Powerless then Acceptance or Acceptance then Powerless?

I am not sure which comes first, but I think it’s acceptance. I think we have to accept that we are powerless so we can seek help. This sequence is top of mind this morning because next week I will lead the discussion at my Al-Anon meeting. On the last Tuesday, in the shortest month of the year, we are starting at Step 1.

We admitted we were powerless over alcohol ~ that our lives had become unmanageable.

I wasn’t asked to lead next week’s meeting. I chose to do it. I liked the span between 1 and 11. Yesterday, the discussion was focused on acceptance and I really loved the point of view of the woman who led the meeting. One area that struck a nerve with many was aging and accepting that as we age, we are not as agile, as we once were. A fact that we can fight or accept. She also defined acceptance, and the keywords included;

  • to accept is to receive
  • to accept is to resign
  • to accept is to tolerate

While our points of view varied on the meaning, I was grateful for the contrast because it got my brain thinking, in a curious and excited way not an anxious way, about how acceptance is the first step to Step 1.

admitted we were powerless …

That’s a big step! It requires honesty, humility, vulnerability and everything else in between. When we are in crisis we viscerally tamp down all of those things, every moment of the day to carry on a life with the appearance that we have our shit together. Pardon me for using we, I should use me. I know this to be true. And when I’ve lived this way, it is so exhausting, that when I look back at times like those, I wonder how I am still alive. Living an untruthful life is one without hope. And that is a life that I can not bear. It’s desperate, it’s sad, it’s negative, it’s full of pity and remorse, and its gear is stuck between neutral and reverse. Truthfully, I look back at those times in my life and know were it not for the grace of God, I’d be dead.

our lives had become unmanageable

Accepting life as it and recognizing what we can not change is a tough pill to swallow. It’s that honesty, that truth, which brings consequence. In my experience, getting to that admission is the hardest part. A friend stopped over last night and asked how did I do it, how did I decide to end it. I told her one morning I knew I was done, and all the pieces fell into place. Make no mistake, it wasn’t easy, and it was painful, but there is grace in acceptance. There is serenity in vulnerability. And there is humility in knowing that we’ve maxed out our abilities to change what can’t be changed.

It is what it is

For the longest time, I said “it is what it is” and thought I knew what it meant and meant what it said. In the fall of 2016 when we prepared for an intervention, my brother Brian called me and said that he wouldn’t be able to make it.  I sensed that he thought I would be upset with his absence. We laughed when I recognized that his feeling was nothing short of the truth. I neither wanted to participate. I was his wife. He was my husband. Those were facts and I was powerless to change that. “It is what it is,” I said to Brian. And he laughed, a sad and sorrowful laugh, and we both realized the truth in those words.

It is what it is 

And that is where the discussion led us yesterday. To those exact words. To the magnet that bears them and sits just under my monitor, adjacent to a 12-year-old thank you note that bears the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson and inside the lovely cursive from my beloved Grandma. I neither have the ability to change the color of the sky, unless it’s on my own canvas, than to cure someone’s addiction. All I can do is love and accept them for who they are.  And writing this, at this moment, I know now why I had a dream last week about my former husband. In it, he stopped drinking. He was so happy. So incredibly happy, that my joy for him overtook my entire body.

I told a friend about it last week, and she declared, “Oh, Karen, you still love him”. To which I gently responded, “No, no, not in the way a wife loves a husband. No, I don’t love him like that anymore. Though, I do love him. I know that to be true because I felt that love in the dream. I loved him because he was happy. I loved him because in the dream he was smiling because he found peace.”

I have more work to do before next Tuesday with Step 1. I am confident that work will be found here. I do love the journey that follows acceptance, even if the peace we find is only a dream, I can and will and have accepted that.

7 Thoughts

  1. I have a stack of letters …from my Marine husband. He was the love of my life. But for obvious reasons, the man who wrote those letters was not the man I married. These ephemerals would become a gentle but poignant reminder of the duality of my life for the next 50 years. Whether or not it was such … I did not consider escape a possibility, so I strove for normalcy … for the kids.

    Today, 2 years since he’s been gone, (who … on his deathbed would not say “good-by” or “sorry”) I live in a strange state of softness. I now care for the soul of that innocent girl, who despite circumstances, made lemonade from the lemons. If anyone deserves my kindness, it is she … and it is enough because it has to be.


    Liked by 1 person

  2. The journey of acceptance and understanding are not necessarily the same but run parallel in our minds when thinking about how we find ourselves where we currently are. I recently have had cause to analyze something in my life that I absolutely have been over analyzing. I need to get to acceptance. Your thoughts and journey are an example for me. I swear I hear you in my own head every time I read your blog, it’s actually quite comforting. Like our morning chats over coffee. Thank you my friend.

    Liked by 1 person

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