Is acceptance the answer to all our problems, or is it only a starting point, or maybe it’s where we end up after going through a process? That’s what this episode is all about. How we understand and incorporate the concept of acceptance into our recovery.
This episode was recorded live on Friday, May 22, 2020 on the AA Beyond Belief YouTube channel, public Facebook page, and private Facebook group. Please join us every Friday at 7:00 PM CDT as we discuss topics of interest to secular people in AA and take calls from listeners and respond to the Facebook and YouTube live chat.
Mentioned in this episode:
Acceptance Was the Answer, p. 407
The transcription of this episode was created by Lena R. from North Bay, Ontario. Thank you, Lena!
John: AA Beyond Belief is a podcast by, for, and about people who have found a secular path to soBrity in Alcoholics Anonymous.
John: You can’t see me, but I’m doing my hands like an orchestra here.
Angela: Yeah, and I was just flapping my hand, I’m –
John: I’m conducting the music!
Angela: I’m like, oh! I like this! This is, you know, such a fun ditty. I love hearing that ditty. Where did that come from? [laughs]
John: Before we came on, I was just telling Angela, it’s like – I’ve been doing these podcasts for so long, and when I’m just doing them with just me and another person, and there’s not a bunch of people watching on Facebook, it’s like no pressure or anything, but it’s always so funny just before we start this podcast, I am all nerves.
John: But here we are!
Angela: Here we are.
John: We’ll manage! There’s Bubbles, Bubbles Blonde… she’s here every week…
Angela: As is Jackie!
John: And Jackie.
John: Well, good to see you guys. So, today our topic – we’re gonna have two topics, probably. We’ll see how it goes. But the main topic is gonna be acceptance. And if we can’t fill up the time, we’ll go in there and maybe talk about service a little bit. But just to kind of kick it off, I will tell you that – I don’t think I ever thought about acceptance very much before I got into AA. I really don’t. I just can’t ever remember a time when it was important for me to stop and think about how well I’m accepting things.
John: It just wasn’t! But by the time I got to AA, that’s when I began to hear about acceptance quite a bit. In fact, during the first couple of years – and it might just have been a fad that was going around AA at the time – but everybody loved that story in the Big Book – Doctor, Alcoholic, Addict – and in the third edition it was on page 449.
Angela: Now it’s 417.
John: Yeah, it is now 417.
Angela: [laughs] And at every meeting, somebody says “In MY book, it was 449,” and then,
Angela: Somebody else says, “For everyone else, it’s 417.”
John: And it got to be so bad that it’s like – if someone thought you needed to accept something, they would just say “449!”
John: And then they would always say that the quote from that story, that acceptance is the answer to all of our problems.
John: And I don’t know about that. [laughs] But at the time, that’s what I would hear often. And a funny story, at least it was funny at the time when it occurred – I was with a couple of friends and we were about to – we were taking a meeting somewhere – at a treatment centre. And I had a problem of some sort, I always did back then. There was always something going on that was bothering me.
John: And my friend looked at me and he says “John – acceptance is the answer to all your problems.” [laughs] And I looked at him, and I said, “No it’s not.”
John: And they just – they both started – everybody started laughing at me, because it was just the expression on my face. And it was probably genuine exasperation from hearing that for all that time.
Angela: Oh, that’s nice! Yeah. When we talked about the podcast and what I got out of it – was the second topic that you had mentioned, so I was kinda thinking about that, and then you posted acceptance, and someone showed it to me, they’re like – “Is this the one you’re doing?” And I’m like, “I guess so?” And so, yeah. For the last couple of days I’ve been trying to accept that our topic tonight is acceptance.
John: Is acceptance. [chuckles]
Angela: Yeah, and I’m not sure if I find that acceptable or not yet.
John: No, I hear you.
John: But what’s interesting – we’re gonna be posting a story on Sunday about acceptance, and it’s actually – it’s actually the second story in the last couple weeks that we’ve posted on acceptance, and this one – he’s again taking a look at that story, Doctor, Alcoholic, Addict – and one interesting thing that he’s writing in the story is he is making this case that, you know, no, acceptance really isn’t the answer to all of our problems. In fact, it kind of goes contrary to what we recite in the Serenity Prayer, those of us who recite that. Because in the Serenity Prayer, we’re seeking the serenity to accept what we can’t change, but we also are seeking the courage to change what we can and the wisdom to know the difference. And if all we did was accept what we can’t change, and we didn’t stop and think about what we could change, and work to change it, what good would that do?
Angela: Yeah. Well, I’m with you on that.
Angela: Yeah. I guess when I was thinking about it this week, the reason why I was struggling with it is that – you know, thinking about the world, and what’s going on right now, and how do you balance acceptance with action? Basically, maybe we should name this one the Serenity Statement, which is [laughs] how most of us prefer to say it. It’s a statement. Because there is so little that we can do in certain situations and yet we mainly can try to work on our own feelings and how we see them. And then there are some other things we can do outside of that. As people in recovery, managing our emotions and feelings is the general thing that we’re working on, so that we don’t impulsively take a drink or use or whatever it is that we’re gonna do.
