What does the “power of surrender” mean?
Why is surrender an essential part of the addiction recovery process?
Or is it?
Most of us have 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 this question:
“What does surrender really mean?”
“How do I practice surrender on a day to day, moment to moment basis?”
These questions can still come back to me as I get stuck with negative emotions or feelings, and I don’t know what to do with them.
In the book, “What Can I Do About
Him Me?” Rhyll Croshaw talks quite a bit about surrender. Here are a few things that stick out to me:
“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.”
The Power of Fear
“Fear is easy.” How true that is.
Fear is a root cause of me wanting to numb, hide, isolate, detach, and ultimately go down the path of lust and acting out.
Unfortunately, I’m finally starting to realize this has been the case my whole life.
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.
I’m learning that surrendering my fear 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 of my fears?
What does that look like?
A 3 Step Process of Surrender
Rhyll goes on to talk about one process of surrender:
- On my knees
- On the phone
- In the box (or Write it down)
Step 1. On My Knees
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 just looking at the ground 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.
Step 2. On the Phone
On the phone is tough. It takes a level of humility that, at times, I don’t want to have.
On the phone means 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: in fact, asking others for help seems to be weak or giving in – at least that’s been my perspective.
So reaching out, especially to actually call someone or talk to them in person, is extremely difficult.
In the Big Book of AA it talks about the importance of working with others:
Particularly was it imperative to work with others. (p. 14, bold added)
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, bold added)
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. (p. 152, bold added)
We alcoholics see that we must work together and hang together, else most of us will finally die alone. (p. 563, bold added)
Can it be more clear, then, that reaching out is an essential part of surrender and working recovery?
Step 3. Write it Down
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.
I’ve learned, from a great sponsor, to use the serenity prayer as a way to write out what I’m feeling:
“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.”
I try to follow his guidance by asking myself these three questions:
1. What do I feel right now?
2. Why do I feel this way?
3. What’s the next step I can take?
There have been times when 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, 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.
The White Book talks about surrender on at least 66 different pages. These are some of my favorite reminders:
“To win, I had to surrender and admit defeat.”(p. 21)
“I became as a child, teachable, having to reject my way of doing and thinking for a new way of life based on surrender of my will to God. (p. 23)
“We see that others who have gone before us have discovered that sex is truly optional, once they surrendered lust and the expectation of sex. And their comfort and joy are genuine; they are neither abnormal nor deprived.” (p. 31)
“As we learn to recognize and surrender our triggers in sobriety and accept our limitations, fear of falling lessens.” (p. 34)
“By surrendering lust and its acting out each time I’m tempted by it, and then experiencing God’s life-giving deliverance from its power, recovery and healing are taking place, and wholeness is being restored-true union within myself first, then with others and the Source of my life.” (p. 43)
“To stay sober sexually and grow in recovery, he will have to surrender his resentments.” (p. 49)
“Since we had something to do with becoming what we are, we can assume responsibility for the change of attitude-surrender-that will allow healing to begin. We can become willing to see and surrender what we know we’re doing wrong. The Fellowship and the Program of the Steps take it from there. (p. 57)
“All this was scary. We couldn’t see the path ahead, except that others had gone that way before. Each new step of surrender felt it would be off the edge into oblivion, but we took it. And instead of killing us, surrender was killing the obsession! We had stepped into the light, into a whole new way of life.” (p. 61)
“In recovery we find that Steps Six and Seven, once taken, become a continuing process. And rather than being a matter of eradication of the impulses to think or do wrong, it is freedom from their power over us, one temptation at a time. The defect itself may remain, but we no longer have to obey it. When we surrender the impulse and cast ourselves onto God each time it shows its ugly head, we receive the power to be free of it. And gradually, the impulses themselves get fewer and farther between. Healing.” (pp. 117-118)
To me, it seems that surrender is the key to a whole new way of life!
What are your thoughts?