Acceptance in Addiction & Cancer

“And acceptance is the answer to all my problems today. When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, 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.” p. 449 Alcoholics Anonymous

As a social/political activist since my freshman year in high school, when I first got sober, the concept of acceptance as articulated in the lines above was difficult for me to handle.  But the words of the Serenity Prayer brought a greater understanding to acceptance:

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.

I take this basically as a counter to my self-will run riot fueled by my righteous indignation, but with a call to action and responsibility to humanity, and through my experience, strength, and hope, to choose or not choose to act on any given point.

For the past few decades the serenity prayer application of acceptance has served me well in both addiction recovery and living a life aligned on a path toward true self.

With my cancer diagnosis, I have come to accept my increased pain, lack of appetite, and fatigue.  But at the same time, I have come appreciate that:

  • if I am diligent each day in doing the exercises as prescribed by my physical therapist, my level of pain is tremendously reduced.
  • if I do not load up on grease and empty carbs, my appetite is pretty close to normal
  • and if I live in harmony with the above two points, get a goods night sleep, and remember that regardless of cancer, I am 65 years old, my level of fatigue is kept in check.

In the same way that I long ago accepted that I was an alcoholic, today I accept that I have Stage 4 cancer.  When I first got sober, I filled with my head with the latest science on the disease concept of alcoholism, genetics, twin studies, and so forth.  Although interesting, none of that information has kept me sober or moving forward on a recovery path.  Today, I am considerably less interested in the science of my cancer diagnosis.  I accept the diagnosis and leave that to the oncology specialists – the thing I cannot change.  However, as in sobriety, I am taking a very active role in how I live my life today to maximize my quality and quantity of time left on this earth – the things I can change.  I am increasingly learning the difference between the two.