Big Book Page 417: Acceptance

acceptance aa page 417 big book

“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 my attitudes.”

The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, Fourth Edition, Page 417

Be assured that “acceptance” does not mean resigning yourself to the idea that you can do nothing about anything. Accepting reality makes you strong and stable, not weak and passive. As noted in the Serenity Prayer, “the serenity to accept the things I cannot change” goes hand in hand with “the courage to change the things I can” and “the wisdom to know the difference.”

Let’s break down the Big Book passage quoted above and see how we can use acceptance in recovery to build fulfilling, sober lives.

“When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing or situation … unacceptable to me …

When someone is upset, it can usually be traced to something outside of that person that they can’t control. Their response to that situation is a testament of their spiritual fitness. If they exert their will against it there is conflict. If they accept it and adapt/respond in a solution-oriented way, there is peace. In your 10th step work each night you ask yourself if you were disturbed and if you discussed it with someone else. Most often, the disturbed feeling has come from the lack of accepting God’s world and will.

“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. …

Acceptance can go hand in hand with belief in a higher power. Trusting the greater order of things when things don’t go your way can bring peace. If a flight is cancelled, if a challenging person is in your life, if the weather prevents you from your plans, ask yourself, is there a lesson in this? The lesson could be as simple as practicing acceptance.

“Nothing, absolutely nothing, happens in God’s world by mistake. …

Faith in God/a Higher Power has always been core to 12-Step philosophy. A vital part of acceptance is acknowledging that (1) it’s not your right to claim final authority over circumstances, and (2) you can trust the One who does have that authority and has your best interest at heart, even if that interest isn’t clear at the moment.

“Until I could accept my alcoholism, I could not stay sober …

The principle of step one is honesty and accepting you are an alcoholic. Without accepting that fully, the disease will tell you that you are not an alcoholic which will lead to continued denial and drinking

“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 my attitudes.”

Resentment, selfishness, self-pity –these offenders can be traced back to wanting something to not be what it is. A boss being unkind, the schedule not going your way, having a dysfunctional family, it would be great if all these things could change, but that change starts with your acceptance of and solution-oriented attitude toward these things.

Find Acceptance in an Encouraging Environment

If you’re seeking recovery that sticks and a deep transformational experience, Still Waters is a special place that can facilitate this. Our immersive residential program focuses on getting back to the spiritual basics of 12-Step sobriety and building a long-term lifestyle on that foundation. We offer a men’s and a women’s program. Contact us to learn more.

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