Denial is defined as making something not true. When you are in denial about your addiction to drugs and alcohol, for example, you are declaring that it isn’t true you are addicted. If you were to accept the fact that you are addicted, on the other hand, you’d be agreeing with the truth of addiction, that you are, in fact, addicted. Acceptance means that you can recognize that you have a problem. Denial means that you refuse to believe there is a problem for you to have. Acceptance has everything to do with recovery because acceptance is part of the first step in recovery. Denial can be death. Too many people will deny themselves they gift of acceptance, right into overdose or a fatal complication of addiction. Acceptance can be life. The moment you accept that you have an addiction, that you are addicted, that you are an addict, you can live.
The first of the twelve steps which are so intimately related to the process of treatment and recovery reads, “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol, that our lives had become unmanageable.” To admit something is to admit that something is true, with reluctance. Acceptance is a form of admittance. Acceptance doesn’t have to mean liking. Acceptance doesn’t mean condoning. Acceptance simply means recognizing and embracing that something is true. Accepting means admitting, through gritted teeth. Coming to the realization that you have lost your control over drugs and alcohol is not an admittance or acceptance come to willingly. Crossing that river of denial takes time and often takes extreme measure. Once the river is crossed, it is the maintenance and skill of recovery to stay crossed.
Acceptance is part of that ongoing journey. Having experienced the brutal reality of denial versus acceptance in one of its most raw forms. The knowledge of what can happen when living in denial of addiction becomes real. Moving into recovery and looking across the river at the journey, it becomes obvious how critical acceptance is. Ongoing, acceptance becomes a part of everything as denial feels like a frightening reminder of the past.