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Why Acceptance is Important for Recovery

Acceptance is one of the most important skills to learn in recovery. Acceptance is the opposite of denial. Denial is refusing to acknowledge reality. No one refuses to accept good things. No one goes into denial over finding a parking space by the door or discovering her crush likes her too. Denial is for all the bad things that are going to cause you problems.

Sometimes you can fix the problems and sometimes you can’t. Whether you can fix the problem or not, you still have to accept it. Acceptance doesn’t necessarily mean being resigned. You can always try to improve a bad situation but first you have to accept that a situation exists. Even if you can’t change a bad situation, you can make it better by accepting it.

Say you get the flu. You’re just going to be miserable for a week or so. You can either be angry about having the flu or you can just wait it out. You can also mitigate the secondary effects of being sick if you reschedule your appointments and ask someone to take care of some of your responsibilities. If you hold onto the magical idea that maybe you’ll be better in a few day, you’ll just cause more stress for yourself when that doesn’t happen.

Acceptance is especially important in recovery because for many people, drug and alcohol use is a symptom of rejecting reality. It’s not so much that drugs and alcohol obscure the painful emotions or memories, but rather they soothe the pain of resisting them. It’s mainly the resistance that causes the pain. You may be familiar with the axiom, “What you resist persists.” Pain exists to tell you something important. If you resist it, the pain will persist until you get the message.

Ironically, resisting some unpleasant reality actually makes us more focused on it. Not only does your pain keep reminding you, but some part of your brain has to be on the lookout for that painful thought. It becomes like a rock in your shoe, a constant source of irritation even when you try not to think of it.

Resistance also radiates outward. When you deny the reality of some situation, a typical reaction is to blame someone else. Resistance often leads to resentment. The problem is that blame and resentment keep you focused on the pain. Acceptance is acknowledging the pain so you can either fix it or move past it. Blame and resentment does neither.

The serenity prayer asks for the serenity to accept the things you cannot change, the courage to change the things you can, and the wisdom to know the difference. It may be better to ask for the courage to accept what you can’t change, but either way, acceptance is important. You may not be able to accept, or even acknowledge certain kinds of pain on your own. You may need help from a therapist. However you manage it, acceptance is crucial for recovery.

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, Gardens Wellness Center can help you detox and decide on a treatment strategy. Call us today at 844-325-9168 or email us at to learn more.