Angela: So, I know that at one of our meetings this week – or a meeting that I was in – the topic kind of came around to how we acted, the things that we did in early soBrity to guard our soBrity. So like, if we went to a party or something like that, we’d take a friend if we could or take our own beverage so that we didn’t accidentally pick out somebody else’s and take our own keys and do these kind of things. And this person was relating that to – she went out to a gathering of people because some of the social distancing has loosened up in this area, and that it was awkward for everybody at first because they didn’t quite know what to do. And so, things are a little bit different out there. And she added that once people started drinking – which she was not one of them – then all of the social distancing protocol went out the window. [laughs] And so, you know, hearing that – one, it made me think of, yeah. These are the things that I could do in early soBrity to protect my soBrity, but now there’s some of the things that I can’t do to protect my health and that got me to thinking about things in general.
Angela: And then also that I’ve had this experience – well, I’ve noticed in the last week or so – that a couple of people are either not chatting with me as much that normally do, or have actually said that they were a little bit concerned to share something with me. And because of – afraid that I would judge them. I hear that and I’m like, “Me? Judge them, what?” And then I think about it and I’m like, “Why would they say that?” And then I think about what I’ve shared on here, and what I’ve shared with people in the last few months, and yeah, they’re probably afraid because I’m judgemental. [laughs] And I’ve been judgemental with people regarding the pandemic and behaviours that I think people should be doing, and what it’s come down to is that I’ve realized how vulnerable I am. And within my own recovery, you know, in early recovery there are certain things that I can do that can safeguard that – that I can do on my own – and it’s a choice for me to be vulnerable in relationships, or to do things, and that… this has shown me how vulnerable I truly am, and how much I have to depend on other people doing the right thing. And since I don’t think other people will do the right thing, [laughs] then I want more controls, and I want things – people to do things as they’re supposed to do, or as I think they’re prescribed or written. And so, therefore, yeah. I have been behaving in a way that’s not congruent with how I want to behave. And so for me, it’s accepting that, yeah, that I’ve been kind of a judgemental ass to some people. And then – yes!
John: I get that.
Angela: Yeah! Well, you know, you don’t hear everything that comes out of my mouth, thank goodness. And thank goodness everything I think doesn’t come out of my mouth these days.
John: But I hear what you’re saying, and I think that is acceptance, ’cause I’ve done the same thing. It’s like, a lot of times, if I get feedback from somebody that’s negative about me –
John: I don’t like it, when I hear it.
Angela: [laughs] Right.
John: I feel bad, okay? I feel bad initially. And I’m not bragging about myself, but this is something I’ve kind of conditioned myself to do, and it’s just what you’ve done. I just say to myself, “Well, maybe they’re right. Maybe my sense of reality doesn’t quite match with what really is going on here.” And it just kinda forces me to discharge the negative feeling and to stop and think about what that person has just told me about me. And then I can stop and I can assess it. I can take a look at myself to see if – is it – “Well? What have I – how did I react this way? Is there some truth to it? Could I do something differently?” And I kinda just do a little inventory on it. I just go through the whole process.
Angela: Like, how much of it’s true? ‘Cause sometimes it is, sometimes it’s not, and sometimes there’s a little bit in there.
John: Right! And sometimes it’s like it doesn’t matter, even!
Angela: Yes! Sometimes it does not matter.
Angela: But it is something when – you know, I saw that acceptance thing, that I have been working on – thinking about! And that’s the main reason I didn’t want to talk about acceptance! [laughs] Is because I’m like, “Dang it!” I’m struggling with it right now. On the things that I can do, what are the actions that I should be taking? And one of them is looking at that and seeing how much is true and how much isn’t. It also made me think of another thing – ’cause I like actual “how-to” type stuff, instead of “You should just accept!” Because it reminds me of the “Let Go and Let God,” and I don’t do that, either. But when thinking about the principles and acceptance, it mainly comes up in – well, it comes up a lot of places. In the third step is one of the ones that they talk about acceptance.
Angela: And so I was looking at Jeffrey Munn’s book, and one of the things I like about his third step, or what he talks about in there, is that his suggestion is to write a statement or a pledge, and it reminded me of some of my – the people that I’ve sponsored before have crafted theirs into a personal manifesto of what they want their life to be, or their mission in soBrity. And I’m like, “Well maybe I should do something similar to that on how I want to behave regarding news or information during this pandemic.” You know? How do I want to behave? What is my commitment to responding to things that I don’t like, [laughs] or that just strike me as not right? Because it depends on how you ask whether it’s right or wrong. What do I want to do? And that maybe if I write some of that stuff out, that that will help me be able to act in that way and be more intentional and mindful about it. And then hopefully things will go better and I won’t have to work on acceptance as much. [laughs] I’m just kidding!
John: Well, you know, it’s interesting about this whole pandemic, and how it’s affecting us. I think it was on our first episode – our first sober distancing episode – and I made the comment that I was taking a walk and I said to myself, “I don’t ever want to accept this. I don’t want to ever accept this as being normal.”
John: And, man, I really didn’t. I didn’t like what the world had become. And I don’t know where I’m at now – how I feel about it. I’m almost kinda numb to it, to a certain extent.
John: I do get angry with what I see going on when I watch television and so forth. But I just kinda have settled in this routine of going through the motions of waking up, plugging my work laptop in, sitting at my desk, [laughs] unplugging the work laptop, you know? It’s just gotten to that. But I was sharing at a meeting last night – one of our online meetings with our group – and we just did sort of a check-in. We didn’t really have a topic, we were just checking to see how people were doing. And the one thing that I did mention that is kinda bothering me – it seems like I’m getting tired of all of my interactions with human beings being through a screen.
John: And it’s like the whole thing of the chopped-up video, the person talking to you, it’s like – when I talk to my boss, she comes in and out of the screen, the audio comes in and out. And then even when you watch television, it’s like some reporter is talking from his living room, and he’s on a screen. And then our AA meetings are on screens, and – I don’t know. It’s not like, I mean, I have to accept that that is what the reality is that we’re living in, and they told me a long time ago that acceptance doesn’t mean you have to like it.
