Why Acceptance Is Essential to Recovery

Content reviewed by Karen Rubenstein, LMFT

Many people that struggle with addiction continue to do so because they are not ready to accept the consequences that their substance-using behavior has caused in their life. Even when a person recognizes the effects of their addiction, they may not be ready to commit to a life of sobriety. A person cannot be forced into sobriety. For true transformation to occur during treatment and recovery, a person must be willing to practice full acceptance of themselves and their addiction.

Acceptance is a necessary part of any healing process, especially for recovery from addiction. Acceptance is often uncomfortable, as it encourages reflection on past mistakes. It can bring about distressing emotions during the process, but learning to accept those painful feelings is an essential facet of long-term recovery. It is crucial to recognize why acceptance is necessary in order to recover, as it serves as the primary step in the healing process.

Acceptance Is the First Step to Addiction Recovery

In both life and recovery, acceptance is the first step to making a change when change is necessary. It requires gaining a healthy and objective perspective on reality and life circumstances. Learning how to see circumstances more clearly can help you accept the things you cannot change and put more conscious effort into what can be.

Acceptance is used synonymously with surrendering and admitting powerlessness, comprising the first step in traditional 12-Step programs. Acceptance means letting go and recognizing the personal need for guidance and healing. With addiction, admitting powerlessness happens when people accept their loss of control over substance use.

Some may say that the most challenging part about recovery is making that initial decision to seek treatment. People often go back and forth several times before committing to treatment and the lifelong recovery journey. Moving from acknowledgment to acceptance must be the first step in recovery because it emphasizes the importance of the willingness to change.

Still, receiving treatment without a desire to change still make a difference. Many treatment programs take on practical therapeutic approaches such as motivational interviewing (MI) and acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) that can help a person overcome ambivalence surrounding treatment and recovery.

How to Accept Guilt, Shame, and Past Mistakes in Addiction Recovery

Feelings of guilt and shame are two powerful drivers that perpetuate the cycle of addiction. These feelings often lead people to continue substance use because of the false narrative that using alcohol and other drugs is more manageable than facing and overcoming past mistakes.

Many people tend to avoid facing past mistakes and unpleasant emotions because by doing so, they may view themselves and their actions as a moral failure. However, accepting the past and the distressing feelings that may accompany it can help a person recognize their substance use problem for what it is: a chronic and persisting, but most importantly, treatable illness. When a person learns to view their addiction as a solvable problem instead of something to be ashamed of, it will feel like a weight off their shoulders and take the steps to secure long-term recovery much more possible.

Acceptance Stretches Beyond Addiction Recovery

Acceptance is essential in recovery, much like it is necessary for all areas of life. Practicing acceptance makes it easier to acknowledge the valuable lessons that come with every life experience, even when the lessons are painful. People tend to grow the most when facing difficult situations, as adversity requires us to persevere.

Acceptance is the opposite of giving up, letting go and letting life just happen. It is bringing conscious awareness to the things that we cannot control to better focus our time, energy, and effort on more positive things in our lives. Acceptance applies to all situations of healing, such as losing a job, failing a test, and experiencing grief. However, it is important to understand that acceptance takes time. Forcing acceptance before a person is ready can make the healing process even more challenging.

It may be helpful to understand that the healing process, and recovery, are not linear. There will always be ups and downs. Once you commit to a life of recovery, experiencing downs might weigh you down now and then. It is essential to remember that struggle is a part of the healing process, no matter how uncomfortable it may be. Struggling allows people to recognize their limits, which encourages boundary-setting. Setting healthy and realistic expectations for yourself may help you overcome mistakes quicker when they are made the next time. Always aim at showing yourself the same compassion that you try to bestow upon others.

At Casa Palmera, we offer 12-Step programs and holistic therapies that highlight the importance of practicing acceptance in recovery. To learn more about our treatment programs, or to learn more about why acceptance is essential in recovery, contact us today.


This blog is for informational purposes only and should not be a substitute for medical advice. We understand that everyone’s situation is unique, and this content is to provide an overall understanding of substance use disorders. These disorders are very complex, and this post does not take into account the unique circumstances for every individual. For specific questions about your health needs or that of a loved one, seek the help of a healthcare professional.