"And acceptance is the answer to all my problems today." -- "Alcoholics Anonymous" (AA's Big Book), pg. 417, from the story "Acceptance Was The Answer"
It used to be on page 449.
And the story used to be called "Doctor, Alcoholic, Addict."
But I'm getting ahead of myself.
For the new kids, AA's Big Book is in its 4th Edition. The first 164 pages have been virtually unchanged from the book's first printing in 1939. Following that are "personal stories" from a variety of people who found they could not control their drinking and discovered a solution in AA. At the most practical level these stories are included so that if someone has the book, but there are no meetings available, they have the chance to hear a variety of people share about their drinking and recovery, and perhaps that will help them determine if they, too, are alcoholic, and then help them decide if there might be something in AA for them as well. As time has passed it was deemed necessary to replace some of the personal stories in the back of the book to reflect both a new audience reading it and the broader membership of AA as a whole.
The story "Doctor, Alcoholic, Addict" was added in the 3rd edition (the one I got sober with) and was written by a man who became known as "Dr. Paul." He and his wife Maxine were regular attendees of a meeting I went to when I was newly sober, and I often heard one or the other of them speak (more Paul than Max, unless it was a double-bill at a convention, as she was Al-Anon). Although one facet of our principle of anonymity is that we are all equal in meetings, we're also only human, and as his story in the book became more of a focus for people Dr. Paul was sometimes quietly lauded to a degree which I think made him a little uncomfortable.
People became so fond of the sentiment and the story that in the 4th edition the title was changed to "Acceptance Was The Answer" (just in case you somehow missed the point on your own some helpful alcoholics decided to underscore it for you). Of course with changes in which stories were included -- some few were removed and some added -- the page numbers in the story section of the book changed, thus the acceptance quote is now found on 417.
Dr. Paul was a very funny speaker; smart, self-depreciating, wise... I don't think I ever did more than go up and thank him for speaking when he chaired a meeting, I was too shy to do more than that. At first the inclusion of his story in the Big Book was apparently a bit controversial in some quarters, as he discusses a good deal of drug usage in it, but over time its wisdom and message won many fans, and it became one of the most often quoted stories in the book: "Acceptance is the answer to all my problems today." people would say. A lot. I even saw vanity plates and bumper stickers which said "Page 449!" and the like. (I assume they all had to run to the DMV and get new plates when the 4th edition came out).
It drove me bonkers.
As with any spiritual axiom, there is a profound truth at its heart, but the more people throw it at you the easier it is to "yeah, but what about..." yourself into a kind of contrary madness.
"Acceptance is the answer to all my problems? Oh, am I supposed to accept the Nazi's? Am I supposed to accept domestic violence? Am I supposed to accept the exploitation of children? Elder abuse? Am I supposed to accept ..."
Oh for God's sake shut up. Of course not.
There's only one spiritual axiom I know of which can survive the avalanche of hypotheticals from a person determined to be closed-minded and contrary. But I'll get to that in a minute.
What drove me bonkers about this bit of spiritual wisdom, aside from the low grade pious schmuckery of the people who would sometimes try and slather it all over everything you shared with them, was how easy it was for me to abuse this sentiment.
After many (many) mistakes and a lot of inventory work, this is what I have learned:
Yes, on a spiritual level, acceptance is key to balance and serenity, and as such it is a principle which is an excellent touchstone for hyper-sensitive, melodramatic, resentment-prone alcoholics.
Stuffing how you feel is not acceptance. ("Fine! I'm fine with that! I'm in total acceptance!")
Low grade denial is not acceptance. ("You know what? It's really not that big a deal, I'm cool.")
Avoidance is not acceptance. ("I just need to let this situation be, and practice acceptance.")
To leave it at that without offering an idea about how to discern (for example) when I'm stuffing versus accepting makes the above nothing but a cheap word game.
So I must tell you that, for me, first it has been inventory writing (especially many 10th Steps), then sharing with friends and sponsors, and then listening for that Little Voice inside -- so wee and soft sometimes it's very hard to hear beneath the clamor of my ego and the charming banter of my addiction -- which has helped me find my way to some insight on acceptance.
If you think you can't write your way into some clarity via an inventory because you're not sure on how to do it, then ask for help.
If you secretly think that there's nothing which will be revealed via writing that you don't already know, then you better pray for help.
Acceptance is an answer to many things for alcoholics -- it is a powerful, profound spiritual tool. Just make sure what you're doing is accepting.
Oh, and that one bit of spiritual wisdom which can withstand any amount of hypothetical bombardment?