This topic has been on my mind off and on for quite some time, especially after attending LDS ARP meetings.
I often hear some of my fellows say things like,
“I know I can overcome this addiction,”
“I know that if I read my scriptures more and pray more, I will overcome this.”
Unfortunately, I’ve thought that way in the past as well. Too many times.
And where did my efforts to overcome the addiction get me? Nowhere good. Ever.
The topic I want to discuss today is the difference between overcoming my addiction vs. surrendering the addiction to my Higher Power, as I understand Him, and letting Him help me do what I can’t do on my own.
What is Surrender?
In Rhyll Croshaw’s book, “What Can I Do About
Him Me?” she talks quite a bit about surrender:
The first three steps of the program are all about accepting, believing in and surrendering to God.
The first three steps are often a daily process of learning to surrender my will to God through believing in His great power. For most of us, surrendering our will to God is one of the most difficult things we may ever do. One spiritual leader has said:
The submission of one’s will is really the only uniquely personal thing we have to place on God’s altar. The many other things we “give,”…are actually the things He has already given or loaned to us. However, when you and I finally submit ourselves, by letting our individual wills be swallowed up in God’s will, then we are really giving something to Him! It is the only possession which is truly ours to give!”
I have discovered that surrendering is an emotional, physical and spiritual process directing me to God. I can’t merely say that I will surrender my fear. I have to work through these steps daily.
If the surrender process isn’t firmly in place, it’s rather easy for me to go to a place of fear…Fear is easy. To deal with those feelings of fear and maintain peace in my life, the surrender process is essential.
Fear, then, is the opposite of surrender. If I’m not willing to surrender my feelings to God, I’m putting my trust in my own arm and am afraid God isn’t listening.
I do think the word “surrender” can be misunderstood in connection with recovery. After all, the definition of surrender is this:
This is NOT what surrender means to me in recovery. I’m not giving in to the enemy or opponent and submitting to their authority at all.
Instead, I’m surrendering to God and putting my trust in Him.
For me, surrender looks like this:
- On my knees
- On the phone
- Write it down
On my knees is pretty straightforward but can be a checklist item if I’m not careful. I have to reach out to God, my higher power, and ask for His help in the moment. I have to show a level of trust that He is listening and that He will help me.
One thing that has stuck out to me recently about the “on my knees” concept is that, for many years, my prayers have been about what I want. Rarely, if ever, have I ask God what He wants me to do.
And how can I really practice Step 3 in recovery if I’m always asking, or telling, God for things that aren’t really in alignment with His will in the first place?
If all I’m doing is asking God for things I think I need, I probably won’t get the answers I’m hoping for or expecting. Then, when I don’t get those answers, I figure that He isn’t listening or that I’m not worthy of the answer.
At this point in my addictive mind, I’ve stopped praying altogether…
On the phone takes more humility in my opinion.
Reaching out to others, especially verbally, can cause me more fear. But, I’m learning that talking with others can be much less revised and scripted – things can just come out that I hadn’t really thought through or re-hashed on paper before sending to someone.
Reaching out to others is vulnerable. But if I want real recovery, I have to realize that I need other people to help me.
In the Big Book of AA it says this:
Particularly was it IMPERATIVE to work with others. (p. 14)
To watch people recover, to see them help others, to watch loneliness vanish, to see a fellowship grow up about you, to have a host of friends-this is an experience you MUST not miss. (p. 89)
Write it down. I’ve found that writing out my feelings, emotions, fears, and frustrations has been one of the most therapeutic practices I’ve ever done.
There have been times where I’m not even sure what I’m thinking or feeling. I start to write, and my mind seems to open up and things come out that I’d never thought of.
Sharing my writing with my wife, with my sponsor or a sponsee, and with other friends can also help me get additional perspective and awareness.
Can We Really Overcome Addiction?
I feel this is a debatable question. But my gut says no.
For me, when I hear overcome, it makes me think about scriptures like “putting my trust in the arm of the flesh.”
When I hear overcome, it reminds me of how many times I tried and tried and thought I could beat the addiction. Never happened.
Overcome reminds me of the analogy of sitting in a rowboat throwing marbles at a battleship. Am I ever going to win that fight?
How Many Times Does AA Talk about “Overcoming” Alcoholism?
Out of curiosity, I checked in the Big Book of AA to do a comparison of the words “overcome” and “surrender.”
The word “overcome” is mentioned 13 times in the Big Book of AA. Some of those mentions aren’t in the context of this discussion. Here are a few examples of how the word “overcome” is used:
These men were not drinking to escape; they were drinking to overcome a craving beyond their mental control. (p. XIX)
There is scarcely any form of trouble and misery which has not been overcome among us. (p. 15)
If a mere code of morals or a better philosophy of life were sufficient to overcome alcoholism, many of us would have recovered long ago. (p. 44)
When the spiritual malady is overcome, we straighten out mentally and physically. (p. 64)
The best reason first: If we skip this vital step, we may not overcome drinking. (p. 72)
For the wives of Alcoholics – We want to leave you with the feeling that no situation is too difficult and no unhappiness too great to be overcome. (p. 104)
The word “surrender” is actually only mentioned 11 times. The context, in my opinion, is more what I envision long-term recovery to look like:
And I took everything that A.A. had to give me. Easy does it, first things first, one day at a time. It was at that point that I reached surrender. I heard one very ill woman say that she didn’t believe in the surrender part of the A.A. program. My heavens! Surrender to me has meant the ability to run my home, to face my responsibilities as they should be faced, to take life as it comes to me day by day and work my problems out. That’s what surrender has meant to me. I surrendered once to the bottle, and I couldn’t do these things. Since I gave my will over to A.A., whatever A.A. has wanted of me I’ve tried to do to the best of my ability. (p. 300)
God had restored me to sanity, and I took Step Two the very moment I surrendered and accepted my powerlessness over alcohol and the unmanageability of my life. (p. 335)
Just a few of the gifts of the program for surrendering, suiting up, and showing up for life every day. Good days and bad days, reality is a wild ride, and I wouldn’t miss it for the world. I don’t question how this program works. I trust in my God, stay involved in A.A. service, go to lots of meetings, work with others, and practice the principles of the Steps to the best of my willingness each day. (p. 337)
What’s the Answer Then?
Is there really an answer?
Can one overcome addiction?
Or is addiction “overcome” only through surrender to our Higher Power?
To me, surrender is the answer.
To me, overcoming is synonymous with “white-knuckling” and has always led me back to my rituals and choices that end in relapse.
One of my favorite quotes from SA is the 3rd Step Prayer, which I feel summarizes perfectly what recovery looks like:
God, I offer myself to Thee To build with me & to do with me as Thou wilt. Relieve me of the bondage of self, that I may better do Thy will. Take away my difficulties, that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help of Thy Power, Thy love & Thy way of life. May I do Thy will always.
To me, THIS is surrender and this is what long-term recovery from sexual addiction looks like.
I look forward to your experience and how you are working your recovery today.