When I write about acceptance, I always get emails from people asking me what it is precisely, and how to practice it. I’ll do my best to explain. Acceptance means we accept life on life’s terms. We don’t run away or try to change or fix the things we can’t control. It would be a waste of time and energy even to try. It’s one of the reasons I love the Serenity Prayer so much. It reminds me to not waste my time and energy on something I have no control over. (God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.) We have very little control over benzo withdrawal, so accepting our lives as they are will help us reduce our suffering.

For me, acceptance is a way of being. It’s an emotional stance, a lens I use to look at the world. I have to be humble to practice acceptance. I have to realize I’m not God. I’m not in control of the universe or the people, places, and things that are in it. I trust that God has everything in His hands and I put my time, energy, and focus on the things I can control, like my actions, my thoughts, my feelings, and beliefs. I can control how I decide to view myself and the world around me. I know, in benzo withdrawal that may be a challenge due to our compromised receptors and everything can look and feel overwhelmingly dark and sinister and we can have intrusive thoughts, etc. But, we can remind ourselves on a daily basis that our doom and gloom isn’t who we truly are. It’s just another benzo withdrawal symptom and it will go away as our brains heal.

Acceptance is also a behavior, an action. When I practice acceptance I’m not scurrying about doing things to try to change that which I cannot. I’m at rest, utilizing my energy for other things. When I was in my setback, I wasn’t able to stand up for quite some time without a severe reaction of my CNS (Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome). At first, I fought it, thinking that pushing myself would help me. I tried to hobble around the block using a walker. But I soon realized the folly of that thinking and accepted that I was going to be bedridden for a while. And so I hunkered down for the duration, going so far as to place a bucket near my bed so I didn’t have to walk to the bathroom, and I asked a friend to move in to cook for me. I used the downtime to write my first novel, often glued to my laptop for hours at a time. Telling Penny’s (the protagonist) story helped me to pass the time while my CNS repaired itself. I wasn’t thrilled with being bedridden, don’t get me wrong. But I didn’t waste hours a day fretting about it.

Let me say, to be clear, that acceptance isn’t cowardly, nor is it a weakness, as some surmise. It’s not about being a victim or a doormat. People have told me that they don’t like giving in to life when it’s not on their terms. What I want them to understand is that you’re not “giving in.” It’s not about giving up. Quite the opposite! Acceptance is about standing tall and firm, even in the face of extreme adversity. It’s a decision to rise above the chaos in life, so it doesn’t disturb our peace. We may not be able to change what is happening around us or to us, but we can change our attitude, and that is one of the most powerful tools we have towards health and wellness.

Open your heart. Trust that the things you can’t control are going to eventually, maybe way down the road, work out for the good, somehow. Trust that everything is okay. You don’t have to do anything other than to say “thank you,” for this moment. When you find yourself not at peace with life—when you’re disturbed, unhappy, resentful, angry, etc., the chances are good that you aren’t in acceptance. Those emotions are often a reminder for us to move over into acceptance where we will be more at peace.

I’ll close by saying that acceptance is what tames the beast within ourselves. It calms the soul and soothes our central nervous system. Acceptance allows us to increase our health and vitality. It restores us, in so many ways. I hope you’ll practice acceptance to the best of your ability. And over time, I hope it becomes a habit, a way of life for you.

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