Let’s begin by borrowing what is fondly known as “the acceptance page” from the book, Alcoholics Anonymous. This excerpt comes from one of the personal stories of recovery. It is one of the most well-known and often cited paragraphs by those in recovery, and for good reason, it is densely packed with relevant and usable truth.
It reads as follows:
“Acceptance is the answer to all my problems today. When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing, or situation—some fact of my life—unacceptable to me, and I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment. Nothing, absolutely nothing happens in God’s world by mistake. Until I could accept my alcoholism, I could not stay sober; unless I accept life completely on life’s terms, I cannot be happy. I need to concentrate not so much on what needs to be changed in the world as on what needs to be changed in me and my attitudes.”
This perspective can be as helpful to a parent or loved one as it can be to an alcoholic/addict because the desire to control outcomes or other people affects both the addict and parent.
First let’s take a look at the addict.
Addicts despise feeling out of control and are very uncomfortable with accepting things that don’t go their way. They often attempt to control everything around them, including their emotional state, particularly the way that they feel right now. The drugs and alcohol help them to accomplish this.
How many parents have been on the receiving end of controlling addicts? Trick question, it’s probably all of them. Addicts regularly set up situations in order to get their way. Most are very capable at this, they use varying tactics including: being nice when convenient, rehashing past mistakes of the parent, emotional blackmail, manipulation, dishonesty, threats, guilt, self-pity, and even violence. Being on the receiving end of these behaviors can be very hard to cope with.
Reflect for a moment and think about a situation where somebody tried to control you and how it felt. What was your reaction? Did it motivate you to want to comply?
Now let’s look at the parent. What is a parent usually trying to control?
Usually, parents are attempting to control the addict, the world around the addict and the outcomes of their addiction. Parents often use many of the same tactics as listed above to try to make the addict do what is best for them.
Take a moment to think about it. When have you tried to control something or someone you are powerless over? How do you think that made the other person feel? Sometimes when we take a deeper look, we see that we have more in common with the addict than we first thought.
The solution proposed in the above excerpt from AA offers a solution that works for addicts and parents alike.
To put this acceptance into action is to admit that we are powerless over just about everything other than ourselves and to acknowledge the reality that we must let go of the illusion of control. We must stop playing God. We must turn inward and focus on the little power we do have, the power over our behavior and choices. Here we turn to God to handle the rest of the universe, including our loved ones, as He sees fit.
What we invariably find is that this acknowledgment of powerlessness and acceptance of it is actually a key to real peace. Once we become aware that we are not responsible for the outcome of other’s lives or the world as a whole, life becomes much simpler. We can then focus on our own behavior and choices.
Once we are practicing acceptance, we can see much more beauty in the world. Many of the things we were frustrated about look a lot different and it becomes much easier to see God’s work in daily life. We can then focus on Gratitude instead of fear and anger; laughter and joy even have room to exist in this state of mind.
Josh Azevedo is a guest blogger for PAL and is the Executive Director at The Pathway Program, https://thepathwayprogram.com