I’m sure we’ve all heard of the concept of surrender as we’re going to meetings and trying to work the steps of recovery from addiction. But have you ever had the question – “What does surrender really mean?” Or “How do I practice surrender on a day to day, moment to moment basis?”
I know these questions have come to me before and still do occasionally.
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. Fear is what has been a root cause of my wanting to numb, hide, isolate, detach, and ultimately go down the path of lust and acting out. This has been the case my whole life if I’m honest with myself. Fear is the opposite of faith and to have faith, I have to do things that I can’t see but that I believe in. Surrendering my will is one of those practices.
And, to me, surrender is a practice. It’s just like hitting a baseball, shooting a free-throw, playing the guitar, or whatever hobby or interest one wants to get better at – practice is crucial.
But how do I practice surrender? What does that look like?
Rhyll goes on to talk about the process of surrender:
- On my knees
- On the phone
- In the box (or Write it down)
On my knees is pretty straightforward – 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. This could be a 3rd Step Prayer, a simple, “God, I can’t do this – please help me,” or a more formal thank you and request.
For me, practicing the chin-up approach – looking at everyone from the chin up (or from the feet down in some cases), has been a practice of “on my knees” over and over again. I CAN’T do this on my own. I CAN’T. But as I ask for His help, He is there to help EVERY TIME. The simple prayer of, “God, I know I’m in a dangerous place (the mall, the grocery store, or wherever there are lots of people). Please help me keep my chin-up and be aware of my surroundings.”
That’s it. Recognizing and surrendering to Him.
On the phone takes more humility in my opinion. I have to actually reach out to someone – be vulnerable – admit that I need other people to help me. I feel like the culture I’ve grown up in is all about “What can I DO?” It’s not about asking others for help. So reaching out, whether via a text or a call or both, is difficult but so essential.
In the Big Book of AA it says this:
Particularly was it IMPERATIVE to work with others. (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. (89)
I know I MUST get along without liquor, but how can I? Have you a sufficient substitute?” Yes, there is a substitute and it is vastly more than that. It is a fellowship in Alcoholics Anonymous. (152)
We alcoholics see that we MUST work together and hang together, else most of us will finally die alone. (563)
Finally, 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 a sponsee, or with other friends can also help me get additional perspective and awareness.
I’m grateful for Rhyll’s breakdown of surrender.
I’m grateful to be aware that surrender is an essential part of long-term recovery.
As I heard at UCAP:
If you want to go fast [through the steps and back into addiction], go alone.
If you want to go long, go together.