How to Surrender in Addiction Recovery
The practice of surrender in recovery will be indispensable to you on your healing journey.
Surrender is an act of raw honesty with ourselves.
In 12-step, the first step is the admission of powerlessness, but what many don’t realise is that this doesn't mean you’re inherently powerless as a person.
On the contrary, you’re wildly powerful.
You have the ability to heal, grow, and expand beyond everything that has been holding you back, and the vehicle through which you can do that is surrender.
What does it mean to surrender in addiction recovery?
There’s such an irony when it comes to the concept of surrender. We hear that word and don’t want to surrender because we want to be in control.
But in reality, when we’re in active addiction, our substance of choice is what ultimately has control over us.
It dictates our thoughts, our actions, our days, and our relationships.
In early recovery from addiction, surrender is really about letting go of where you think you should be, who you think you should be, and what you think things are supposed to look like.
It is allowing yourself to freely embrace what is, and have faith in what’s to come.
Surrender is all about relinquishing the grip you have on what you think things should be like and allowing yourself to seek and receive help.
It means letting go of your specific, detailed expectations and embracing what is and what’s next.
Surrendering in recovery is about letting go of the desire to control things and accepting things as they are.
It’s about focusing on what we can control, doing the next right thing, and letting go of the results.
It’s not a one-time action, but rather an ongoing practice.
Surrender is a weapon against resistance
If surrender is all about acceptance and letting go of control and expectations, then the opposite of surrender is resistance.
This is important because resistance causes so much internal conflict within us.
When we experience resistance, it's often because there is an emotion that comes up based on where we really are and where we think we should be. This emotion is quite often fear, even though we may not realise it.
As an example, lets say you missed out on a job promotion that you really wanted. You are convinced that the promotion was not offered to you because of a case of “not what you know but who you know”.
You resist moving on, feeling resentful at not being appointed for a promotion that you feel should have been yours. You've worked so hard to gain the recognition you feel you rightly deserve. Now you feel deflated, angry, and rejected. You placed your faith in your manager and now you feel let down.
What if you were to surrender to the fact that this promotion was not meant for you? Perhaps something better is around the corner? What if you trust that what is meant for you, won't go past you?
You surrender to not knowing all the answers and instead have faith that not being promoted may well have been the best thing for your mental and emotional health in recovery. In surrendering, your vision is expanded beyond what is right in front of you. You are no longer fixed on one point. Instead, you are open to a world of possibilities.
Accept you do not have all the answers
You could of course ask why you didn't get the promotion. This may help you to understand what you may need to work towards. In any conversation, always try to be open-minded. This enables you to be accepting. It enables you to surrender to what is, and then move on.
Otherwise, the resentment remains. You start to resent work, your manager, and your colleagues. Instead, you could just let it go and place your focus, energy and attention on something more positive.
When you take the standpoint of complete trust and faith that everything happens for a reason, you are surrendering in your recovery. You may not know that reason, yet. But you have faith it will become clear in time. You exhale deeply and feel the tension and resistance literally leave your body. You feel free from resistance and anger.
Resistance also comes up when there is an emotion that is based on what we think other things or people should look like, versus what other things or people actually are like. It comes up when we judge other people based on our own concept of what we would say, do or think in a certain situation.
When we practise surrender in recovery, it paves the way for so much personal growth. It allows us to shift perspective, take accountability for the things we can control, and it takes a weight off of us.
Surrendering is not a weakness
It’s important to keep in mind that surrendering is not linked with weakness. Instead, it’s a huge sign of strength and faith in your ability and desires to get better.
Many people may hear the word surrender and think it means to give up, but it’s not about giving up at all. It’s about being so secure and having so much faith in wanting to get better and do better that you let go of trying to control all the things you think are holding you back.
Thoughts of control usually come from fear or a sense of not knowing what’s to come. When we don’t know what’s next, we try so hard to control the outcome, even for things that are uncontrollable.
To allow yourself to surrender in recovery will help invoke a sense of peace and trust in what’s next.
It’s an act of courage, strength, and faith.
Why surrender in addiction recovery is important
Admitting that you're struggling with substance use is an important first step on the journey of recovery. It’s also an act of surrender in recovery, as you decide to no longer operate in denial. You decide to let go of the resistance towards facing the reality of your addiction.
Many people think that ceasing their substance use is an act of willpower, but it extends so far beyond this. When you operate from a place of forcefully trying to exert willpower, you’re in a place of fighting to control your substance use.
Recovery takes so much more than willpower. Part of the reason for this is that the nature of addiction inherently changes the way the brain works.
After long periods of substance use, the prefrontal cortex part of the brain becomes damaged. This part of the brain controls our decision-making, our impulse inhibition, and our problem-solving abilities. The parts of the brain that become compromised through addiction control the things we need if we want to experience a long-lasting and healthy recovery from addiction.