John: Right? So that’s just the deal. That’s just the deal. But I am tired of that. And I don’t know what to say about that other than it’ll be nice when more of my interactions are – they don’t have to be at such a distance, you know? Whether it be six feet or on the other side of a computer screen.
Angela: Yeah. That will be nice, whenever that is.
John: Whenever that is.
John: Whenever that is. But on the other hand, too, I have to admit, I’m very fortunate that I’m not sitting here alone, I’ve got two cats, a dog, and a wife.
Angela: That was nice, the priority that you put them in, I’m sure. I’m sure your wife would appreciate that.
John: It’s just, these are weird times. That’s all there is to it.
Angela: They are. And being kind to ourselves is also another thing. ‘Cause I know that other people have shared with me the ways that they’re acting out, and their anger can come out sideways. And by that, I mean kind of like Brené Brown’s thing on blame where she talks about a series of events – and she drops her coffee on the floor, and she yells her husband’s name, and swears at him, and he’s not even there. And it’s basically that the getting angry at something that has nothing to do with what you’re really angry about. You know, the awareness of it or mindfulness of it, I guess. And so for me, it comes out as – I’m angry at something, and I’m working on something, and my mom will come in to ask me a question, and I might snap at her. That’s me talking about my anger, frustration, and stuff coming out sideways. Because it has nothing to do with her. It has to do with me. And yeah, I think that we’re – a lot of us are experiencing that in various ways right now. And so to try to remember that, yeah, this is a stressful time, and that we’re all trying to get through it the best we can, and that we are fortunate that we have some tools that we know how to use or that we’re trying to learn how to use. [laughs] And so we have that opportunity. And we have a support system of other people. A great support system secularly now. I’m really glad that I have people in secular recovery to be able to talk about this stuff with because I think this would be much more difficult if I didn’t. And so I have people I can talk to about it and say, “Yeah, I behaved this way, and I’m not proud of it, and I… you know.” Or “Somebody said I behaved this way, [laughs] what do you think?” And they’re like, “Yeah, you did.”
Angela: And so then I can look at it, which, you know, sometimes is the case. Yeah, and be able to figure out where I am and all of that, and be okay that, yeah, this is a tough time. And none of us are going to act in our best self the majority of the time. We can do the best that we can. And that’s an acceptance thing, you know? So.
John: This might be a good time to let people know that they can call – you can call in if you would like to share your experience, thoughts, ideas, whatever, about acceptance. We’d love to hear from you. The phone number is (844) 899-8278. Well, I guess when I first started dealing with acceptance – when I first think about it – I also think about it in terms like, I kind of equate it with understanding. So, if I go way back to the beginning when I first started dealing with this, it would be step one. It was like, when I realized that I was an alcoholic – I remember just being stunned that I was in denial for so long, because I could look back and it should’ve been obvious to me that I had a problem, that almost every serious problem I had pointed to my drinking. And I was just stunned that I was in denial, but when I came out of it, just from circumstances forcing me to, I guess that was my acceptance. But it was more in an understanding that I had that problem. We got a caller!
John: Good. This person is saving me from my rambling. How ya doing?
Caller: Yeah, hi! Am I live now?
John: Yeah, you’re on!
Caller: Okay! Thanks! You’re on – okay, thank you! I’m calling from Germany. [chuckles]
John: Oh, wonderful!
Caller: I must say I really like your show.
John: Thank you!
Caller: Your podcast is great. And, you know, we don’t have that much secular groups over here. I guess it isn’t that much need over here because most people are not that much into the god stuff, but nonetheless it’s good to hear you. And, yeah.
John: Well, thank you!
Caller: That’s what I wanted to say. And about acceptance –
Angela: Yes, what about acceptance?
Caller: For me, acceptance and letting go – which is, I guess, more or less the same where, you can – yeah, you often can hear them mention – “You gotta let that go,” or “You gotta accept.” I say, if I try to let go, I often pride myself that I try to get rid of stuff. Not really letting go. And if I try to accept, then I’m starting to get greedy or really getting into the stuff, so. So my experience – I cannot force acceptance. I’ve just got to wait. I think sometimes it feels like a shortcut when it’s presented as a shortcut, and for me, it definitely, definitely isn’t.
Angela: Right. That makes sense. It sounds to me kind of like attachment, so, you know, not try to get too attached to either how you think things should be, or that you shouldn’t feel the way that you’re feeling, so something in between.
John: And I agree, too, that you can’t really force acceptance. It’s like – I think that’s what was driving me crazy when I was – my first couple of years – when people were telling me that I just needed to accept things, you know? [laughs] It’s like, oh wow!
John: How am I supposed to do that?
John: But you’re right!
Caller: Yeah, you’re right, that’s it!
John: It’s just something that happens.
Caller: If it hurts now, it hurts now!
Caller: And how could I accept anything that hurts? And I can come to terms with it, and then, perhaps then is acceptance. For instance, when I was two years in soBrity, I really fucked up my life again, and made a mess of my life. Just was procrastinating and not making – not sending my invoices, and not paying my bills, and then I almost lost my flat, and… it was a really tough time, and I was about – close, very close to relapse. And then one day I thought, “What is really the bad thing here?” And even if I would go – if I would have been thrown out of my flat – I could go back to my mother. And then it came to me. Okay, I’ve never had that big goals in my life, but going back to my mother at the age of 50 was not on my plan.
