I learned what acceptance meant

I’ve never been an “accepter.” If something needed action (in my mind), I took action to fix it or to advise someone else how to fix it. If someone was hurting, I told them what to do to feel better. If someone was misbehaving, I let them know that what they were doing was wrong and unacceptable.

I was generally successful at managing others with my wisdom and insightful perspective.  Occasionally, however, I was unsuccessful. When that happened, I got frustrated or angry, sometimes with myself, but more often with the other person or situation.

It wasn’t until I couldn’t fix what I thought was the most important thing in my life (the alcoholic) that I became overwhelmed with frustration, anger, disappointment, and depression. My love for my wife and my marriage slowly deteriorated, and my life was almost destroyed.

My life, which had once overflowed with optimism and self-confidence, became filled with doubt, fear, anxiety, rage, arguments, fury, and misery. It tore away at what I had always had the most confidence in—my ability to fix others; what was right and what was wrong; and (what was most important for my happiness) how others should be.

Al‑Anon taught me something I had not been aware of in 55 years of living: I was the one who was broken, I was the one in most need of fixing, and I was the only one I could fix.

It was the first thing I heard at my first meeting, and every meeting since then, “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.” That First Step was the sound of the jailer’s key unlocking my cell and releasing me to discover a freedom I never realized existed for me.

I heard it with Step One, and then I heard it with the Serenity Prayer. At first, it was hard to grasp. But once I did and accepted the things I was hearing and learning, awareness took over and the rage gradually began to subside. The continuous arguments ceased. The misery turned to hope.

The change came about through acceptance. I learned to accept the realities of alcoholism that I had no control over. To accept the fact that, if I wanted peace, I could only control myself and my own reactions; and most importantly, rather than expecting others to be different, I needed to accept that I was the one who needed to look at my past, and what I needed to work on within me.

Through listening at meetings and reading our literature, I have learned to accept others as human beings with weaknesses and faults, as well as talents and good qualities worthy of respect and admiration.

I have learned to accept what difficulties may be facing me, allowing me to seek a peaceful way to cope with them rather than shooting from the hip. I have learned to accept what others say at meetings because it is true for them, and to accept the fact that I need to go back to those confusing and uncomfortable places of my childhood and adult life, learn what their impact on me has been, and accept what I cannot change, but changing what I can.

By Jeremy S., Missouri
The Forum, February 2014