If you have been struggling with addiction, it may mean that you have become more aware of your personal deficiencies and weaknesses. All humans have these flaws in their character, but the process of alcohol or drug dependency can really magnify these deficits. It means that when you become sober, you can be intensely aware of your own failings. You could then develop a negative attitude towards yourself, which may even develop into a type of self-loathing. This way of thinking can be incredibly unhelpful in recovery, preventing you from making progress. The remedy is for you to develop more self-acceptance.
To say that you have self-acceptance means that you accept yourself despite any flaws you might have. It is a compassionate way to see yourself and is what you deserve. Self-acceptance is similar to self-esteem, but there are important differences between the two – self-esteem is all about evaluating yourself highly while self-acceptance is about loving yourself ‘warts and all’.
Most people in recovery do claim to have at least some level of self-acceptance, but it is often only at a very superficial level. When things start to go wrong, these individuals can become their own worst enemies as they berate themselves mercilessly for any perceived deficiencies. Those individuals who have developed self-acceptance to more than a superficial level are not only able to take responsibility for their mistakes but also self-soothe with an inner-dialogue that is comforting.
If you have not developed a sufficient level of self-acceptance in sobriety then it can mean that you are more likely to relapse or turn to new maladaptive behaviours. The problem is that your inability to fully accept who you are means that you are likely to start sabotaging your progress. Instead of doing the right thing because you want to do it, you end up doing it because of the bullying soundtrack in your head. This type of motivation only really works in the short-term and the risk is that you will be tempted to turn to alcohol or drugs to escape this inner tormentor.
It is important to understand that self-acceptance does not mean that you just accept your flaws as an unchangeable aspect of your personality. The aim is for you to accept that this is how you are at this moment, but you are going to work to overcome these flaws in the future – not because you are a particularly bad person but because, like all humans, you have flaws that need to be dealt with. The fact that you are dealing with these problems from a place of compassion rather than bullying means you are far more likely to succeed in making the necessary changes.
Developing self-acceptance will strengthen your recovery, and there are steps you can take in order to make this happen.
- develop the habit of challenging the critical voice inside of your head – you need support and not criticism
- practices such as loving-kindness (metta) meditation can increase your level of self-acceptance
- remember that you are just a human being, meaning you are allowed to make mistakes and have flaws just like others
- develop realistic expectations for yourself – don’t expect yourself to behave like a saint as this is just setting yourself up for a dose of self-loathing
- remember that the goal in recovery is for you to make progress and not for you to become perfect
- let go of the mistakes of the past and stop using these as an excuse to beat yourself up
- be ready to learn from your mistakes and make amends where necessarily, but also be quick to forgive yourself
- offer yourself the same level of compassion that you would give to a close friend
- learn to trust your intuition as this can guide you to where you need to go in life.