alone do, seem simple? I know I sure did. Yet it was finally coming to a definition of “acceptance” that I could wrap my head (and heart) around that made all the difference.
Take that last phrase from the Serenity Prayer, “…to accept the things I cannot change.” It’s followed by another phrase, “the courage to change the things I can.” I used to interpret “things I cannot change” and “courage to change the things I can” as “you’d better get in there and try harder because, by gosh, you can do this! And if you don’t, it’s because you don’t have the courage.” (Convoluted, I know….) And so I would dig in. Sadly, there was nothing about my loved ones’ addictions or substance misuse, nor my own secondhand drinking impacts that I changed – and I tried – for 4 decades! Talk about a tough nut to crack!
Sharing some of a previous post of mine, “Courage to Change the Things I Can,” first published in November 5, 2012,
For me, it took a jump start to break this concept into two – “Courage to change” separate from “the things I can.” And for that jump start, it was learning how the brain worked and understanding the brain disease of addiction and the brain impacts of alcohol abuse that had changed so many of my loved ones; it was learning how the changes in them had, in turn, changed me because of how I’d “learned” to cope. It was then that I could finally do the hard work that begins with “accept the things I cannot change” and finding the “wisdom to know the difference.” And it was then that I found Serenity, the power of my Higher Power and the “COURAGE to change the things I can” – namely, myself.
Learning and understanding that all of a person’s thoughts, behaviors and actions are governed by how their brains wire from birth and re-wire as they age had a profound impact on me. Understanding that this wiring, in turn, is dependent on outside influences – social environment, for example; inherited influences – genetics; developmental influences – abuse of or dependence on drugs or alcohol, childhood trauma, mental illness (either genetic or developed as a result of trauma), as examples. Not only that, but all of these influences in turn determine how a person interprets incoming and new influences going forward. NOW, that’s a whole lot of brain power over which I have absolutely NO control. And it was that knowledge that finally set me free.
Of course, it’s far from simple. Dang!
Yet it doesn’t have to be hard. Yay! … if we come to the place of acceptance for acceptance sake – nothing more – nothing less – just acceptance, which in my view means to let go (oh dear, there’s another, “yea right” concept) of the idea of anything being any different than it stands right now. THAT IS – anything from anyone else being any different than it stands right now.
My simple way to acceptance was to realize that the only person I could change was myself. All the others — all the other brains — I just had to accept – NOT LIKE — but accept. They were people with brains, thus they were behaviors, thoughts, words, over which I had absolutely no control. And it was that which gave me the power – the freedom – “to accept the things I cannot change,” “the courage to change the things I can” and “wisdom to know the difference.”
Embracing Acceptance to Aid in Recovery from Addiction or Secondhand drinking | Drugging
First things first:
Accept your loved one has the chronic, often relapsing, but treatable, brain disease of addiction and learn all that you can about the disease.
Accept that you’ve been affected by SHD (assuming you are the family member or friend of a loved one with a drinking or drug misuse problem) and learn what all that entails.
Accept that the only person you can change is you (thank goodness that’s all ) and get to work on whatever that may look like for you.
To help with the above three, browse through some of the other posts in the blog categories, Alcoholism | Drug Addiction Treatment | Recovery and/or Secondhand Drinking | Help for Families, for ideas.
And to keep you grounded in the idea of Acceptance – here are a few quotes (I love quotes) that you can write on sticky notes and post around your home, workplace or car to remind you that acceptance is… well, acceptance:
“My happiness grows in direct proportion to my acceptance, and in inverse proportion to my expectations.” ~Michael J. Fox
“It is the chiefest point of happiness that a man is willing to be what he is.” ~Desiderius Eramus
“Understanding is the first step to acceptance, and only with acceptance can there be recovery.” ~J.K. Rowling
“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.” ~Lao Tzu
“Some people believe holding on and hanging in there are signs of great strength. However, there are times when it takes much more strength to know when to let go and then do it.” ~Ann Landers
“For after all, the best thing one can do when it is raining is let it rain.” ~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
“Sometimes people let the same problem make them miserable for years when they could just say, So what. That’s one of my favorite things to say. So what.” ~Andy Warhol