Acceptance saved my life.
So it is with much fanfare and vigor, that I would read RebelGirl's recent article entitled "Acceptance...." I would tell you about it but it would detract from the simplicity of her message. I would invite you to read her short yet powerful article only if you are a member of the empathetic, compassionate, and loving species of the human race. The rest of you, unfortunately, may not understand. And this is where my article comes in.
I am a recovering alcoholic. I am also a recovering self-mutilator and anorexic. I believe, rather than classifying myself as one formerly "messed up" kid, I could safely say that all of my "isms" - these external symptoms of my internal chaos, also known as "i, self, and me" - were results of my being controlled, feelings of being controlled, or feelings of lack of control. Or to make a larger and more sufficient umbrella, that would capture the more complete picture, let me say, "Symptoms of Codependency."
Codependency is not necessarily the needy and clingy person who needs to have a relationship to suit her - though that could be one manifestation. No, codependency is, by simple definition, that act in which we give up [or never felt as if we had] autonomy over our own selves or lives or in which we place autonomy of our lives into the hands of another person - whether it's a parent, a sibling, a romantic partner, or even a child. [See my offsite article "What is Codependency?" for more information and examples.]
Acceptance is the Answer to Codependency
Let me say it was the answer to *my* codependency. And if this baffles you, I am here to hopefully clear that up. I was baffled too! "You mean I have to have to accept that people will control me?" Oh no. See. This is where it bit me in the butt. I thought that when I heard people say, "I have to accept it." that that is what they meant. No. Not even a little bitty bit.
No. What I had to accept is that these people who tried to control me or who controlled me were going to keep on controlling me or trying to, despite my alcoholism or recovery from alcoholism. They were going to continue trying to control me even if I got down to 90 pounds. They were going to continue trying to control me even if they witnessed the knife marks on my wrists. That with my not having a developed voice at the time, the only way I could exhibit my pain was to hurt myself. I had never developed the ability to simply say, "No more.'
So acceptance came in when I discovered I had a part I needed to play. My part, if I were to live happy, joyous, and free, was to accept I was deficient in some tools. [Note that I did not say, "I had to accept I was deficient as a person."] Once I accepted that I wanted to recover from self-harm, I had to accept that to stay that way, I had to accept I did not have the answers already. Once I accepted I did not have the tools, I could work on achieving them. [As evidenced already, my answers took the form of hurting myself and that surely wasn't working was it?]
Are you the Controlled Person or the Controlling Person?
Codependency manifests one of two ways. Believe it or not, the controlled person who lacks healthy tools and resources to take care of herself is *just* as "codependent" as the controlling person who lacks healthy tools and resources to take care of herself. Oh yes! It's a mind blower isn't it? :-)
The person, then, who has been the thorn in your side for many many years...Would you believe it if I told you that she was once the controlled? Think about that for a few minutes and it makes perfect sense. She was either controlled by maybe someone else's alcoholism [and vowed it would never happen again] or she was perhaps controlled by a parent's mental or emotional illness and though that in order to combat it she needed to be *more in control* of her environment or maybe she was even controlled by a spouse's abusive fists or words and figured that for that to never happen again, she would simply be more diligent in controlling others around her.
The good news for this sort of codependent is that they, too, can recover. The bad news for this sort of codependent [or even worse for the others around them] is that as long as there is a controllable person around, they rarely do because they have yet to reach their own personal bottom in finally realizing they cannot control other people into providing them happiness or serenity. But once they have finally gained a level of acceptance in knowing that their tools of control fail to actually control their environment, and their misery has reached an all-time low, there is a solution.
Many types of these sorts of codies can be found in your local Al-Anon meetings. These people in one way or another have been affected by another person's alcoholism and only in finally getting miserable enough in realizing they cannot win against this disease, they go into Al-Anon as a broken shell of a person. This is good news for them because they now have an opportunity to learn how to finally get to real peace and serenity.
Other support systems for Codependent Recovery include NarAnon, CoDA, and ACoA and it matters little which sort of "control" you fall under; the controlled or the controller. At any time, I have found that I waffle between the two although my primary problem was being "the controlled."
Lack of power! This was our dilemma!
Acceptance gives us Power
By accepting our shortcomings, our frailties, or where we're falling short, we can find a remedy. In this, is where our power is. As long as we remain in denial and non-acceptance we continue trying to fix, manage, and control ourselves or our environment in order for us or it to somehow remain "safe." And while doing so, notice we have anger, rage, sadness, fear, dis-contentedness, and chaos.
I certainly was not happy cutting myself. I was also not happy starving. I was definitely not happy needing to drink every day. But somewhere deep in the back of my mind, I mistakenly thought if I could act out enough or take up less space or do what was asked during the day while numbing myself up at night, that the world would finally ignore me and leave me alone; that it would quit trying to control me. This is my truth and I accept that.
So that when my personal first step was to stop drinking, it took a lot of work but I was finally able to stay stopped while at the same time being happy in my own skin. It did not take long, however, for me to discover and remember why I turned to alcohol in the first place; the world was still here and it still tried to dominate me.
I kid you not. My first week in a 12 step recovery group and two women in succession over a two day period approached me with "You're too skinny. You need to gain weight." So let this please be a lesson to members of 12 step recovery groups; "Mind your own business. When anyone's weight - or anything else - becomes your business, I am sure they will let you know." Not to mention, anyone who says anything close to this has just revealed to me they are "controllers." In the case of the two women who said this to me, their personal failings of controlling their environment were manifested in their obesity. [Yes. They eat out of a lack of control.]
Before I sought recovery for my "being controlled" issues, I needed something before then as it was increasingly clear that there were some folks in these 12 step meetings who had their own controlling issues. Fortunately I met a friend who had 25 yrs sobriety and suggested a book: "When I Say No I Feel Guilty" by Manuel J. Smith. To this day, I think that by reading that book, and being willing to try the suggestions in it, I stayed sober. And after a year of sobriety is when I would seek a 12 step Codependency-flavored group.
Self-Acceptance & Other-Acceptance
Acceptance is key. But not the kind of acceptance that necessarily means "agree with." Rather, the kind of acceptance that means "to acknowledge."
The kind of acceptance that freed me from bondage was the acceptance that is the opposite of denial; absolutely not the kind of acceptance that said, "Once you agree with people bulldozing you then you will be happy." The kind of acceptance that said, "Yes. This person bulldozes you. No you do not have the tools to deal with it. Now what?" Once again. Please do not confuse this with accepting the unacceptable.
Often I've heard people say, "Accept it" in the face of their doing something unacceptable. These are those controlling people we've seen. When I hear that, today, in my mind I say, "Okay. I will." Then I take proper and healthy steps to insure I do not have to "agree with it". In this, I can set a boundary, remove my geographical location, use my voice, or even detach. So I'm not telling them I agree with their behavior and will sit by and be a passive participant again. I am rather saying, I acknowledge this is who you choose to be and now I will take proper steps to secure myself. And that's how acceptance is liberating.
Acceptance is the Answer
Acceptance in the answer to every problem. It needs to be. If I do not accept, first there is even a problem, how can I seek a solution? Sometimes I need to accept my own limitations. And maybe other times I need to accept another person's limitations. In all cases I find myself upset or distraught based on external influences, if I can search for the "acceptance" I need to apply, I am almost assuredly guaranteed to begin the steps for finding a solution.
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