Growing up in an abusive home, I never felt like I was accepted as part of the family by my mother, stepfather or siblings. To be honest, I felt like the black sheep of the family. Like the unwanted bastard child. Nothing I ever did was right. My mother never protected me from the abuse. In fact, on a regular basis she instigated many of the severe beatings I received from my stepfather. All I wanted growing up was to be accepted and loved by my nuclear family. There is no worse feeling than feeling like your own family has abandoned you. After losing my father to cancer, the feeling of abandonment was only exasperated by my family’s actions. I was not only feeling abandoned at home, eventually I felt like my church family and God had also abandoned me. Craving acceptance, eventually I started looking for acceptance in all the wrong places.
I believe we are all born with a moral compass that lets us know right from wrong. It is called our conscious. That fact combined with growing up in the church, I definitely knew right from wrong. As a teenager wanting badly to be accepted, I was willing to do anything to get that acceptance. Unable to find it at home or in church I started seeking it from whomever would give it to me. Eventually this led me to the party crowd in school where there was always drugs and alcohol. So, I ignored all my morals and values and gave into the temptation of alcohol and drugs that so many times prior I had to been able to walk away from. Finally, I felt accepted and part of. Little did I know how much this decision would affect many of my future choices.
As an adult my choices both personally and in business were based on how I could best be accepted by others. That acceptance had absolutely nothing to with who I was as a person. I based my acceptance on a material basis. As long as I had all or more than you had, then and only then did I feel accepted. The more I had, the more I could do to be accepted by you, the more I felt accepted. It’s much like living out of tree of knowledge and good and evil (TKGE) vs. living out of tree of life (TL) in the spiritual world. In other words, the TKGE says that I can only be loved by God by doing more, the more I do the more He will love me. Whereas the TL says there’s nothing more you can to do to make God love you. He loves you just as you are. When I learned this lesson, when I learned to love and accept myself which my mentors taught me to do, then I was able to be alright without people accepting me. Today I need no one’s approval other than Gods.
There’s another type of acceptance that is absolutely crucial and the key to successful recovery or any type of life change. However, many of us live or have lived in a place of denial. The first step in any type of life recovery program is to admit we are powerless over alcohol and that our life was unmanageable. The word alcohol can be replaced with words such as codependency, drugs, gambling, anger, etc. Often times when confronted by friends and/or loved ones with their concern about a perceived drinking problem, we’ll respond with something like, “Sure I drink and have fun, but I don’t have a problem. “But, so and so drinks far worse than me and has a big problem.” Or, when confronted about a perceived anger issue others feel we have, we will again respond in the same way as when confronted about an alcohol problem. It is called denial.
The following is an excerpt from page 417 in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous:
“And acceptance is the answer to all my problems today. When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing, or situation–some fact of my life–unacceptable to me, and I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing, or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment. Nothing, absolutely nothing, happens in God’s world by mistake. Until I could accept my alcoholism, I could not stay sober; unless I accept life completely on life’s terms, I cannot be happy. I need to concentrate not so much on what needs to be changed in the world as on what needs to be changed in me and in my attitudes.”
Until one can accept they have an alcohol, anger, sex, gambling, overeating or any other addictive issue, nothing will change. When I finally accepted not only that I had a drinking problem, but that I would never be able to drink like a “gentleman,” or for that fact never be able to drink again, I finally had completed Step-1. I was finally able to get sober and stay sober. However, there is so much more to acceptance than that. Before I go any further, I want to say that acceptance does not mean approval. The serenity prayer starts with; God grant me the serenity to “accept” the things “I CANNOT CHANGE.”
If you are not in a place of acceptance, then you are in a battle to a win a war you likely cannot win as well as compromising your sobriety and/or recovery. There was a period of time I was fighting everything and everyone. Then my sponsor had me read page 62 of the Big Book of AA for thirty-days. About day fifteen, five words flashed at me like a neon sign; “You Must Quit Playing GOD.” I was constantly trying to control or change my wife, business associates, children and many others, playing God. I was tired, frustrated, exhausted, and not truly happy. I learned that I did not have the power to change anyone or anything. I was powerless over people places and things and I had to quit fighting everyone and everything in order to be truly happy. The more I pushed for change, the further I pushed people away from me. I had to make a decision, “Do I want to be right or Happy?”
An old-timer once told me that I had the power to change the world within me. I thought the old curmudgeon had lost his mind. What I discovered is that as I changed, my perception of people, places and things, the world indeed changed. However, it wasn’t the world, it was me who changed. Until we can accept that we have a problem, until we can accept people places and things as they are, nothing will change. When one can come to a place of acceptance, not approval, the whole world will change. It’s your choice, do you want to be right or do you want to be happy?