John: [laughs] Right.
Caller: And that made me feel, you know, I said – I really felt like a loser. And I said, “Okay, that’s it.” But, you know? The shit has happened, you’ve done this now, and you will go through it and then the acceptance came. But it is – was not – the acceptance was more of the result of the process, it’s not the beginning of the process.
Caller: So keep that in mind and try to stay open for acceptance or letting go… puts me in the position to come to acceptance, but I’ve really got to dig into the stuff, and then the acceptance, perhaps. If I’m lucky, it will come.
John: Well that is interesting.
Caller: So that’s my experience that I’ve had.
John: Well, thank you! Thank you for that, I appreciate it. And thank you so much for calling all the way from Germany! Amazing!
Angela: Thank you so much. It’s good to hear from you.
Caller: Thank you! Bye-bye!
John: Take care!
John: How cool! Well that’s kind of interesting, what he said – that acceptance isn’t really beginning the process, but it’s the result of a process. And now that I think about it, you know – that is probably true, because if I say that my first step was to accept or understand that I was an alcoholic, then there was certainly a process that happened, because that didn’t just happen overnight.
John: You know? There had to be some sort of a process going on with me. It was like, probably, listening to a lot of people – it was probably long-term. It was probably like – my first meeting, I probably was at the point where, you know what, I don’t want to drink, but I don’t know how much – I think I didn’t even care what you called me. I just didn’t want to drink. And then it took me maybe a little bit more time for it to sink in, just what I was dealing with. And it wasn’t just the drinking, either. It was all the behaviours that underlied all the drinking.
Angela: It took several years of people telling you, you know…
Angela: “449.” [laughs]
John: Exactly, exactly.
Angela: Yes, so, people please call in!
Angela: We obviously need help with acceptance, so, what do you –
John: (844) 899-8279.
Angela: To share with us. To help me work on acceptance.
John: We might have a caller.
Jackie: Hey! It’s Jackie.
John: Hey Jackie!
Angela: Hey Jackie!
Jackie: How you doin’?
John: Not bad.
Jackie: How you guys doin’? Alright? Are you accepting everything tonight?
John: Yes! [chuckles]
Angela: Ehh… it’s pretty acceptable. Pretty acceptable evening. Acceptable way to spend an hour, right?
Jackie: [laughs] Yeah. Reaching heights of mediocrity, here, now.
Jackie: Um, yeah! You know I love you guys. I want to be a regular on the show, so I keep calling in! [laughs] Yeah, I don’t know, I just keep thinking of my Buddhist teachers with all this acceptance stuff, and you know, like, so much in AA, I feel like it – it boils down to semantics. Right? Like, John, when you were talking about when the pandemic started and you were like, “I do not want to accept this. I will not accept this.” I’m thinking to myself, like, “Well, what are the other options?” And I don’t know that acceptance means not having feelings, I think you might have even said that, right? It doesn’t mean we don’t have feelings. It just means maybe we can stop struggling, I wanna say?
Jackie: I don’t know, I just think it’s like, the common like, post is, you know – Buddhists really believe that we’re born – once you’re born, we’re born into suffering – I know it sounds kinda like a drag. But they feel like you can stop suffering by stopping desire. Meaning, if I don’t keep trying to change what is, in other words, if I fall down and break my ankle, right? Like your last caller was saying, the pain is now, and yes I’m in pain, but if I don’t accept that my ankle is broken and then go get it fixed, I’m gonna cause myself more suffering, you know what I mean? Like, I have to accept that it is reality you know?
Angela: Yeah. Reality sucks. [laughs]
Jackie: So I don’t know. Yeah! Reality sucks!
Jackie: My old shirt I had – “Reality – what a concept!” Right? And I think too, like Angela, you were talking about the attachment stuff, and somebody told me years and years ago that if I get attached to compliments, I’m also gonna get attached to criticism. And what if I took a neutral stance to what others thought about me?
Jackie: It seems kinda better.
John: That’s a thought.
Jackie: But I haven’t reached that yet. But, right? Like, if we could just – if somebody says, “Oh! Wow! I liked your…” whatever. “You sounded great on that podcast!” I could just say, “Thank you!” I don’t have to keep asking and grasping and, “Well, did you think it sounded good? Did you think…” You know what I mean?
Jackie: Like, I could feel good about it whether or not you thought that I was good at it. You know what I mean?
John: Yeah! Yeah, I do.
Jackie: And then, if I can find a way to be neutral with that, then if you tell me it sounds like shit, then I don’t have to take that to heart, either. But, anyway. I don’t know if attachment and acceptance are exactly the same. But we are human, and I do think it’s hard. You know, I’m not a big Big Book person, but I was working with these young guys in the treatment centre just this week, and it’s these ten young men that all lived together for 60 days, after they get out of 28-day, right? And so, you know, they’re always arguing about who’s not doing the dishes or who doesn’t have good hygiene. And I’m a mental health therapist, so I’m saying “This is not about the dishes, and it’s not about the hygiene. It’s always about something else.” But I did pull out the Big Book the other day and read them that paragraph, that one Acceptance, namely because the line after “Acceptance is the answer” where it says “When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing, or situation, some fact in my life, unacceptable to me.” Right? And so, for me, with these guys in early recovery, I’m saying “If someone doesn’t do the dishes, do you really have to let it ruin your whole day?”
