Recovering from addiction is an exercise in self-acceptance and compassion. People who suffer from addiction must realize that they have no control over themselves or their actions. [1] That lack of control makes recovery from addiction problematic.

Self-acceptance and compassion are two pillars of addiction recovery. Self-acceptance helps the addict avoid self-blame, whereas compassion emphasizes forgiveness and motivation.

Self-Acceptance and Recovery

Defining self-acceptance is deceptively simple. On the surface, self-acceptance acknowledging that a person is not perfect — everyone has flaws. For individuals looking to come back from addiction, this acceptance is vital.

It is common for addicts to attack themselves for their perceived weakness. The lack of control that addicts feel leads to continued harmful behavior. Instead of accepting that they have no control over their situation, addicts focus their blame inwards and internalize it.

This internal blame can lead to mental illness. Consider co-occurring disorders, such as depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder. Unable to accept their lack of control, addicts commonly develop these illnesses. Think of it as a spiral — once an addict starts down the path of self-blame, it’s difficult for them to climb back. It’s an internal monologue of blame that reinforces negative behavior and harmful beliefs.

On Recovery

Individuals with true self-acceptance are able to take that internal monologue of blame and turn it into a constructive voice. The goal here is to establish a mental equilibrium — yes, the individual has flaws, but so does every human being. If the addict can learn to accept their flaws as part of their nature and begin to address them, real progress will result.

Radical Compassion and Recovery

Self-acceptance on behalf of the addict is central towards recovery, but compassion can be equally important.

Commonly thought of as a form of sympathy or pity, radical compassion is better viewed as a feeling of mutual suffering [2]. This applies to both the addict and the addict’s support network. The individual in recovery must feel compassion for his or her own suffering — just as he should feel towards the suffering of others.

Like self-acceptance, radical compassion of one’s own suffering helps recovery progress. If an addict is able to understand his own position, he can empathize with it — this acts as a strong motivator. Fueled with a desire to improve their own position, an addict can use self-compassion to affect positive changes in behavior.

In addition, self-compassion can help an addict power through self-blame. Addicts can begin to forgive themselves, thereby contributing to heightened self-acceptance.

The Role of Support Networks and Radical Compassion

Compassion is not limited to the individual in recovery. Strong, healthy social relationships have a remarkable effect on addiction recovery. Oftentimes, addicts can feel isolated and without purpose — a stable support network of friends and family can help.

Families and friends of loved ones in recovery should avoid blaming the addict for their position. Instead of seeing only an addiction, invest in the person underneath the addiction. The person suffering from addiction is just that — a person — and that person has dreams, goals, and desires. Compassion helps family and friends avoid defining a loved one purely by their addiction.

Putting the Person First

Self-acceptance and compassion are vital for addiction recovery. Not only do they help addicts forgive themselves, but they ensure that addiction does not define them as people. If addicts can begin to accept their own flaws and empathize in mutual suffering, positive results will begin to flow.

Source List

Meadows, The. “Addiction and Relationships – The Importance of Sober Respect.” Magnolia Recovery Center, 10 Aug. 2018, www.magnoliarecoverycenter.com/addiction-and-relationships-the-importance-of-sober-respect/.

“Cultivating Compassion in Addiction Recovery.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/ending-addiction-good/201309/cultivating-compassion-in-addiction-recovery.

  1. Magnolia Recovery Center, “Addiction and Relationships – The Importance of Sober Respect” 
  2. Psychology Today, “Cultivating Compassion in Addiction Recovery”