The Challenges of Uncertainty
There’s no doubt in anyone’s mind that 2020 has been a difficult year. The COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has drastically changed most aspects of our daily routine and left everyone wondering what to expect next.
Dealing with uncertainty is stressful for anyone, but it’s especially challenging for people in recovery who are still developing healthy coping mechanisms. Radical acceptance, a concept associated with dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), can help people struggling with addiction continue to move forward in their recovery by providing a way to face challenging situations without turning to drugs or alcohol for comfort. Radical acceptance techniques can be applied to COVID-19 related stress, as well as job loss, financial difficulties, divorce, illness, or other types of sudden and unexpected difficulty.
What Radical Acceptance Involves
Developed by psychology professor Marsha Linehan, radical acceptance is based on the belief that you don’t need to like reality to accept it. When used in a therapeutic setting, it asks you to:
- Accept your life for what it is
- Evaluate your situation without anger or judgment
- Refrain from blaming yourself or others for the aspects of your situation that you don’t like
- Make peace with the fact that some aspects of your life are simply beyond your control
- Practice mindfulness by living in the present moment
Radical acceptance acknowledges that situations in life are often fundamentally unfair. However, it stresses that fixating on what your preferred outcome might have been will only add to your suffering. Accepting your circumstances keeps you moving forward.
Examples of Radical Acceptance in Action
Practicing radical acceptance takes time and patience. The steps involved will look different depending on what challenges you are facing.
Here’s an example of how radical acceptance might look if you’re worried about the risk of being ill from COVID-19:
- COVID-19 is a serious illness, but most people make a full recovery.
- Social distancing can feel lonely at times, but it helps keep me safe, and I can connect virtually with my friends and family.
- I can wash my hands, use hand sanitizer, and wear a mask to protect myself from germs.
- The same wellness-focused habits I use to move forward in my addiction recovery—exercising, eating right, and getting enough sleep—help boost my immune system to reduce my coronavirus risk.
If you’ve been laid off from your job:
- My company was experiencing financial difficulties and needed to reduce staff.
- Even though I did my best to be a good employee, my position was eliminated.
- This feels unfair, but I can move forward.
- Unemployment benefits and careful budgeting can help me get back on my feet.
- I have good relationships with my coworkers, so I will ask them about being references in my job search.
If you’re coping with the loss of a loved one who died suddenly:
- I expected to have many more years together, but my loved one was suddenly taken away from me.
- I’m sad that I didn’t get to say goodbye, but I know my loved one knew how important they were to me.
- Sharing memories with others who care about my loved one makes me feel better.
- My loved one was passionate about the value of education, so I can honor their memory by starting a memorial scholarship fund.
You Shouldn’t Accept Mistreatment from Others
One common misconception about radical acceptance is that it encourages people to put up with situations where they are deliberately mistreated. Radical acceptance never suggests that you should put your physical and mental safety at risk.
If you are in a toxic relationship with someone who doesn’t respect your boundaries or wholeheartedly support your sobriety, radical acceptance means acknowledging that this person doesn’t have your best interests at heart. If you’ve tried to express what you need and they won’t listen, they’re not going to change simply because you’ve enjoyed your time together in the past. Ending the relationship may be painful, but it’s the only way to protect yourself and continue moving forward with your recovery.
Radical acceptance encourages you to distance yourself emotionally from a troubling situation so you can objectively evaluate the circumstances. If you have the power to implement steps that can change the outcome for the better, you should do so. However, if the situation involves someone who is unwilling to play their part in creating a positive outcome, walking away so you can continue to move forward with your life is a reasonable response.
Mountain Laurel Recovery Center Is Always Open
As an essential service provider, we remain open to serve clients throughout the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. If you need help moving forward with your recovery, staff members at our Pennsylvania substance abuse treatment center are here to provide the support and encouragement you need to confidently tackle whatever challenges the future may hold.