When I first became sober at the age of 22 years old, I was a living mess. I had tanked several relationships with both men and women and the scars of that were intensely painful. The relationship that I had with my both of my parents was strained by all of my reckless and irresponsible choices. My finances were a mess. I owed over 900 hundred dollars in parking tickets. My license was revoked because I had received five moving violations in the space of six months and I could no longer keep a checking account because I had written so many bad checks. I was an emotional basket case because of the two sexual assaults I had experienced. I had several bouts of bronchitis because of the constant tobacco and weed use I had engaged in. And, I was also battling an eating disorder. In addition to that, I had inadvertently started a fire in my apartment that ruined several of my possessions.
Needless to say, I was overwhelmed.
To begin with, I had to humble myself before God and accept that I needed help, not just from him, but from other people as well. The first step in the AA Big Book is “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol–that our lives had become unmanageable.” Yes, my life had spiraled out of control and I accepted that it was mainly due to my addiction to drugs and alcohol that I had the problems I did. It didn’t solve my problems by admitting it, but at least I stopped blaming other people, which only put the problems out of my control.
The second step, “Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity,” was something that I could find some hope in. My problems were super overwhelming to me, but they were nothing to God. The third step, “Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him,” was more difficult because I had lots of trust issues, but what helped with this one is that I readily accepted that I was in no condition to run my own life anymore. Acceptance was key. Left to my own devices, I had made an utter disaster of things, so what did I have left to lose? The phrase, “One Day at a Time”, so often touted by those in AA, seemed an appropriate place to start. Mountains are not moved in a day, they are moved one shovel at a time and one by one, my problems could be dealt with if only I was persistent and patient.
Acceptance can be one of the hardest, yet most fulfilling aspects of recovery. Addiction brings with it a host of unsavory consequences. We most likely have financial consequences, relationship consequences, perhaps separation or estrangement from a spouse or significant other, and consequences that have left us mentally ill or emotionally stunted. So how can acceptance help us with all of these consequences?
Acceptance begins to help us when we first acknowledge that these consequences were of our own making. I cannot blame my spouse or anyone else for my own bad behavior. Only when I take responsibility for my consequences can I start to repair that damage. Something that will surely sidestep my recovery is avoidance, instead of acceptance. Avoidance, or a better word might be procrastination, will never solve any problems. It only delays dealing with the pain caused by using and may, in fact, lead to our picking up a drink again. Procrastination is all about waiting until tomorrow to solve our problems. It is the opposite of doing things “One day at a time”, because it is doing nothing today and continuing to push it all off until tomorrow. Unfortunately, tomorrow can lead to the next and the next, which is really going nowhere at all.
If you have relationship troubles, I strongly suggest counseling from a professional therapist or a spiritual couple who can help you find the right steps to take in order to heal. If you have money troubles, it would be helpful to sit down with a financial advisor or a credit counseling service who can help get you on the right track. If you have mental or emotional problems, it would be helpful to see a psychiatrist who can perhaps direct you to the best treatment for your condition.
For my own problems, I began tackling things day by day. I went back to certain individuals and made amends (steps eight and nine); I learned how to talk about my feelings with caring friends, instead of turning to binge eating and purging. I appeared in court and pleaded for the mercy of the judge to reduce my sentence for the moving violations. I got on a payment plan for the parking tickets. I humbled myself before others and asked for rides from people until I got my license back. I cleaned up the apartment bit by bit from the fire extinguisher dust that covered everything I owned. I apologized to my parents. I started therapy to deal with my sexual assaults. I opened a savings account, so I could cash my paychecks and begin to rebuild my credit. I wasn’t perfect in dealing with things. I still cried a lot. I was emotionally immature. But I realized that God and other people could be patient with me and loved me in spite of all my emotional baggage. Slowly, over time, one day at a time, I began to heal.
It may seem overwhelming to try and deal with all these consequences, but you will find that when you start to put in motion the small steps toward healing each day, your confidence will begin to increase. You will feel a great sense of satisfaction from dealing with these consequences. What is most important is that you must realize that not accepting your consequences will be the worst thing you can do for your recovery. Acceptance is a necessary first step toward tackling real life problems. You can do it!