Wednesday, April 28, 2010

I Accept

I have an Al-Anon friend who wants to leave her husband. When she was new in the program, I told her that I’d always been taught not to make any decisions for at least six months to give the program time to work.

The other day, she told me that it had been six months and her husband still hadn’t changed.

I wondered if we’d been sitting in the same rooms.

The six months wasn’t to see if your husband would change, I told her. The six months was to see if you would.

She was as genuinely surprised at my answer as I was at her statement.

She had been sitting in the rooms of Al-Anon for six months and what she heard were all the stories about how loved ones had changed as the Al-Anons changed their attitudes and behaviors.

I agreed that sometimes that happened. Sometimes it didn’t. It didn’t matter.

The whole point of Al-Anon was to learn to be happy whether the alcoholic is drinking or not. Really the whole point is to learn to be happy no matter what anyone in your life is doing, or not.

I said I’d heard the same stories she had. I’d also heard people share that their husbands hadn’t changed one bit.

“But what are their marriages like?” my friend wanted to know.

“I don’t know,” I said. I imagine their marriages are all sorts of ways. Only they have learned to accept what they had.

The three As (awareness, acceptance, action) had just been the topic of the most recent meeting we attended together. The reading had to do with the tendency to move directly from awareness to action without reaching acceptance. It felt custom tailored to my friend’s situation.

The way I understand the concept is that once I become aware of something, I must learn to accept it before I take action. Acceptance then frees me to make choices. I don’t spend time trying to change things I’m powerless over. Instead, I can work on the only things I can change: my own thoughts and actions.

I repeated a share I thought put it well.

I have a red coffee cup. I wish it were black, but nothing I can do will ever make it black. So I have to accept that it is what it is. My coffee cup is red.

Accepting that knowledge gives me freedom, because I don’t spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to make my cup black. Instead, I can focus on the choices that I do have. I can change the way I feel about red. I can use a different cup.

“Not all marriages can be saved or should be,” I told my friend. “That’s a personal decision. Only you can decide that. But if you’re in Al-Anon with the expectation of changing your husband, you’re only setting yourself up for disappointment. Remember, expectations are only premeditated resentments.”

I asked my friend if she had ever seen the acceptance prayer. She hadn’t, so I gave it to her. Here it is:

Acceptance Prayer

God, acceptance is the answer to all my problems today. When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place or 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 your world by mistake. Until I can accept my Al-Anonism, I can not stay sane; 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 in my attitude. Amen


  1. I'm reading a book right now that isn't related to Al-anon but has the same message, it's called Happy for No Reason. We all seem to be looking for something to change in our lives in order to be happy but we need to learn to be happy now, for no reason. Otherwise we spend our whole lives waiting to be happy; I'll be happy when they're clean and sober, I'll be happy when I get a better job, I'll be happy when I lose 10 pounds.....

  2. When I started Al Anon it was because I needed to change my behavior. My husband by that time had already been court ordered to AA and I saw how he was changing and was at a place where if I did not figure out how to make changes I too would have left my alcoholic, even though he had stopped drinking!

    Nothing confounded me more at the time, i remember thinking to myself, " this totally sucks, he is sober and I hate him..."

    Yah I have come along way... and so has he.
    Honestly though, I doubt I would have stayed if he was actively drinking that was my deal breaker at that time.

  3. Kathy, informative as always, thank you for sharing. I like that acceptance prayer. Blessings.

  4. Six months in a program is still so "young". You are a blessing to this woman.

  5. Your posts are always chock-full of wisdom and guidance - like an Al-Anon meeting, I always come away with pearls.
    God bless.

  6. I am going to copy that and paraphrase it just a bit (tweek it) so i can use it in my ceremony next week.

    Thanks Kathy.
    I have a friend in my writer's group who told me she wanted to come to a CoDA meeting with me. She did, last night. She asked me what codependency is. I smiled (a look I remember making me kind of annoyed when I first came to CoDA) and said it was a bit hard to describe it, as it is different for everyone. I gave her the list of common codependent traits.

    A little while later she said,
    "I've been so unhappy because I thought my husband was supposed to be _____. I still want him to be _____, but I don't know how to make him do it!"
    I told her she had just given me the best definition of codependency I'd heard.

  7. A great post here and so true. I struggled for so long with wanting to change the other person until I finally surrendered and knew that only I could change. And in order to change myself I needed to believe in a power greater than me who could help me out of my insane way of thinking. Gradually, I learned to let go. I am glad that I read this post today.

  8. Me too! U an glad to hear these messages so aptly explained.

  9. I now have the 3 A's to go along with the 3 C's, thanks so much for this post.

  10. Thanks for this posting really good to read it over and over again...

  11. Occasionally we have discussions in our group about whether the AA Big Book (from which your poem came) should be considered CAL. It sure has a lot of wisdom!

  12. I just happened upon this blog and feel like I've stumbled across a treasure chest. Thank you for your insightful and inspiring sharing.

  13. I began my Al-anon journey a little under 5 weeks ago and reading blogs and listening to podcasts online have really helped me stay focused on my personal goals. This post has definitely served its purpose, thank you.