Accepting Pain

The term acceptance and the term pain are not always necessarily linked, but have a fundamental connection with alcoholism, both active and in recovery.

Acceptance is a word that is bandied about a lot by people, as being a precondition of being able to move forward at any level with any problem.

It has become a bit of a cliché to say that someone needs to acknowledge they have a problem before they can do anything about it.

This attitude stems pretty much from step one of the Alcoholics Anonymous program, which will be the main focus of many people in a rehab, that the alcoholic needs to accept that they are powerless over alcohol – that their lives have become unmanageable.

In many ways the question is not why do people need to accept this reality, it is why do so many alcoholics not accept the reality of their drinking and active alcoholism, even after admission to a rehab/treatment center.

The pain of active alcoholism both to the alcoholic themselves and to their families or partners is overwhelmingly evident to everyone involved.

Indeed it is the nature of this pain that will eventually lead to some type of admission to a rehab/treatment center and subsequently onto Alcoholics Anonymous.

The question that is often asked, either in a rehab or before admission, is why does an alcoholic carry on drinking if they can see what it is doing to them.

There is no easy answer to this question, except to realise that an alcoholic’s denial of the drinking is in effect a protective mechanism.

Denial of any problem is to some extent protective, to an alcoholic it is the only mechanism they have of keeping the one thing they value more than any other safe, alcohol.

Admission to a rehab/treatment center may well be seen by an alcoholic as an admission of failure or as a real threat to their survival, it is much less likely that it will be a real acceptance of their own alcoholism.

Acceptance of someone’s alcoholism takes a long time and is often a long drawnout process. Perhaps the real benefit of being in a rehab/treatment center is that the alcoholic will spend a period of time with other people who have similar problems to their own.

This will inevitably help break down some of the barriers of isolation the alcoholic has built up to protect themselves.

An alcoholic will spend time with these people based in a rehab itself, and at meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous that we have is likely to bus people out to, or Alcoholics Anonymous meetings that take place at the rehab itself.

As a general approach to the concept of acceptance, it is worth stating that acceptance should be seen as a freedom not as a trap. The word acceptance is often portrayed as a concept of surrender a sort of do or die approach.

This attitude can be quite debilitating in many ways.

Acknowledging the reality of the situation by way of accepting it allows the person a number of real choices about how to move forward that they would otherwise not have. If a rehab can get a person to see this, and see acceptance of their alcoholism as being a real freedom, then the rehab will have done a good job.