M(3), 12/29: Acceptance Does Not Mean Approval

Happy holidays to all!  Although I’m still in the active throes of holiday madness, and will be dashing off to another celebration momentarily, I wanted to write about all the wonderful insights gleaned from this morning’s meeting.

It was a larger crowd than I expected, and we had two brand-new to the meeting, one from out-of-state and six months of sobriety under his belt, and one just looking to try a new meeting, with several decades of sobriety under his belt.  Plus we had two people who used to be regulars show up because of the holiday schedule, and we once again had a pretty full house.  Meeting newcomers and reconnecting with old friends alone would have made this morning meaningful, but, as always, the shared experiences of the group give me so much more than I ever bargain for.

Today’s reading came from an older issue of Grapevine:  AA’s Meeting In Print, and the central topic of the article was the benefits of practicing acceptance in your life.  I shared that it is only in recovery that I even grasped acceptance as something desirable.  Pre-recovery, I was Billy Joel’s proverbial Angry Young Man, and I truly believed that my righteous anger was an admirable quality.  Slowly, with the help of the 12-step principles and lots of advice from friends in my 12-step program, I learned that my anger at slights, perceived or real, my indignation when things didn’t go the way I believed things should go, was doing nothing more than causing me needless discomfort.  Practicing acceptance with things out of my control is the equivalent to putting down a boulder I’d been carrying for most of my life.

The next several people who shared talked about the idea that accepting a situation does not mean you approve of it, only that you acknowledge it is not in your power to correct.  When someone is behaving badly, you can accept that behavior without condoning it.  I had referenced a situation I experienced lately that spoke directly to this issue… I felt that acceptance could be interpreted as approval, and I was genuinely unsure of the next right steps.  The advice I received made me want to smack myself upside the head:  pray the serenity prayer, because there are two more important points after accepting that which you cannot change, there is also courage to change what you can, and, perhaps most important, wisdom to know the difference.  It seems I forgot to use some pretty basic tools!

A woman, and regular attendee of the meeting, shared that after a long painful battle, her dog and faithful companion of more than 13 years, lost his battle with his illness yesterday.  Although she knew his time was coming, she is still struggling with the loss, and she shared about the steps she was taking to compensate for it.  She’s staying at her daughter’s house, she is reaching out to friends in out 12-step program, she is increasing her meeting attendance, and she’s sharing about what she’s feeling.  She reminds herself regularly that drinking will not make the loss any less painful, but it will throw away 3 hard-fought years of sobriety.

From there one of the newcomers, the one with decades of sobriety, shared, and his story actually took my breath away.  He talked about acceptance in terms of loss, because he experienced a very painful one.  Ninety days prior, his 40-year old daughter committed suicide.  The daughter, and his granddaughter, lived with him, and he said the change this loss has brought to his life is overwhelming.  Rather than driving a wedge between him and his Higher Power, he reports that he has experienced miraculous things in the past 90 days, things which convince him that his prayers are being heard.

The out-of-towner with only 6 months talked about practicing acceptance in terms of having the disease of alcoholism, that once he accepted that he had this disease, the solution for dealing with it became so much simpler, and his understanding of why he drank became clearer.

Finally, a gentleman shared his analogy of acceptance, and figuring out what he can change and what he can’t.  The weather, he explains is out of his control.  However, his reaction to the weather, is completely within his control:  he can carry an umbrella, wear a coat when it’s cold, where short sleeves when it’s warm.  In a similar manner, while he cannot control that he has the disease of alcoholism, he can control how he deals with it:  he can attend meetings, avoid people, places and things that trigger him to drink, and he can cultivate a relationship with a Higher Power.  Putting the focus on the things he can control makes the practice of acceptance much easier for him.

And since I cannot control the start time of the next celebration, or how long it takes to drive there, I will control what is in my power, and end this post!

Today’s Miracle:

The privilege of hearing the powerful stories shared at today’s meeting is a miracle I will be carrying with me for some time.

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Posted on December 29, 2014, in Monday Meeting Miracles, Recovery and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. Thank you. I am always looking forward to your Monday posts and love reading them. Today it brought me exactly what I need right now: knowledge about anger. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Reblogged this on Balanceyourhealth.org and commented:
    Stages of Grief really are the stages of accepting/grieving things going different than we imagined. Love it!

    Like

  3. As always you pull at my heart. This post reminds me of Bryon Katie and her philosophy on “loving-what-is.” This concept never occurred to me until I read it. I was always angry at what was, always trying to change it. And when I couldn’t change it I drank at it, raged at it. Wow, what a good read for me this morning. I often see how far others’ have come in their life, but today I am seeing that I have come a long way from whence I started.

    You are one of my favorites. Thank you for the strength of your posting. You never fail to teach me. Much love for the New Year. Lisa

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  4. ” …accepting a situation does not mean you approve of it, only that you acknowledge it is not in your power to correct.” Well that’s the crux of it all, ain’t it? I need to remember this as well, Josie. I had it in my mind that acceptance = condoning. And that’s far from the case. Making that separation has been a gradual one for me, and sometimes I get those moments where I think “why am I accepting this? I am mad as hell about this!!” and then the serenity prayer comes to mind – like you said, I forget a simeple tool like this. I can accept, or I can change. And most often that change comes from within. Sometimes I have to get up off the couch to change the lightbulb rather than accept the darkness 😉

    Great post, as always, Josie. Thank you for this.

    Paul

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    • Hmmm… I have tried three times to repy to this, and it keeps disappearing.

      If you keep getting fragments from me, sorry! I am trying to change rather than accept, let’s see how it goes 🙂

      Thanks for this comment, and the lightbulb analogy, it made me laugh out loud!

      Hope you had a wonderful holiday, Paul, I will be heading over to your blog momentarily!

      Like

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