In thinking about the concept of acceptance, I decided that it is such a big idea, I need to write more than one post about it. It is one of most important concepts in AA for me, and it touches every single aspect of my life.
My understanding of acceptance in AA is, as is everything else here, purely my understanding. I believe my understanding has enabled me to stay sober for a very long time, but it is only my understanding.
I don’t think that acceptance is stressed in the AA writings of the Big Book or the Twelve and Twelve. It’s there, but not stressed. I believe that acceptance got its push forward in the Third Edition of the Big Book, in one of the stories. It appeared on page 449 and that page number was a bit of a mantra for some people when I first got sober. Many people would answer most difficulties with the word, “four forty nine,” meaning look up acceptance, and that is the answer to any given difficulty.
The passage reads:
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.
It was moved to page 417 in the fourth edition of the Big Book.
Just even this passage is so full of meaning, I find it hard to even begin. For this reason I think I will write regularly on acceptance until I’ve exhausted it and myself. I hope to have a deeper understanding by doing this.
So the first thing I’ll write about it is that this is from a story, one alcoholic’s story, and it is that person’s perception, nothing more. It has resonated deeply with many people for many years and in my opinion it is the most important thing said in any story (apart from Bill’s, I guess) for this reason, but it is still only a small part of one person’s story.
Personally, I don’t believe that everything is the way it’s supposed to be at this moment, although I hold out the possibility that it is. In other words, I don’t know if God influences the tiniest thing that happens here on Earth, in fact I think that God doesn’t, but I’m in no way sure enough of that to claim I know it to be true, or to argue with anyone who feels that everything is indeed the way it’s supposed to be. I also don’t believe that nothing happens by mistake. I believe in chance, not fate.
But the passage still holds lots of meaning for me, and it has influenced me and eased my way a lot through the years, maybe more than any other passage, or at least up there in the top ten. There are parts of it that seem infinitely true to me, and beyond that, the concept of acceptance has been one of the most important concepts of my recovery. So I’ll keep coming back to it for a while.