The quotation below comes from the personal story Acceptance Was The Answer beginning on page 407 in Alcoholics Anonymous. Over the years, this section of the book has become one of the most often quoted parts of the entire book, despite not being a part of the original text. The message it carries, however, is one of the most significant of the entire book.
Acceptance Was The Answer was written by Dr. Paul O. In the 1970’s, the founders of AA that more and more members were actually dual addicted to both drugs and alcohol recognized it. Paul O, a medical doctor who was known to be dual-addicted to drugs and alcohol, was asked to write his story for inclusion in the third edition of Alcoholics Anonymous. The resulting story has become one of the most popular in the text, for both the passage quoted above and the wide appeal of Paul being dual-addicted.
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.
-Alcoholics Anonymous, Page 417
So why has this passage become one of the most commonly recited passages in the entire book? Simply put, the notion of acceptance sums up so much of the principles that we strive for. An honest appraisal of our lives during addiction often demonstrates our inherent need to control and change everything surrounding us – except for ourselves!
We often blame all of our problems on our circumstances, the people in our lives, and our surroundings, rather than our own addiction. Our efforts to alter the world around us nearly always proved futile and resulted in nothing but mere frustration and further mental breakdown.
Paul O. promoted the notion of accepting the reality of our surroundings rather than trying to change them. Instead of trying to change the world around us, we need to focus on changing our attitudes and ourselves. The simple fact is, the only thing we can truly change is ourselves. The notion of accepting “life on life’s terms” serves as an important reminder that we do not dictate life’s terms.
The passage also highlights the importance of accepting our alcoholism. As basic as this may sound to someone newly sober, often the leading cause of relapse can simply be blamed on forgetting this notion. Without complete acceptance of our powerlessness over alcohol and drugs, any work we may do in sobriety will ultimately prove futile.
The reality of our situation is often the most difficult thing for those of us newly sober to accept. We can only begin to work on our problems, however, once we have accepted our reality. It is with this acceptance that we can truly find serenity.
This article is intended for those considering a new way of life, free of the pain of drug and alcohol addiction. For more information on recovery and anyone seeking help with addiction and substance abuse problems, please call True Recovery at (844) 744-8783 or visit us online.