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Acceptance

Updated: Sep 4, 2023

Acceptance is a big part of recovery. If you are familiar with the 12 steps, you know that acceptance is one of the pillar 12 step ideologies. The first step in AA states, “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol — that our lives had become unmanageable.” When you work the program and complete this first step, you are accepting that you have a problem with drinking, using, etc. and that you no longer desire to attempt to control your usage.


ACCEPTING THAT I HAD AN ISSUE WITH ALCOHOL WAS AN ISSUE

As a person who tends to like to control certain aspects of their life, acceptance hasn’t always been something I have embraced. In fact, quite the opposite. It’s odd that I have this controlling nature when it comes to myself (and sometimes with close relationships), yet I so deeply craved something that made me lose all control - alcohol. I believe this is because my desire to keep things under control causes stress, and of course, I found alcohol to be stress relieving. When I first started drinking, my habits didn’t strike me as being a problem. They were merely the result of being a teenager. By the time I was 20 (4 years into my drinking), I was able to acknowledge that my drinking was problematic, but I truly believed I would find my way out of it through better drinking habits. Thus, I began my mission of attempting to control my drinking, because I didn’t want to believe that it was me who had a problem with alcohol. It was just situational. So, I started changing things up a little. I was drinking around different people, different environments, different days of the week, earlier in the day, later in the day - whatever I hadn’t been doing. Each time I tried - I blacked out and failed miserably. Well, maybe I just needed to accept that I had to change the kind of alcohol I was drinking. That was it. I said no more tequila or whiskey for me, I’m sticking to lower alcohol-content drinks like Kim Crawford and hard seltzers. Well, as I would finish a bottle of wine and crack open another one within the first couple hours, I realized I had to come up with a different plan. I understood that it was not the time of day or company I was around, or the type of alcohol I was drinking. The problem was the fact that I wasn’t pacing myself. I needed to start setting timers! Every 40 minutes I would allow myself to drink half a glass of alcohol. Well, after about an hour of that, my plan failed miserably (again). What else could it have been? I thought to myself, “I guess the people around me could hold me more accountable. I really need them to guide me and help me with this.” Ha.This was probably the funniest method I tried to control my drinking, because if someone tried to tell me to slow down, I would always find a way to find/sneak more booze. The list continued as my attempts to be a mindful drinker flopped one after the other.


UNDERSTANDING THAT I HAD AN ISSUE

After this run-around I did for almost a year trying to control my drinking, my disease progressed with each attempt. What was wrong with me?

Now, let me tell you, my acknowledgment in understanding that I had a drinking problem was not an enlightening one. There was no “aha” moment for me. In fact, it was pretty frightening. During this stage, I visited the Emergency Room several times within a few months for drinking-related purposes, and my mental health was fiercely declining. I didn’t recognize who I was. I didn’t even know where to begin to construct an idea about who I was. I was lost. In September of 2018, I sat in a doctor's office while being treated for strep throat. He looked at my chart and noticed that I had visited the ER multiple times over the summer (sadly, this was not the only facility I was visiting the ER at) and he told me I had a serious problem with drinking and it would be wise of me to stop and get some help. He then gave me information on women’s AA meetings (yay for women), treatment centers, and psychologists. I finally felt like, “You know what, I think he’s onto something. I need help.” I then tried going to an AA meeting, but found myself comparing myself to others' stories and thought, “I am not as severe as them, I don't need to be here.” I then tried to drink again. Failed. Next, I went to a treatment center and did an intake for an outpatient program. They told me I had to wait 5 weeks to get in. My heart dropped into my stomach, I knew this was about to be the most excruciating 5 weeks. While waiting to get in with this treatment center, I went to another facility to try and get in for outpatient treatment. I was able to be admitted to the program instantly, but the program was located in a hospital and I had PTSD surrounding hospitals. I dropped out after a week, unable to deal with my anxieties. I got a case of the “F*** it’s”, so I decided to drink. I ended up in the ambulance the next morning, panicking and very sick with alcohol poisoning. After this, I was fully ready for treatment, but I knew I had 4 more weeks left to go. I made it 2 weeks without drinking, then came my 22nd birthday and the party I’d planned for myself. I told myself, "I'm not going to drink," knowing fully that I was about to have no control over that choice if I put myself in that situation. I blacked out about an hour and a half into my birthday. I was still drunk at 4 pm the next day, however, I knew that a terrible hangover was right around the corner. The hangover started to kick in and I went and sat in my tub, the only place I could ever find some type of solace during these moments. A huge wave of fear, guilt, and helplessness came over me. I started to uncontrollably cry. I no longer thought that I could have a problem with my drinking, I knew that I was an alcoholic and was now scared that I had no control over my choice to stop. I sat there, bawling, praying for God to help me. I couldn’t do this anymore. I was ready to quit and ready for whatever it took to get myself as far away from alcohol as possible. I then called the intake counselor at the treatment center I’d been waiting to get into. It was Friday and he was almost done with work for the day, but I happened to get him on the phone. I said, “Look, I have a serious problem and I can’t wait the rest of these 5 weeks in fear of something terrible happening... I need to come in for inpatient treatment. Can I please be admitted?” He then explained to me that he was about to notify me of the afternoon group that they’d decided to add to the program and that there would be a spot waiting for me on Monday. I notified my parents and they graciously and promptly came down with my dog and my sister to spend the weekend with me. I was beyond a wreck at this point, but hopeful because of the support I was able to receive. I went to my first day of treatment and there were so many other individuals with the same problem as me, and they were my age. I was finally able to let out a sigh of relief. I then accepted that this was where I belonged. There wasn't anything wrong with me, I was just an alcoholic.


WHY CAN’T WE ACCEPT?

As I replay these moments in my life, it seems so silly that I would've tried so many different methods in an attempt to control my drinking, when clearly drinking any alcohol at all was the problem. It seems almost as silly as the fact that even after all of this, I still went back to drinking 2 more times after 14 months of sobriety. But that is the nature of the beast, this is the disease of addiction. I think to myself, why was I giving so much time and energy to something that was taking so much away from me? Instead of just accepting and healing? However, this is my journey and I am beyond grateful for everything that I have gone through and put myself through.

Today, I still struggle with acceptance, but one of the many wonderful gifts that recovery has gifted me with is the ability to understand what is meant to be, will be, as well as the phrase, “Let go, let God,” (and many of the other life-changing 12-step clichés). Today, I am grateful to be able to accept my disease and spend each day working on it in some type of way.



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