Accepting Reality When Healing from Codependency

By Darlene Lancer

Acceptance is a process. It doesn’t happen in a day, a week, or a month but takes effort and proceeds in baby steps and missteps. Change starts with awareness. Notice whether your behavior and thoughts achieve the results you want. Next, practice nonattachment.

Acceptance isn’t approval

Acceptance is an acknowledgement of what is. There’s a lot of confusion about what acceptance means:

  • It’s not resignation, which suggests a passive stance that emanates from hopelessness. Acceptance is a positive step toward taking charge of your life and responsibilities.

  • It doesn’t mean you approve of the facts. Rather, acceptance is an acknowledgement that those facts exist — like them or not.

  • It doesn’t mean that you must accept abusive or unacceptable behavior. This is a common misconception. The fact is many people aren’t aware that they’re being abused and don’t acknowledge it as such. Consequently, they don’t confront it. With acceptance, you’re able to change your behavior, seek safety and support, and set boundaries.

Acceptance is a central empowering step that follows awareness and is a precursor to appropriate and effective action. Before you can choose to act differently, you must accept the world on its terms, and then consider your options. The alternative to acceptance is an eternal war with reality. It’s a losing battle.

In relationships, it places you in a disempowered position of being a victim and fixating on someone who is neither your responsibility nor in your capacity to change. By being in opposition to what is, you’re in a constant state of turmoil within yourself and in conflict with the person whom you’re trying to control. It’s a choice of having a mind at war or at peace.

Once you let go, your obsessions diminish, providing you a sense of freedom and release. At the same time, you’re freeing the other person from the burden of your worry and control. Then the other person can no longer resist you. He or she must face him‐ or herself and may take responsibility for his or her actions.

There are deeper and deeper levels of acceptance. First you come to terms with the fact that you’re powerless over others, that you’re contributing to the problem, and then that you are the one who must make changes. You can also apply this step to other habits and emotions.

Acceptance of someone’s addiction

It’s important to realize that the addict didn’t choose to become addicted. It’s not a moral issue. Nothing you did caused it, nor can you control or change it. It doesn’t mean that the addict is a bad person or doesn’t love you. Addiction and codependency are considered diseases.

Would you try to change someone’s behavior associated with diseases like tuberculosis or diabetes? Would you blame the person, or have compassion and learn all you could about the disease and how to best deal with it?

Facing the fact that someone you love has a chronic, life‐threatening disease is frightening and painful, which is why denial is so strong. Unfortunately, many people, including addicts, moralize addiction, creating an additional obstacle to acceptance and treatment that prolongs denial and perpetuates self‐destructive behavior.