Jackie: Or do you have to take it personally? ‘Cause this one guy was like, “It’s disrespectful to ME.” And it finally got down to where the guys were like, “I’m not doing it to YOU, I’m not doing my chores just ’cause I don’t feel like doing my chores.” But he was taking it, like, “You’re doing it TO me,” so.
John: Wow. That is interesting.
John: I’m glad to see that page 449 or 417 or whatever it is is still getting good use today.
Angela: Oh, it does! It does.
Jackie: Wow! Like, I mean, like I said, I’m not wedded to it, but you know. These guys are so young – young in recovery. It can be help.
John: Yeah! It absolutely can! ‘Cause like I was saying, too, I was never thinking about anything like that. And it is like, a new thought, it’s like, “Wow, yeah!” You know? It’s a different way of thinking. And it is very helpful. There usually is something going on externally that’s kinda causing me to feel a certain way. And if I can stop and think about it, that’s how you can begin to change whatever you’re doing!
Jackie: Yeah! And if I am so attached to how you’re acting and thinking and feeling, if my happiness is dependent on that, I’m just never gonna be happy. ‘Cause I can barely control how I think and feel and act! [laughs] So if I’m all wound up in how you do it, you know, I just, yeah. So, I do think it’s a lot about letting go, but, again, like the caller from Germany said – I completely believe, for me, it’s a process. It isn’t a fucking magic wand, like it sounds like it is in the Big Book or at the podium meetings. It is a process. And it hurts. But if I can accept or let go or just create some space, take a bubble bath, you know, I feel better! So I’m not letting you control my insides. So, anyway.
John: Well thank you for that, I appreciate it! That’s some good stuff to think about.
John: You know, it reminds me of what I’m learning in SMART Recovery of… it’s kinda like, cognitive behavioural therapy in a way. It’s like, you stop to think about how your feelings turn into your actions, I guess. How your thoughts and feelings can become actions.
Jackie: Yeah, absolutely!
John: And the whole idea is to not let – make that happen, I guess. [laughs]
Angela: So maybe like the mindful pause? [laughs]
Jackie: Exactly. That’s exactly what I was gonna say, Angela! [laughs]
Angela: I knew it! I knew it.
Jackie: We all have to carry around a pause button. You read my mind! [laughs] Well anyway, guys, thanks a lot for letting me rant and rave. I love you and I love the podcast and I’m gonna keep coming back, LOL.
John: Well thank you! Always nice to hear from you.
Angela: Talk to you later, Jackie. Thanks for calling.
Jackie: Be well. Okay, Angela. Bye.
John: Well that was some good stuff!
Angela: Yeah, definitely.
John: So I was kinda thinking about things that I’ve had difficulty accepting, and it was basically things that – I think, let me put it this way. I think it was easier for me to finally get to a point of acceptance when there was something – when I could do something about it. You know, when there was something I could really change.
John: You know I’ve had things in my life in soBrity that has happened that I can’t change. The death of a loved one. The death of a pet.
Angela: Or people that we care about who are ill.
Angela: Or terminal illness, things like that. Yeah, so those are particularly difficult when someone says, “Well, you just – it’s about acceptance!” It’s like, well, yeah, technically yes, [laughs] but it’s very difficult ’cause those are our difficult feelings. Yeah, I agree it’s a process. I was thinking that the process for me seems to be – when somebody tells me that I need to accept something, [laughs] ’cause my automatic is “Don’t boss me!” And so telling me to accept – my first inclination is “No, I’m not gonna accept that,” and then I have to go through the process. And then I guess that I don’t HAVE to go through the process. I know for myself that I need to go through the process and make the choice to actually look at what’s going on and what’s in reality because my choice is to look at reality and be congruent in reality as much as I can. And that’s my choice because when I’m not, then I have the ideas of trying to be out of reality and use something to get there. And that’s not what my choice has been, you know? That’s not how I want to live my life. I want to be in balance, be able to accept reality and to move forward and to do that with as much integrity as I possibly can. So, yeah, I still don’t care for reality most of the time, even when it’s good! And I think maybe it’s part of my personality, I don’t know. But reality and me… I’m always having to work on stuff. And yes, it is human. [laughs] And maybe it’s that I read too many fantasy novels as a kid or something. And I would like to be more than human and I have to accept my human-ness.
John: Tell me this, Angela. Do you think there’s a difference between self-acceptance and acceptance of others?
Angela: Um, I think that yeah, there is a little bit. I think acceptance just in general is in there as well. I think that right now in my life I have pretty decent self-esteem, you know?
Angela: Yeah, there are things that pop up and then what comes out is fear, and then sometimes shame, and those are things that I know are triggers for me. But I’m aware of them and I don’t tend to sit in them for very long. And so accepting other people – the funny thing is, I can accept them when I can see them and see their human-ness and see their, I don’t know… when I can empathize and such. Then I can accept them. I can’t always accept people’s actions and behaviours…
Angela: …very quickly, because I seem to be able to separate them from their actions and behaviours, but then I get upset when they can’t do that for me. [laughs] You know? So, yeah, it’s interesting. It depends on what we’re talking about, too. There’s certain subjects like – in recovery, and people who are new, I can accept certain behaviours and ideas and struggles that people have within recovery better than I can my friends that are outside of it. Or just anybody that I see that’s outside of it behaving in a certain way, you know? I don’t like that as much or I don’t go to acceptance as easily or go to empathy as easily as I do with somebody in recovery.