Additionally, substances release a rush of dopamine to the brain, which is a feel-good neurotransmitter. When in recovery, it’s important to find new ways of getting that dopamine in. Forming friendships, experiencing affection, and connecting with others offer ways to experience a similar dopamine release.
This is why it is so important to get outside help in recovery. This includes getting help from counsellors or therapists who can help you rewire your neural pathways over time.
It also includes getting help from a community of people who understand you, and can provide you with connection and support.
The benefits of surrender in recovery from addiction
Incorporating the practice of surrender in recovery and in your life overall will truly change the way you view your current circumstances. It will enhance your relationships, and allow you to experience a deep and profound level of healing.
Below are just some of the many benefits of practising surrender in recovery:
- Foster a positive outlook
- Learn to practise acceptance, which will grant you more peace
- Gain deeper insight into your emotions and triggers
- Learn how to regulate your emotions
- Experience freedom from self-limiting thoughts
- Learn how to set attainable goals for yourself
- Open yourself to more opportunities and possibilities for healing and growth
Now you know a little bit about what surrender is, what it isn't, and why it's so important in recovery. Read on to learn about just how to incorporate this profound practice into your recovery journey.
How to surrender in recovery
As previously mentioned, surrendering in recovery isn’t a one-time act but rather, an ongoing practice.
Below are some of the ways you can incorporate this practice of surrender whether you’re in active addiction, early recovery, or even if you’re well into your recovery journey.
1. Admit that you’re not in control
Knowing that you’re not in control of your substance use brings you one step closer to surrender. Unfortunately, it can be really hard to admit this to ourselves.
One way to do this is to take an inventory of where you are in your life right now.
- What does your life look like?
- What do your relationships look like?
- How about your career?
- How do you feel most days?
Then, look at how your substance use has or has not impacted these areas. Try to do this from an impartial, unbiased perspective.
You’ll come to find that your substance use has impacted your life more than you realised. If you really had control, examine if your life would look the way it currently looks.
Admitting that you aren’t in control is a huge first step of surrender in recovery.
2. Accept what is
Accept the current reality of your circumstances. Even tougher than facing the reality of our circumstances and the reality that we’re not in control of our substance use, is accepting these things.
Rather than pushing back on or ignoring the current circumstances, accept them as being real. This is important because we need to know where we currently are in order to authentically move towards where we want to be.
Acceptance can be painful and can feel like grief.
Other times, it can be liberating and can feel like a weight off your chest. Either way, it is a powerful act of strength.
3. Ditch the denial
When we’re struggling with addiction, we learn how to view life through a lens of denial.
We deny how bad things around us have gotten. We deny how much we’ve lost, and how much of ourselves has become buried under our addiction.
Continuing to live in denial only hurts us more, and holds us back from healing.
Releasing that denial is a powerful act of surrender. It goes hand in hand with acceptance and leads us to be open to receiving help.
Ditching the denial is a catalyst for change.
4. Feel your “right now” feelings
Allow yourself to feel your feelings right now. This involves a combination of the previous tips, involving accepting where you are and ditching the denial.
It can be easy to not face our feelings because they seem too hard or painful to face. The easier route can seem like pushing them down, but this always results in them coming out in other ways, which are usually not supportive and can even be destructive.
Feeling your current feelings is an act of surrender. It’s an act of facing what is, and allowing it to move through you.
One way to address your feelings is by verbalizing them out loud to yourself or to a loved one. You can also write them down in a journal.
There may be many mixed emotions that come along with this practice, and that’s okay. Sometimes, there’s a sense of relief that comes with saying how we really feel out loud and simply getting it off our chest.
5. Practise mindfulness
Practising mindfulness will help you master the art of surrender in recovery. Through developing mindfulness, you’ll notice when you start having thoughts of resistance. When you notice these thoughts come up, you can work on shifting them towards thoughts of acceptance.
Mindfulness will help you notice when you’re having thoughts rooted in trying to control things that are outside of your control. You’ll learn to understand which thoughts, emotions, and fears are associated with the things you're trying to control. Then, you can use healthy coping mechanisms to help you work through those emotions.
A final note on surrender in recovery
Remember, a surrender is an act of faith. It is a courageous, insightful practice that will allow you to experience deep healing as you journey through recovery. Our dedicated to addiction Wellness Hub offers many proven holistic ways of healing your body, mind and soul. Helping you to become the very best version of yourself.
Surrendering is an ongoing process, through which it's so important to be patient with yourself and gracious with yourself.
Recoverlution is here to support you as you walk this path.
Author - Thurga
How to forgive ourselves and others in recovery