Acceptance Is The Answer (AA Page 417): Recovery Rocket Fuel!

Acceptance Is The Answer To All My Problems Today…

The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous

acceptance is the answer

Doctor, Alcoholic, Addict. (Acceptance Was The Answer Page 407)

In the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, a certain story has touched the lives of millions – it’s titled, Acceptance Is The Answer.


A bit overkill you think?


It’s a hop, skip, and a jump away from becoming a religious icon.

Ok, ok, definitely overkill, but the account contains a vaunted and revered passage, one which can be found on refrigerator magnets and greeting cards galore, not to mention our hearts.

Without further Ado, ladies and gentleman, Dr. Paul O.

From the story, Acceptance Was The Answer in the Fourth Edition Big Book (Page 417 – 418; 420)

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 face 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 my attitudes.

Shakespeare said, “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.” He forgot to
mention that I was the chief critic. I was always able to see the flaw in every person, every situation. And
I was always glad to point it out, because I knew you wanted perfection, just as I did. A.A. and
acceptance have taught me that there is a bit of good in the worst of us and a bit of bad in the best of
us; that we are all children of God and we each have a right to be here. When I complain about me or
about you, I am complaining about God’s handiwork. I am saying that I know better than God.

For years I was sure the worst thing that could happen to a nice guy like me would be that I would turn
out to be an alcoholic. Today I find it’s the best thing that has ever happened to me. This proves I don’t
know what’s good for me. And if I don’t know what’s good for me, then I don’t know what’s good or bad
for you or for anyone. So I’m better off if I don’t give advice, don’t figure I know what’s best, and just
accept life on life’s terms, as it is today – especially my own life, as it actually is. Before A.A. I judged
myself by my intentions, while the world was judging me by my actions.

Perhaps the best thing of all for me is to remember that my serenity is inversely proportional to my
expectations. The higher my expectations of Max (Paul’s wife) and other people are, the lower is my serenity. I can
watch my serenity level rise when I discard my expectations. But then my “rights” try to move in, and
they too can force my serenity level down. I have to discard my “rights,” as well as my expectations, by
asking myself, how important is it really? How important is it compared to my serenity, my emotional
sobriety? And when I place more value on my serenity and sobriety than on anything else, I can maintain
them at a higher level – at least for the time being.

Acceptance is the key to my relationship with God today. I never just sit and do nothing while waiting for
Him to tell me what to do. Rather, I do whatever is in front of me to be done, and I leave the results up
to Him; however it turns out, that’s God’s will for me.

I must keep my magic magnifying mind on my acceptance and off my expectations for my serenity is
directly proportional to my level of acceptance. When I remember this, I can see I’ve never had it so
good. Thank God for A.A.!

(Acceptance Is The Answer Is A Celebrated Paragraph Page 417)

acceptance is the answer aa

My Definition of Acceptance…

So acceptance is the answer, but rather than an activity or solution applied it’s more a simple recognition or awareness of the problem.

This inevitably produces change – it demands it.

Let me explain…

By default, humans are dead set on what I call “de-evolution.”

The standard evolutionary process is when a species adapts and adjusts to its environment (yes, this is overly simplistic, but stick with me).

In like manner, emotional evolution, also known as emotional maturity, is the ability to adapt and adjust to one’s environment and/or circumstances.

Sequential, this is the order of things, namely, one must evolve to conditions around them or perish; and pertaining to emotional health – burnout.

Oddly enough, humankind has attempted to subvert this order.

This is the “fall” in which many religions speak; it creates the same great disturbance which precipitates mental disorder (see my SMART recovery review).

The plunge is as follows: sequentially, no longer does one adapt and adjust to conditions, now the sequence is one of control; that is, the unconscious belief is that environments can be controlled and must adapt and adjust to the individual.

How irrational is that belief?

Moreover, how tragic?

If your happiness is contingent upon your environment bending to your will, you’ve set yourself up for serious frustration, irritability, and chronic malcontent.

This simply cannot work in an emotional sense.

Acceptance Does Not Equal Approval

Acceptance is a neutralizer.

It stops the momentum of the faulty order.

Unfortunately, many individuals equate acceptance with approval, but this view is erroneous.

Approval is impartial to the order – there is no influence; it is akin to desire.

However, acceptance yields to the flow of life rather than resist it – it respects the order and is influenced by it.

For example…

If a situation/person/thing disturbs me, I cannot proceed to move in the right direction until I first accept the situation for what it is.

As long as I’m actively trying to change what is, I remain a victim to the disturbance (which is, for all intents and purposes, self-imposed).

the 12 and 12

What is, that is the disturbance in this instance, never needs my approval to change it only needs my acceptance. But what changes here is not the condition but the conditions within myself – from one state of mind to another, as Dr. Paul once brilliantly remarked:

“Acceptance turns a victim into a hero.”

Consider this statement from Bill Wilson in the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions:

Acceptance Is The Answe

Acceptance Is Not Passive Resignation

I imagine you struggle with acceptance because it’s many connotations in western thought with passive resignation. In an excellent article titled, Acceptance: It Isn’t What You Think, I found this masterpiece:

Acceptance Is The Answe

(Cited in Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Coming to Our Senses: Healing Ourselves and the World Through Min

(If you don’t want to read that entire book I highly recommend you read this essay by William Berry)

The premise of the article is predicated upon the Second Noble Truth of Buddhism (see Refuge Recovery Review) which states that all suffering is caused by desire viz. wanting reality to be something it is not (i.e. lack of acceptance). Berry proposes we fight this with gratitude.

We can tackle gratitude elsewhere, another blog, another day. Let’s attack it from a different angle, what I propose is this: instead of using gratitude as an offensive maneuver – though it is a recommended strategy and highly beneficial – I suggest using it as a measuring stick.

Your level of gratitude is directly proportional to your level of acceptance.

So ask yourself: “How Grateful Am I?” This will easily determine your degree of acceptance.

serenity prayer full

All things start with acceptance or lack thereof; serenity is just the attitude you approach it with. It could easily be adjusted to read, “God, grant me the right attitude,” but that doesn’t sound as appealing does it?

Who wants serenity? Everybody!

Who wants a little attitude adjustment? Well, nobody wants that, do they?

Dr. Paul O penned two excellent resources I highly recommend: YOU CAN’T MAKE ME ANGRY & THERE IS MORE TO QUITTING DRINKING THAN QUITTING DRINKING
acceptance is the answer