Get Help Now: (888) 989-9690
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What is Radical Acceptance?

Many in recovery are familiar with the Serenity Prayer. The very first line is asking God for the serenity to accept the things one cannot change. This is the basis of the concept of radical acceptance: to stop fighting the things one does not have the power to change.

What Radical Acceptance is Not

Radical acceptance is understanding reality and accepting it, but it is not to be confused with an endorsement of unsafe behaviors. It is possible to admit that a loved one is struggling with substance use disorder without liking this behavior or being willing to engage in a codependent relationship that facilitates ongoing use.

Radical acceptance also doesn’t mean that difficult emotions stop existing. The anger, fear, frustration, sadness and disappointment a person feels are still valid and not to be suppressed or dismissed.

Radical Acceptance for Loved Ones of People with Substance Use Disorder

I first heard the phrase “radical acceptance” from my friend, who is the mother of three sons. All of her sons struggled with addiction, and she tried everything she could think of to support them and help them get better. She took them to treatment, reversed overdoses, tried tough love, and ultimately found that the thing that seemed to work best for her and for her boys was radical acceptance. 

When she realized that she could not stop them from using, she could not force them to change, and she could not modify the world around them, she was more free to focus on the things that were in her control. She could continue to love her sons with her whole heart. She could draw boundaries for what behaviors she would and would not allow in her home and in her presence. She could communicate what she was willing to offer them to support their recovery. She could take herself to counseling and support groups.

Radical Acceptance for People in Recovery  

According to the Huffington Post, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)  is a therapeutic treatment method that frequently utilizes radical acceptance as part of the process of recovery. A person who is recovering from addiction might find this particular therapy helpful in aiding their ability to accept the world around them as it is, to stop fighting reality, and to move forward in the parts of their life that are within their own control.

Radical Acceptance for Everyone

Radical acceptance is not just for people in recovery and their loved ones. A number of recent news articles are geared toward helping people to adjust to the outbreak of the Coronavirus through the use of radical acceptance. Coronavirus has kept people from having access to hair cuts, favorite restaurants, and preferred modes of completing their work. We can dislike these truths, but we cannot change them. By accepting that these truths are (for now) unchangeable, we can then move on to deciding how we will get our needs met in alternate ways, whether this means cutting our own hair or growing it out, working remotely, learning to cook a favorite restaurant dish, or creating a post-Covid bucket list of things to do.

In nearly any setback we experience, we can benefit from taking a deep breath and assessing where we do and do not have the power to impact the situation and then accepting what we are not able to change.

When Radical Acceptance Does Not Apply

One important factor in deciding when to apply radical acceptance is understanding the difference between an unchangeable reality versus a situation that we have only convinced ourselves to accept as a reality. 

For example, a person who tolerates abuse from a loved one may feel that it is out of their control when in fact there are several options for change, such as distancing themselves from the offender, ending the relationship, or setting boundaries for what behaviors they will tolerate. It is critical to reflect, sometimes with the help of a professional, on what really is within our control and what is not.

At Fair Oaks Recovery Center, we support our guests in building their recovery around their own lives and goals for the future. Don’t accept your addiction: know that you do have the power to change your life. Let us help you make that change.

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