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How Acceptance Helps You Control What You Can in Recovery

People long to be in “control” of every situation in life. However, approaching recovery this way can make it very difficult to maintain sobriety because the first situation that challenges you might lead you back to drinking alcohol or using drugs.

Sadly, control is an illusion; very little that happens in life is within your control. The only person we can control is ourselves. Situations in your life will show you that you can control your response to what is happening and nothing else. Accepting that you can’t control everything that happens to you will allow you to learn different ways to look at the events in your life. Once you learn to determine what is in your control, you can effectively decide what you will do about it.

How to Determine Where You Have Control

The following suggestions may help you to determine if a given situation is within your control or not.

  • Let go of fear
  • Attempt to influence the person or situation using positive behaviors
  • Ask yourself if you are obsessed with a situation or if you are trying to solve the problem
  • Focus energy on what can be changed
  • Do not consider yourself a victim
  • Resist “all or nothing” thinking and assuming that an entire situation is negative

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy

Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) is a type of therapy that focuses on tools to help people stay focused on what is actually happening. In ACT, people learn to accept the situation as it is and understand that it is possible to give up control and observe what is happening calmly and without difficult emotions or harmful actions.

Once you embrace the negative emotions you feel over a situation, you can move beyond it. Accepting what is puts your energy into finding positive solutions rather than obsessing over the negative aspects of the problem. These new tools will help you face challenges that come up in life, which will create success in the future and your recovery.

ACT involves a commitment to facing problems rather than avoiding them. ACT is also a commitment to take positive action and embrace challenges.

Mindfulness and ACT

Mindfulness is a critical component of ACT and can help you stay in the present moment. Mindfulness allows you to accept your feelings, stay grounded, and focus on not judging your emotions but on accepting what is. This practice helps remind you to stay focused on today while simultaneously embracing what happened in the past and letting the past go.

Worry is fear of the future; mindfulness reminds you that today is where we are and that the future hasn’t happened yet. Once you learn mindfulness, you can train yourself to apply it at any time and in any environment.

Accepting Situations as They Are

Life is what it is, and situations and events are what they are. None of your expectations of how you think life and life’s events should be will change them. Trying to change reality sets you up for failure and causes negative feelings like anger or grief. You may be surprised to find that accepting situations as they really are has benefits, including:

  • Accepting situations as they are is a positive way to stay in the present
  • Looking at what is really happening in a detached way can allow you to problem solve rather than obsess
  • Accepting what is actually happening in a mindful way is a positive action that can bring you peace

Tools for Acceptance

If you are having difficulty accepting situations as they are, particularly tough situations, you are not alone. Acceptance is a challenging concept for many of us to embrace. The following suggestions may help you:

  • Pay close attention to your response to the situation
  • Accept that you cannot change what is happening
  • Embrace your emotions, including the sad or angry ones, work through them, and then let them go
  • Recognize that sometimes acceptance is unpleasant, but realize that you can work through those feelings
  • Remember that acceptance is not the same as quitting

The practice of mindfulness and acceptance, when applied to yourself, will also help you find ways to accept others, as well as learn to accept difficult situations. Acceptance creates the ability to show compassion and empathy to yourself and others. Accepting life on its own terms is a way to be at peace.

Knowing what your values are can help you identify negative behaviors and adjust them. Values will help you set boundaries and understand what actions you need to take to find a resolution to challenges; acceptance is not being tolerant of situations and events that violate your boundaries.

Every situation in life has a purpose, and things happen exactly when and how they are supposed to. Reminding yourself of that fact can help you be grateful for life on its own terms, which will contribute to your successful recovery and improved quality of life.

Situations happen that cannot be changed or controlled. It is normal to be angry or to feel grief when life is hard or doesn’t go your way. Acceptance isn’t saying that what happened is okay; it is accepting that this is how things are, and you can’t change it. You can retrain your response to situations and learn what your triggers are. Once you learn to recognize potential triggers, you can use your newfound tools and respond using healthier thinking. Acceptance can be learned; it’s worth the effort. Each time you control how you respond to life’s challenges, you set the stage for future success. At The Guest House, we can help you understand your triggers and give you the tools to be more effective in how you respond. To learn more about our outpatient and aftercare programs, call us today at (855) 483-7800.