Accepting a Loss of Control

Content Reviewed by Jennifer Wheeler, Clinical & Community Outreach

Most theories on substance use disorder assume that a loss of control is central to the experience of addiction. Most treatment programs validate these theories, recognizing that individuals must admit a loss of power as well as accept this truth for effective recovery to take place.

Admitting a loss of control and accepting a loss of control are two vastly different experiences. It can take months or years to come to terms with having a loss of control, especially for instances of substance use problems like addiction. However, shifting from admitting to accepting this loss of powerlessness may take even longer.

Understanding the value behind accepting a loss of control is essential to making this shift. Although it may seem too good to be true, accepting powerlessness over substance use and associated behaviors is vital to achieving long-lasting recovery. Once a person is able to recognize what they are truly able to control and accept feelings of powerlessness, they will be able to move forward in recovery with heightened senses of gratitude, positivity and willingness to secure life-long sobriety.

Why is Acceptance Important in Addiction Recovery?

Acceptance is the realization that everyone experiences suffering, limitations and stressors beyond their control. It emphasizes that challenging moments and experiences will only exacerbate if a person believes that they can go through life and have power over every circumstance on their terms. Acceptance is a necessary component of any healing process because it helps people make peace with the way things are and encourages individuals to go with the flow instead of resisting reality. It recognizes and promotes living life on life’s terms.

Acceptance is vital in recovery because it empowers individuals to deal with their loss of control over substance use. If a person recognizes their loss of control over substance use but does not truly accept it, they may fall victim to the belief that they may be able to gain control back over their substance use at some point. This thinking is problematic for individuals during the initial stages of recovery and long-term sobriety, as it increases the risk of relapse. 

How to Recognize Non-Acceptance in Addiction Recovery

To better understand how vital acceptance is in recovery, it may help to learn how to recognize signs of non-acceptance. Emotional non-acceptance may surface as any of the following:

  • Denial
  • Guilt
  • Resistance or ambivalence
  • Anger
  • Shame
  • Fear
  • Self-pity

During any typical day, these feelings may surface as a response to emotional or environmental triggers. However, for someone struggling with a substance use disorder like addiction, these emotions override an individual’s psyche. For someone not yet ready to come to terms with their powerlessness over substance use, these emotions will perpetuate substance-using behaviors. Luckily, some treatments can help individuals overcome these feelings, even if they are still hesitant about acknowledging their need for help.

Many therapeutic interventions are specifically designed to help individual’s overcome their low self-esteem or ambivalence surrounding the desire for change. Most of these interventions take place in individual psychotherapy or group therapy sessions. Notable therapeutic approaches that can help individuals to accept a loss of control include:

  • Acceptance and Commitment Therapy
  • Motivational Interviewing
  • Conscious Recovery

How Mindfulness Can Encourage Acceptance

Many treatment facilities associate acceptance with mindfulness. Mindfulness is a holistic treatment modality that incorporates being fully aware of the present moment and considers internal awareness regarding thoughts and emotions as well as external awareness regarding one’s environment. Acceptance is often recognized as an essential feature of mindfulness, along with several other features, including:

  • Objectivity
  • Non-judgment
  • Compassion
  • Gratitude

Mindfulness interventions emphasize these features by using many different practices, such as mindfulness meditation and breathwork. These features overlap, which creates a valuable framework for individuals to follow throughout their healing processes.

Acceptance teaches individuals to have a non-judgmental, objective attitude toward personal life experiences. It helps people avoid labeling experiences as inherently positive or negative or good or bad. In place of labels, acceptance emphasizes the importance of looking at the brighter side of situations by practicing gratitude.

How Treatment Can Help Patients Secure Acceptance

Aside from mindfulness interventions, there are many ways that treatment can help patients accept a loss of control. Some people may acknowledge this loss before they begin treatment, while others will need some guidance on how to get there. Once a person discovers the value of acceptance, they will benefit greatly from professional help.

Treatment will help patients reduce rumination and intrusive thoughts, which tend to perpetuate substance use, and in turn, guide patients to accept the things they cannot control. Treatment will encourage patients to discover their personal, underlying causes for initial substance use, which will help them to realize that substance use is often used as a coping mechanism for dealing with complex challenges in life. Most importantly, treatment will motivate patients to recognize the power within them and their ability to commit their lives to positive change.

Although acceptance is the first step in healing, it will heal more than just the consequences of substance use. Acceptance teaches patients the value of letting things go to allow personal growth.

DiscoveryMD understands the value of accepting a loss of power and believe it is a vital step in the healing process. If you are struggling with your ability to accept powerlessness over substance use, we offer treatment approaches that can help you overcome your ambivalence and motivate your willingness to change. To learn more, contact us today.

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