Step One of AA: Acceptance

Step One of AA: Acceptance

Society sees the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous as the Bible for anyone looking to recover from an addiction.  The program has an estimated success rate of between 8% and 12% according to addiction specialists, and AA has approximately 2 million members worldwide.  Nonetheless, regardless of your thoughts on the program there are valuable lessons we can learn from their text. Above all, each step offers a different gift to an addict. In this series we take a subjective look explaining the benefit each step brings.

The Gift of Acceptance

Step One reads, “we admitted we were powerless over alcohol and that our lives had become unmanageable”.  Step One begins with recognition. Recognizing that drugs or alcohol have become a problem in your life and resulted in life becoming unmanageable. The word powerless helps to identify if we are truly an addict.  If you have power, if you have a choice, you probably aren’t addicted. This differentiation is important because some people choose to use drugs, and some people use to the detriment of their lives believing they have the power to choose.  However, a person doesn’t become an addict until they recognize they’ve lost the capacity to choose.

What this Teaches

Sometimes we receive the most important of gifts under the most gruesome of circumstances.  This was the reality for me regarding the lesson of acceptance. I learned what it meant to find acceptance the hard way.  A man without acceptance believes he can take life into his own hands, that he can control the world around him. After that, by going through an ordeal that broke me I learned this was a foolish line of thinking.  For the first time in my life I knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, something greater than myself wanted me alive.

Like an angry, temperamental child taught a valuable lesson by his father.  A lesson he had no interest in learning. You can call it God, a Higher Power, or the divine consciousness of all that is and ever shall be.  Today I can’t put into words the gratitude I have for whole painful ordeal. I don’t know why this was what it took for me to understand, but it was, and I am grateful nonetheless.

Psychology Today defines acceptance as: “A person’s assent to the reality of a situation, recognizing a process or condition (often a negative or uncomfortable situation) without attempting to change it or protest it”.  This is exactly what the experience forced me to do. In my opinion acceptance is a shift away from the binary line of thinking that everything in life is inherently good or bad, and adopting a system of beliefs that there are parts of life- most of life in fact- that simply are.  

Why This is Important

For the first time in my life I viewed all the supposed bad in my life, not as negative, as simply being. For example, my decade plus struggle with opioid addiction, my failed marriage, and my perceived missed opportunities were all part of the path I need to take.  I saw them as welcomed lessons on my journey through life. I’ve come to see the resulting collateral damage of my actions as obstacles meant to overcome. Previously unattainable peace of mind is a natural byproduct that comes from the gift of acceptance.

In year’s past I would spend so much time concerning myself with that which was out of my control.  Take a moment and think of the five greatest sources of worry for you over the last twenty-four hours.  I could have filled an entire post with just the sources of my worry. Now look over your that top five list you just thought up and tell me, honestly, how many of those root causes of worry fall within your realm of control.  For me the answers would have been 100% out of my ability to control. In conclusion, I guarantee that time spent worrying over anything beyond your scope of influence equals time wasted.

Far too often we fail to tackle the sins of our past.  Acceptance is the cure to this. The days of the past are done and gone, they are no more.  I would frequently allow past transgressions to dictate my here and now. In other words, it doesn’t matter where you’ve been, what matters is simply where you are and where you’re going.  Acceptance allows you to give thanks for today, keep in mind that each day is a gift, and allow yourself to smile.

Step Two available here.


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