John: Tracy has a quote from – am I gonna pronounce this right? – Eckhart Tolle? T-O-L-L-E? “If you can never accept what is, by definition you will not be able to accept anybody the way they are.” “If you can never accept what is, by definition you will not be able to accept anybody the way they are.” Got a caller! Area code 785! Hello, how you doin’?
Bri: Hi John! This is Bri.
John: Oh, Bri!
Bri: Good, how you doin’?
John: Oh, great! Oh, I’m so glad that you called.
John: Long-time listener, first time caller.
Bri: Yeah! Short-time listener, first time caller. Do I get a T-shirt?
John: Oh yeah, there you go. T-shirt is on the way. It’s on the way.
Angela: Yeah, where are the T-shirts? I want a T-shirt!
Bri: You know, I found acceptance is, for me, is equal to serenity. In other words, the amount of energy I put into acceptance often equals the amount of serenity I get out of it, it seems.
John: Mm, okay. That sounds like that – there’s something from the Big Book that says something about that, isn’t there? That the amount… there’s something in there… I can’t remember what it is. But it’s like some sort of equation. Do you know what I’m talking about, Bri?
Bri: I kind of remember it, you know, like I said. I don’t read the Big Book a lot… like, never.
John: Right. [laughs] I don’t read it anymore, either.
Bri: I read How It Works, ’cause I think it’s wonderful. I think it’s a great piece of literature.
Bri: But yeah, I’ve always – I didn’t really believe that.
Bri: Until I found this agnostic group. And somebody in the agnostic group said it. Probably Genni, or maybe Greg A. or Greg O., you know, someone like that. They all sounded quite – probably Greg A. It all sounded quite true, you know, if I accept the situation that I cannot change, and I’ve tried every – I’ve worked around the problem every angle I can, once I accept that, my serenity is better. Sometimes just accepting that, I find the solution to the problem.
John: Bri, I used Google and I came up with that quote from the Big Book that’s reminding me of what you’re saying. It’s “My serenity is inversely proportional to my expectations. The higher my expectations of other people are, the lower is my serenity. I can watch my serenity level rise when I discard my expectations but then my rights try to move in and they, too, can force my serenity level down.” So it’s like, expectations and acceptance, I think, kinda go together.
Angela: That’s another thing with Eckhart Tolle that I recall hearing him speak about – about being frustrated and angry and that it often has to do with our expectations of how we think something should be. So like, if there’s a long line and we don’t think there should be one, we tend to get frustrated, or if people behave a certain way in traffic, they’re going outside of our expectations, and so we get frustrated. [laughs] And behave less than ideally. But yeah, that was what – my thoughts too, when you guys were talking about it, was that it has to do with expectations. And the funny thing is, most of the time I don’t think that – I’m not aware of my expectations, you know? I don’t think that I have any, and I’m not aware that I expected the TSA line to go a certain way and that people would move through it quickly or something, until I’m sitting there impatient because somebody didn’t bring out the water bottle and stuff that they had. So it’s interesting.
John: And if I’m not accepting something, it’s often because I have an expectation that it should be different than what it really is. And so it just bothers me so much that it’s not what’s happening, that it’s not the way it should be! [laughs]
John: [laughs] And you’re right! The more that I can put into just accepting, and letting what be, be, the more serene I am, I suppose. I like that, that’s a good one, Bri. You are correct.
Bri: Yeah, when I came out there to We Agnostics, and for some reason it broke out of the rust of the cogs and the gears in my mind.
Bri: You know, for 24 years of ideas sat there in my mind, you know, somehow I heard it in an agnostic meeting. I think a lot of it was – it wasn’t chained to that idea “Let Go, Let God.” You know?
John: Right, right.
Bri: Hearing the acceptance equation in that light… it made it, you know, ’cause the language of science is equations.
John: Right, right.
Bri: Mathematics. And that really helped me. So I just thought I’d call in case it might help someone else. Thank you for the podcast! I really enjoy it.
John: Well, thank you Bri! Appreciate it! Oh, thank you for calling. It’s so nice to have people from Kansas City listening to the podcast. [chuckles] I just love that.
Bri: Yeah, so this is from the Kansas side, you know.
John: I know, Kansas side! That’s cool. I like Kansas.
Bri: Yeah. Alright, bye-bye!
John: [laughs] Bye-bye. How nice!
Angela: Yeah, I was saying that Jackie can verify that nobody from Boise listens. Well, I guess one did, that one time!
John: Oh! [laughs]
Angela: But she’s not a part of the group, so nobody from Boise AA listens. [laughs] Yeah, they get tired of me – years ago, so. [laughs] And we were chatting about that the other night, at the end of the meeting – a few of us were left. As people were leaving and somebody asked something about the podcast, and somebody who’s known me for over, I think, 12 years, is like “You were on a podcast?” or “You’re doing a podcast?” [laughs] I’m like, “Yep. Yes, I am.”
John: You know what cracks me up about that call from Bri is that as soon as she mentioned that, I knew there was something in the Big Book, you know? And I just couldn’t grab it. But, you know, that damn Big Book… you have to understand. I read that book – I’ve read it more than any other book in my life. And I’m not proud of that, but that’s just what happened to me. [laughs]
Angela: Right, yeah.
John: That’s what was forced upon me, you know? And it’s like, there’s still little things that rattle around in my brain, and I might hear something in the world, and think “Hmm… I’ve heard that before in the Big Book!” [laughs] You know, it’s like, weird, but. Yeah, that’s kind of a good one, though! I have to say, there are some good little paragraphs from the Big Book occasionally. You can draw something good out of it. That little one is pretty good, I think.
