In the past, when I would think of what it means to surrender, I envisioned a white flag waving and an overall feeling of failure. I pictured battles lost throughout history, weakness, and complete defeat. In the infancy of my journey to get clean from drugs I heard that word a lot: surrender. I wasn’t in a space to connect the dots on my own to give it a positive connotation. It took time, hard work, guidance from others who knew what I was going through, and most importantly, faith the size of a mustard seed.
Setbacks and pitfalls are part of life, but for the addict it can start to define existence. Becoming overwhelmed by daily life while in the depths of addiction is typical, and can force one into a tailspin of confusion, depression, and hopelessness. Consequences pile up one on top of the other, making the addict feel trapped. One can feel like they have to be superhuman to concur the affliction they face, but they can’t muster the courage, and they surely don’t know how to navigate a path to recovery. Culturally and socially we are trained to never give up and never surrender, in hopes that the fight is what gets us the win, and winning equals success. If you want to succeed to overcome your addiction, you should fight harder, right? On the contrary, it is in fact an admission of surrender that is the first step into the process of healing. It goes against everything in us to admit defeat and say “I don’t know what I’m doing.”
My journey in recovery started when I made the decision to surrender to a life of recovery. What was lacking every other time I attempted recovery? A lack of faith for sure. I had doubts that letting go and giving up my will would set me free from the grips of my disease. Why was faith such a complicated word for me to accept? I gathered it had something to do with my associating it with religion. I had to set aside all preconceived notions of faith (and religion for that matter) and attempt to view things from a fresh perspective.
I was broken and hopeless, with very little faith in myself and my ability to stay sober. I met a woman in the halls of AA who I chose to help guide me. She is a wonderfully caring and transparent woman, who never asked me to do anything she hadn’t done herself. Her openness and honesty helped me relate to her story, and the healing process started without me being fully aware it was happening. I like to say I borrowed my faith from her in the beginning. How did her faith become mine? I believed she was sober. I believed she had transformed. I believed she had been hopeless, just as I had been, and somehow she was now filled with hope. She believed in me, if for no other reason than she believed the process works, and because I believed in her, faith sprouted. I put my faith in a person in the beginning and that was a starting point for it to grow.
Through time, and my own personal journey, I find that the meaning of the word surrender has evolved into something positive and admirable. I had held onto old beliefs and ideas for so long not knowing they were keeping me spiritually sick. Something about letting go scared me because I didn’t know what to expect. When trapped in a dark place, the thought of emerging into the unknown can be just as terrifying as staying stationary. Fear of the unknown and the anxiety of change, what that’s going to look like, and doubting if you have it in you to take the first steps can be debilitating. I’m thankful for the structure of AA and the support system of women who walked me through uncertainty. When I was afraid, they reassured me I would be alright, no matter what. When I doubted the process, they reminded me to be patient, and showed me ways to work on growing patience through mediation practice. I not only learned how to stay clean and sober; I learned how to live. Every step of the way faith grew- with every fear I walked through, every doubt that was squashed, it allowed a new understanding to be born. That mustard seed of faith had grown into something much bigger. As long as I continue to surrender to a life of recovery and a new way of living on a daily basis, the faith abounds and rewards me with a life of purpose. These days when I think of surrender, I picture a girl standing on a mountain, arms stretched out in the air, shouting “victory” with a big smile of contentment on her face.
Chloe Arreola , Liberty Bay Staff