Acceptance and Compassion: Cornerstones to Working Through Life Transitions

April 10th, 2011 | Posted by Sherry Gaba in Addiction

After attending a family reunion of sorts for a cousin’s Bar Mitzvah this weekend, marking the transition of a Jewish boy’s life at the age of 13 into manhood, I found myself in utter acceptance of any past hurts I had been clinging to.  I realized after years of distance from certain relatives, time moves so fast and as some relatives are just beginning their young lives, others, much older, are getting close to ending theirs.  I realized holding on to resentments kept me from enjoying great lengths of time with relatives at one time I felt very close to. This was one of those weekends when words were not necessary, although I found myself making amends to one very special cousin I had grown estranged from.  Something in me has lifted.  It is indescribable and I believe marks one of the most important transitions of my life.  I felt this blog post from a while ago needed to be re-posted.

Periods of change and transition can be stressful for most people. But for those grappling with an addiction, how you deal with change takes on even greater importance, since your addiction typically functions as your (maladaptive) coping mechanism in times of stress.

Applying acceptance and compassion can help you begin to shift negative responses to change. Pema Chodron, the American Buddhist nun and author, writes about both in her book, When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times:

“Compassionate action is a practice, one of the most advanced. There’s nothing more advanced than relating with others… To relate with others compassionately is a challenge. Really communicating to the heart and being there for someone else…means not shutting down on that person, which means, first of all, not shutting down on ourselves. This means allowing ourselves to feel what we feel and not pushing it away. It means accepting every aspect of ourselves, even the parts we don’t like. To do this requires openness, which in Buddhism is sometimes called emptiness — not fixating or holding on to anything. Only in an open, nonjudgmental space can we acknowledge what we are feeling. Only in an open space where we’re not all caught up in our own version of reality can we see and hear and feel who others really are, which allows us to be with them and communicate with them properly.”

As Chodron stated, compassion is a practice. So is acceptance. This means they are not second-nature, so be patient with yourself in this process and, in time, it will get easier. These tools, once instilled, will continue to see you through each life transition you encounter with less distress and more grace.

Sherry Gaba, LCSW, and Life Coach and author of “The Law of Sobriety: Attracting Positive Energy for a Powerful Recovery”.  Contact Sherry at for teleseminar, speaking engagements, workshop, and coaching packages and get your FREE Relapse Prevention Book at

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