Write down the following questions:
- What does surrender mean for me?
- How has surrendering helped me in my recovery?
- What is currently preventing me from surrendering today?
These are significant questions for any individual engaged in recovery. Whether one is in the early stage of recovery, middle stage or in the maintenance stage (sobriety) of their recovery. Each one of us have a simple understanding of surrender. Hang around any 12-step program and most alcoholics and addicts have a more deeper understanding (and hopefully a profound one) of surrender. It is a simple word that may cause some to cringe, squirm, or enter into their own cocoon of denial. Let us look at this word – and how it relates to addiction and recovery from alcohol and or drugs.
Surrendering toward Addiction
First, we must discuss the elementary nature of addiction. Defined, addiction is a chronic and progressive disease of brain reward and motivation. This is typically characterized by the following points:
- Addiction creates a causation where one engages in self-destructive thoughts and feelings that are manifested in particular behaviors where negative consequences come to fruition.
- Addiction evolves into a growing fear of facing our true selves and creates a power struggle associated with abstinence and recovery.
- Addiction becomes chronic and progressive in a fruitless journey of avoidance and sabotage – despite the negative consequences.
- Addiction is marked by a motivating desire to increase a false sense of happiness and/or euphoria or to decrease the ability to feel pain one may experience in life.
- Addiction begins with a willful and purposeful choice that becomes progressive toward ongoing dependence and drive to satisfy at any given cost (loss of employment, housing, friends, business, money, personal empowerment and liberty).
In essence, an individual has completely and whole-heartily surrendered themselves over to their addiction and the addictive lifestyle. It is progressive because it is not something that occurs over night. Chronic because it becomes ongoing with increased frequency and amount an individual desires to consume in order to reach a sense of euphoria and balance. This is where the understanding of powerlessness and one’s life becoming unmanageable come into focus. Addiction is an act of surrender toward a life that is powerless and unmanageable.
Surrendering toward Sobriety
Because addiction (and the addictive lifestyle) began with the simple act of surrendering, sustained with the act of purposeful ongoing surrendering of one’s life; Surrendering is also a purposeful and willful act that establishes a firm foundation for authentic recovery. Without surrender, recovery (and the necessary life changing process recovery evokes) is not possible – or hopeful. Therefore, just as addiction is marked by characteristics associated with it, so also is recovery marked by specific characteristics of surrendering:
- Surrender is the foundation and ground on which one builds their entire recovery and provides the necessary hope and change needed to move toward an active sober lifestyle
- Surrender requires a willful and committed act of giving up one’s fight against perceived threats.
- Surrender allows one to start feeling whatever our addiction disallowed us from feeling (e.g. Shame, Guilt, Embarrassment, Grief and loss, fear of the unknown, sense of remorse, depression and anxiety).
- Surrender is marked by one’s openness and honest willingness toward a sense of powerlessness over their addiction and the unmanageable lifestyle one’s addiction has created.
- Surrender involves losing our perceived notion and self-identity (the ego, or known self/perceived or defined reality) as we have come to understand and have protected as a means of human survival.
- Surrender not only involves an open, honest and willing act of an individual – it takes enormous amounts of courage, hope, faith and trust in surrendering.
- Surrendering involves one facing their greatest fear – admission of one’s weakness and sense of defeat.
- Surrender inevitably transforms into the greatest sign of strength.
- Surrendering’s first paradox is that of giving over one’s pride and admission of defeat where it leads toward a life of freedom and power.
- Surrender brings freedom from our own strategies that are not working any longer (what we have been doing to secure a sense of happiness/euphoria) and our attempt to ward off any fears of the unknown.
- Surrender means facing the challenges of the unknown and loosing of the many ways we have come to define our own sense of reality.
- Surrendering involves getting into a deep psychological paradigm shift of how we perceive and define our sense of reality.
- Surrender means we give over our perceived sense of control we believed alcohol and/or drugs had once given us.
- Surrendering’s second paradox is the amount of effort needed to reach a place of surrendering.
Surrendering, as seen here, leads to the ultimate sense of self, sense of power, sense of freedom, sense of belonging and sense of fun and leisure. It becomes how a person re-identifies themselves in a new and enlightening way.
How surrender keeps you from surrendering
Within this context, the very act of surrender motivates and drives us to move further and further away from the addiction and addictive lifestyle. No, there is no cure for addiction. However, constant maintenance of the lifestyle change that is wrought about by the recovery process still involves a constant and vigilant discipline of surrendering. Without this constant act of surrender, one will falter and move back toward surrendering to their old addictive lifestyles. Yes, relapsing is part of the recovery process. However, the more we strive to surrender toward a healthy sober lifestyle, the more we work to prevent ourselves from giving into those triggers, cravings and urges that will have us surrendering to our addiction once again.
Remember those three questions at the beginning? Use the comment space on this blog to answer them and share your thoughts with other readers as to what surrender really means to you? How surrender has helped you in your own recovery? And, What is preventing you from surrendering today?