Lasting recovery from addiction requires acceptance of the addiction itself, and surrender to the recovery process. Acceptance is the door to the spiritual awakening that leads to the joy and freedom promised by the Twelve-Step programs.

Acceptance means to take with a consenting mind. It begins a process that leads to surrender. Acceptance is an awareness of the reality that further struggle or conflict is useless.

Acceptance is a natural process, simple unless whatever needs to be accepted somehow threatens you. Accepting that you have been selected for a raise is one thing; accepting a hurt or a loss is not so easy.

Suppose you were expecting a raise, because you thought you were doing a great job, but you are told you will be laid off. It may be very hard to accept. You may try to deny reality, blame others, rationalize, talk yourself into self-pity, or employ any number of defenses to avoid or postpone acceptance.

Resistance to Acceptance

Why is accepting an addiction so difficult? There are some fears and resistance that may inhibit admitting that you are an addict, such as:

  • I don’t want to be different from a normal person.
  • It means I’ll never be able to drink/eat/use/do the things I like.
  • I hate having to talk to others about my problems.
  • My family might think I’m joining another weird group.
  • I can’t get to meetings, especially several each week.
  • It’s embarrassing to think I can’t do this myself.
  • This is too hard -- all I want to do is cut back, lose weight, stop getting into trouble with it.

These are only some of the common barriers to accepting addiction and all that recovery entails. You may be able to think of many others. If you come from a dysfunctional family, you may have additional resistance to accepting powerlessness and unmanageability. The survival techniques, like bucking authority or always being “in control,” that worked well to get you through childhood may now be inhibiting your recovery.

Dysfunctional Family

If you come from a dysfunctional family or had any reason to be suspicious of authority or outside guidance, you may have trouble with your recovery. Cathleen Brooks (1987), a popular lecturer on adult children of addicts, says that many ACOAs have trouble working the first three Steps of the program when they find themselves in an active addiction. After taking care of your life to survive, it’s very hard to turn your will and your life over to an outside power. By continuing to go to meetings you can learn how and whom to trust. Acceptance will become easier.


Fear is a major barrier to acceptance. You may fear what will happen to you if you honestly admit and accept your condition. This fear may be residual fear from the past that does not fit your current situation. It may lead to paranoid (untrusting) attitudes and delusions. But you can begin with just a little willingness. By going to meetings you have begun the process that leads to acceptance. With time, you will have less difficulty trusting people, the program, and things outside yourself to help you get started on the Steps.


With a clear understanding of your need for recovery, you can turn to the Steps for help. The first three, for example, can be applied directly to acceptance.

Defiance becomes need (Step One) The First Step suggests admitting that your life has become unmanageable because you are powerless over your addiction. Without Step One, you might never see the need to accept your addiction. While you deny its existence your addiction is likely to flourish.

Escape becomes hope (Step Two) The Second Step says that a power greater than yourself can restore you to sanity. Opening yourself to the love of a Higher Power and/or the care of others in the program can give you the hope you need to accept your addiction. It also supercharges your recovery program.

Control becomes acceptance (Step Three) The Third Step advises you to decide to let that Higher Power or Program work in your life. Thus you can begin to accept your disease and other realities of life and recovery. After seeing the need in Step One, and the means in Step Two, the Third Step asks you to dispel the illusion and make the conscious choice to allow that guidance in your recovery from addiction. Step Twelve recommends expanding this success to the rest of your life as well.

Acceptance, see also: Abuse, Amends, Attitudes, Fear, Grace, Gratitude, Love & caring, Openmindedness, Perfectionism, Powerlessness, Prayer & meditation, Program, Recovery, Sanity, Self-image, Serenity, Step Three, Step Seven, Surrender, Trust, Willingness.

Updated 11 Sep 2015

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Addictionary 2 by Jan & Judy Wilson

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