Eleven years ago I found my way into the recovery world through Al-Anon.  Although my head could see things, my heart and body could not seem to say no to repeating painful relational patterns.  These patterns weren’t just in my romantic relationships—and they sure were there—they were in ALL my relationships.  Something would happen and my emotions would take over. I no longer had the feelings.  The feelings had me.

Thankfully, I found my way into the basement of a church, where I heard people telling different versions of what could be my story—at least on the emotive level. 

Great I thought.  I found my people.  Now I just need to follow these twelve steps.  Fantastic.  It’s early November—that means by early January I should have this resolved.  Twelve steps—twelve weeks. 

Seemed simple enough.

What I didn’t know was that although it might be simple, it surely wasn’t easy.

And those steps are circular…not linear or cause and effect.

About a month into the recovery process I started to sniff out this whole simple but not easy BS when I heard a reading about acceptance.  I was told that this recovery revolved around three A’s:

Awareness

Acceptance

Action

Apparently before moving into action, finding acceptance of your awareness is helpful.  Well, this is where the teenage part of me wanted to bolt or revolt big time.  WHAT?!?  I was very aware there was a problem.  And I VERY much knew I wanted it solved.  And I KNEW what solving looked like.  If I could manage the situation, and people would simply do what I wanted, there would be no problem.

Wrong.

What recovery taught me was that I might indeed have been aware of a problem.  I might indeed have an idea of the solution I sought.  But I was not aware of, nor could I recognize, the abundance of choices about how to get from point A to point B or that there might even be plethora of points  say C, D, E, etc…

I had awareness.  What I didn’t have was acceptance.

Acceptance of my feelings and thoughts—the ones I shamed and blamed myself for having.

Acceptance of the reality.

Acceptance of myself and others.

Acceptance of what was within my locus of control—or as I’m fond of saying-my hula hoop.

I thought acceptance meant

  1. Approval
  2. Agreement
  3. Support
  4. All of the Above

I learned that acceptance in recovery terms doesn’t mean any of the above.  In fact, I might downright disagree, dislike, and disapprove of said situation or interaction.  It wasn’t about approval but about letting go of what wasn’t mine so I could discern what was.

This wilderness valley of acceptance necessitated facing and friending parts of myself that I had oppressed and suppressed.  Evidently, I not only tried to control my outer relationships but my inner ones, too.  Mostly in an effort to remain calm and carry on and to avoid the big G.  Grief.

Somehow living in and through the valley of the shadow of grief, I live into acceptance.  It isn’t that the outer landscape changes so much as the interior of me does.  The terrain no longer frightens, and exploration becomes possible.  One of the gifts of acceptance is that actions I hadn’t even imagined become visible.  It’s not passive at all.  Rather it’s a growing trust in the Spirit’s presence and the freedom to respond rather than react.

It seems as if we the people are being invited—perhaps drop-kicked—into this valley of the shadow of grief.  It’s only natural to try to fix, solve, or avoid the terrain.  But I do believe that acceptance…that simple but uneasy journey may just liberate us.