We talk often about acceptance in our PAL meetings. Acceptance is also spoken of frequently in substance use treatment programs as well as in AA meetings.
On page 417 of the fourth edition of the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous it says, “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.”
When I attended my first PAL meeting, the facilitator handed me a card with the acceptance quote and encouraged me to read it several times a day to comfort myself. Initially, all that I could think of was “how will I ever accept this situation?” I couldn’t understand how I would be able to accept that this was the way my sons chose to live without feeling as if I condoned the behavior.
This question continues to present itself regularly at PAL meetings and with parents I walk alongside. The first implication that I hear from parents is they feel that if they accept their child’s substance using lifestyle then they are agreeing that it is ok with them if their loved one uses substances (i.e. condone the behavior). In regard to what we are dealing with as parents and family members, to accept simply means that we accept the truth of the situation – we have a son or daughter with substance use disorder. To condone in this situation would mean that we allow and/or agree that the behavior is ok with us to continue.
In my own situation I decided to let my sons know that I was working on accepting the way they were choosing to live even though I would never condone the use of illicit substances.
The second implication that I personally felt and I hear often is that by “accepting” I’m resigning myself to the idea that there is nothing I can do about anything. On the contrary, the process of accepting the things that you cannot change will bring the freedom to start focusing on the things that you can change such as your own attitude and personal growth and development. This is where the PAL meeting and group connection becomes extremely helpful.
I hope that the new year is off to a great start for each of you and that you have defined some goals and dreams that you would like to pursue. If you or your loved one is still “stuck,” I pray that this year would begin with acceptance and that a breakthrough is coming soon for them and for you!
Our regular counselor blogger Josh Acevedo is on break so we are bringing you perspectives from a PAL Facilitator.