Angela: Yeah, yeah. No, he did plagiarize some great things.
John: Yes, he did plagiarize!
John: Yeah, you know, I’m actually reading the book now about the Big Book?
Angela: Yeah, the Big Book that’s about the Big Book?
John: Yeah! And I’m only like two chapters into it, and the thing about that book is it’s really intimidating ’cause it’s huge, but it’s got like 300 pages of citations that you don’t really have to read. And the book is just big! I mean, it’s just like – I think they did it big on purpose like they did the Big Book. You know, it’s got bigger pages or whatever?
John: So anyway, I’m like two pages into it, and it’s like – the Big Book was written, from what I understand now, it was all part of the big plan that Bill had for, like, “You’re gonna have a book, you’re gonna have missionaries, you’re gonna have hospitals, and we need to have people that are gonna fundraise for this thing.” And that’s what the Big Book was starting off to be, is like part of that major plan.
John: But like I say, I’m only two chapters into it.
John: It’s kinda interesting. So anyway, back to acceptance! [laughs]
Angela: Yeah! Looks like there’s someone from Ecuador who’s having a hard time calling in!
John: Oh really? I wonder why.
Angela: Yeah. I don’t know.
John: It is a toll-free number. Maybe it doesn’t work everywhere. I don’t know why that is, but it seems like some parts of the world, you can’t do certain things. I don’t know why. I don’t know why.
Angela: Do they have to do, maybe, a 0-1?
John: Maybe, I don’t know. Maybe you have to – I don’t know. I really don’t know, I’m sorry. Did they leave a message in the chatroom? I’d love to think that there’s people in other countries that are listening. That’s so cool, that’s so nice.
Angela: Yeah, it is nice! [chuckles]
John: What a small world we live in, now.
Angela: Yes, it is. But one of the nice things is that should we ever need to flee as refugees… [laughs] We now have people around the world that will hopefully take us in!
John: I would hope so. I would sure hope so. Well, thinking about this also, I would say that – this is what is in the little notes I wrote before the podcast. I kinda came to a conclusion that acceptance isn’t the answer to all my problems, but it’s sometimes necessary to understand the problem, which I equate with acceptance so that I can take the action that I need to make the necessary change. And almost anything that I look at since I’ve been sober – any kind of problem that I’m encountering – my first thing that I need to do is just admit that there’s a problem, and then I need to try to understand the problem, I guess, or accept the problem. I kinda equate understanding with accepting for me.
Angela: Well, yeah. I guess you can’t truly accept something if you don’t understand it.
John: Yeah. And I also kind of – use understanding and replace “belief” for “understanding”, too. So I don’t really care about what I believe, it’s more important to me what I understand. It’s kinda weird.
Angela: No, I mean, yeah. I think language is important, that’s one of the main reasons why a lot of us started secular groups! [laughs]
Angela: Because language is important.
John: True, that’s true. Oh yeah, by the way I was reading that story last night – Doctor, Alcoholic, Addict – and I didn’t remember it being quite so bad, but there’s a lot of god stuff in there. A LOT of god stuff in there.
John: And he says some things that are a little bit odd, like, you know, “Nothing happens in God’s world by mistake.” I don’t know about that.
Angela: Yeah! I think that there’s a woman in one of our secular meetings who talked about changing that a little bit. Re-writing it in a way that is more open. And I think they may have just said “Nothing happens in THIS world,” which, you know, is an easy way to say that. And then it can change. ‘Cause when I hear somebody say “Nothing happens in God’s world,” I’m like, “Okay, so which god,” [laughs] and stuff like that. So I get totally off the actual subject that someone wants to talk about because of semantics!
John: Jackie says – and I kind of agree with her – she says her least favourite saying is “Everything happens for a reason.” See, I kinda feel like that. And for me, it’s not a bad thing, but it’s like… in this universe that we live in, there’s black holes, they got these quasar things that can blow up and wipe out our solar system, I mean… things happen! You know?
John: And there’s no reason for it! They just happen!
Angela: Yeah. And also, I think when people say that, “Everything happens for a reason,” it kind of minimizes whatever’s going on for people, which usually isn’t very helpful at all. Just, yeah, “Everything happens for a reason!” Well, technically I guess everything happens for a reason, because of inertia and, I don’t know, evolution and stuff like that. But it seems like within recovery, or how I choose to look at it, is more of the – we create meaning out of whatever’s going on, and that I’ve learned that I have some choice in how I choose to look at a situation – to create meaning from it. But yeah, I really have had a hard time when people would say things that – either everything happens for a reason, or, you know, they got a “God shot”, or something along those lines, as if… when the woman said that this whole thing of – another woman having to be murdered, that it was almost her, because God wanted her to get sober… that kind of “Everything happens for a reason,” I’m like, “Well, I don’t know that that idea works for me!” [laughs] Maybe all of those things happen and it was an impetus for you to get sober. That’s an easier for me to think about it, rather than “All of these terrible, horrible things had to happen in order for somebody to get sober…” Yeah. it doesn’t jive very well for me as well.
John: Do you see MSWM Nana’s comment up there? And I think this is a good point. She said she likes the Big Book, and reading out loud in meetings helped with neuroplasticity of her brain recover. “I actually accept the underlying principles found in the book. It’s flawed like all writings.” Now, she’s not alone in all that. I mean, there’s some people in my home group that surprise me that they like the Big Book. I mean, they don’t like maybe all the language in it, but like she points out, they do like the underlying principles within the book. I think that the only reason I have a problem with it is because it was such a big huge part of my life for 25 years, and when I finally kinda broke free from the language of that book and started speaking a little bit differently, people started using the book to prove me wrong – to put me in my place. And, oh man! So it gave me a really bad feeling about it. I almost had to recover from that, and I’m still kind of coming to terms with that Big Book. And like she says, there’s nothing wrong with the book, it’s how people use it. And that’s what was wrong.
