Radical Acceptance Opens the Door to Self-acceptance

Painting of a young woman in the water

by Nikki Russell, Recovery Coach

June 20, 2023


Painting of a young woman in the water

Image by Savannah Russell

"I relapsed," her voice trembling for fear of judgment from me. My gut twists and my shoulders get tight as I say, "I love you; there is nothing you could ever do to make me stop loving you," I tell her the words I wish I had heard in my addiction. Did she listen to me? Can she hear me through the guilt she harbors? I feel an emotion come up and out through my eyes; my breath is taken at the realization that I have found clarity. For the first time, I understand radical acceptance as an offering of the ability to hold a safe space. Two people who require somebody to bear witness to their pain with a willingness to feel it together. All the pain I felt from my past, and all the healing work I had done in recovery was for this moment, the moment I learned to respect my past as an instrument for healing. So many dots connected and unanswered questions answered, and at that moment, I thought I would never wonder, "Why me?" again.

Radical acceptance comes in moments of clarity, where denial transforms into connection. The test of my commitment to radical acceptance shows up when I try to fix, control, ruminate about the past, predict the future, or avoid pain.

When I began meditating years ago, I experienced acceptance as a way to freedom from addiction. I knew how to utilize it in my own life, but because it is a process that happens within, I did not know how to offer it as a life skill until the day my peer relapsed. I found myself desperate to affirm her worth; the ancient feeling that arose in me reminded me of what we both needed to hear. Radical acceptance is the choice to meet whatever is happening and let go of the idea that I need to be more than what I currently am to be valued. Radical acceptance acknowledges the past, embraces the current consequences, and dares to dream of the future and begin again.


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