Angela: My current understanding is that the book was written to be read by people who couldn’t be at meetings. And so, to me, it seems odd that we’re reading a book in meetings that’s meant to be for people who can’t get to meetings.
John: True! That’s true too.
Angela: And that people created it into a canon and all that, you know. I think it has its place and is useful, but. And I understand the neuroplasticity of reading out loud, but I think that, for me, some of the things that are written in there are no longer true or helpful to somebody who is in this century or this age! Particularly women or, you know, things like that. I do think that for a historical document – it can be used for that, and that it’s useful in that context. I just see it used in a lot of other ways and used to shame people or to get them into submission. So there are some useful things out of it, we’ve shared some of those tonight. But…
John: Maybe someday we should do an episode about the Big Book. Maybe we should have someone on who loves the Big Book, [laughs] and then someone who doesn’t like it? I don’t know!
Angela: Yeah! Could be!
John: And like Robert says down there, he says it’s flawed, he says it works for a lot of people… but the thing is it’s a document for its time. When it was written, it really wasn’t meant for us in the 21st century. Oh, we got a caller! We’ll take this call! Saving me from my meandering, blathering thoughts. How you doin’?
Maria: Good, it’s Maria from the Sober She-Devils!
John: Oh, Maria! It’s so nice to hear from you!
Angela: Hey Maria!
John: Sober She-Devils.
Angela: Maria, you don’t have an opinion on anything, do you?
Maria: [laughs] Acceptance is the key… um, actually, you know, I wanted to say something that hasn’t been brought up. There’s been a lot of great comments from the previous folks that have called in, but something that really helped me earlier on in my recovery with regard to thinking about acceptance was really embracing that acceptance doesn’t mean agreement. And that was huge for me. Because there’s so many things that I don’t like that I have to accept that I don’t agree with. And I’m not gonna elaborate, your let imaginations run wild, okay?
Maria: But that was definitely a game-changer for me, was coming to understand that just because I have to accept the things that I cannot change, doesn’t mean that I agree with the things that I cannot change. And, anyway, I thought I’d offer that up.
Angela: Yeah. Yeah, it is good.
John: That’s very true. There’s a lot of things going on that I can’t change that I don’t like and I don’t have to agree with, I guess. It’s just the reality that we live in, you know? Like this pandemic, all this crazy stuff that’s going on in our world today. It’s just the reality that we live in. But, as Angela said, we’re lucky that we do have each other. We have this connection with each other and we’re doing what we can do.
Maria: Absolutely. Absolutely. The other thing about acceptance, for me, is the opposite just brings me so much pain and so much anxiety and resistance to what is. I liked what Angela was talking about with regard to reality because I believe myself to be a realist. And when reality is smacking me around, I do much better to accept than to resist, because you know what they say in the movies, “Resistance is futile!”
Maria: There’s no point for me. The sooner I come to a place of acceptance, the less I suffer, so. Anyway you guys, thanks so much for all of the effort that you put into this, taking time out of your day to offer this to our secular community. I personally really appreciate it, so thank you.
John: Oh, thank you, Maria.
Angela: Yeah. Thanks, Maria. Good to hear from you.
John: Appreciate that. So this is amazing! We were actually able to take up an hour talking about acceptance which is really nice, because that means we didn’t have to talk about service work!
John: But someday we will! We’ll do an episode on service work. I mean I’ve got some strong feelings about that.
John: So many things. But anyway, next week – we were inspired so much by Sam coming on, talking about teachers in recovery – next week we’re gonna have… I believe Richard S. is his name, talking about doctors in recovery!
John: So, yeah. So that will be fun!
Angela: And specifically in this time as well.
Angela: Because I hadn’t really thought about that, like, with the teachers, what they’re going through. Being in recovery in general is, as we all know, something that we have to practice at and work on, but during this difficult time, they face a whole other set of challenges, and so I’m excited to hear from him and what his experience is. Not only because I’m not familiar with it, but also so that we can know – those of us in recovery – how we can be more supportive of people in healthcare that are in recovery right now.
John: Yep, I think that’ll be super interesting. So I’m looking forward to that. So everybody, thank you very much everyone! Angela, thank you, I couldn’t have done this without you.
Angela: [chuckles] Thank you, John.
John: Thank you everybody who is listening and commenting and the Facebook and YouTube and for calling in. We could not do this – you made this happen, this episode, believe me. I had a few notes scribbled down and no idea what I was gonna talk about, so. [laughs] That’s it! We did it! That’s another episode of AA Beyond Belief, the podcast. And there’s our outro music!
John: So if you’ve ever thought about supporting our site and podcast, you can do so by just a small contribution, monthly contributions, through our Patreon page at patreon.com/aabeyondbelief. You can also donate through PayPal at paypal.me/aabeyondbelief. Just go to our website aabeyondbelief.org and click on the “Donate” button. It really does help. We’re getting more patrons on Patreon and that’s really so nice. Small donations like a dollar, even five dollars a month, help us a lot. So anyway, thanks a lot everybody. This has been a lot of fun. Like I said, we’ll be back next week talking about doctors in recovery. Until then, you all take care and be well!
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