Five Signs that Demonstrate You’ve Truly Surrendered

Five Signs that Demonstrate You’ve Truly Surrendered

I’m confronting new frontiers of things I have to admit I am powerless over, so I’ve been spending a lot of time reflecting on the spiritual principle of surrender. It’s the principle behind Step 1 of the Twelve Steps.

Step One in AA’s 12×12 suggests we will never recover without an admission of complete defeat.

It sounds clear enough, but I know from my own experience that it’s often not as clear-cut as that.

I don’t know about you, but as much as I know I’m powerless over certain things, my mind still THINKS, still tries to figure things out.

Minds are created to do that, you know.

And that leads me to this question: Where’s the line between true surrender and just acknowledging that my mind still wants to figure things out, you know, just doing what it was designed to do?

Because I know I can get stuck in analysis paralysis, I decided to look back at other places in my life where it was clear that I had surrendered and then take a little inventory of what I did that made it clear I was surrendering.

Here’s what I was able to identify:

1. I was willing to do, and ultimately did, things that made me VERY uncomfortable.

In other words, I stopped doing the same things over and over again expecting a different result.

2. I reached out to people when I was afraid, or stressed, or feeling other deeply uncomfortable feelings.

I was willing to act on the knowledge that our disease, whatever it may be, thrives in isolation. Recovery thrives through connection.

3. I acknowledged it was hard and gave myself credit for the work.

This meant I let go of unrealistic expectations.

You see, often my unrealistic expectations show up in the form of believing something should be easy when it’s really quite difficult. The program principles are simple. But putting them to practice in everyday life can be challenging.

The recovered part of me believes that 12 Step work is PhD-level emotional work. My ego, which wants to keep me small and sick, will keep telling me it should be easy so it can keep me stuck.

4. I was open to seeing, and therefore recognized, the things that I had been doing that were unmanageable and insane.

I was willing to be humbled by the truth. When we first walk in the doors, the truth is not pretty. It certainly wasn’t for me.

5. I was willing to let it take time.

This was the hardest one of all, in my opinion. Because when the denial lifts and I start to see the insanity I’m creating by not surrendering, man do I ever want it fixed NOW.

However, this thinking is still part of my disease.

In one of my programs, people often wish you a slow recovery. As uncomfortable as it makes me to hear it, I understand why. Sitting with any of the program principles is one thing that allows them to truly sink in.

But this is also the point at which I know I’m ready for Step 2, because this is the place where I most need to trust in a power greater than myself.

This is also a place in which I surrender the conditions under which I’m willing to recover. For me, this is one of the conditions that is most difficult to let go.

So, those are my five signs that you’ve truly surrendered.

Now I’d like to hear from you. Do you have any other signs by which you know you’ve truly surrendered? Which one of these is the most difficult for you? Share your experience, strength and hope in the comments. I read every one.

What Einstein Taught Me About Step 3

What Einstein Taught Me About Step 3

I was in grad school when I first got into recovery. One of the challenges I had in those early days was reconciling my heady intellectual pursuits with the spiritual process of the Twelve Steps.

I especially struggled with what it meant to decide to turn your will and your life over to the God of your understanding.

But then I read a daily meditation on Step 3 in Al-Anon’s “Courage to Change” daily reader that ended with a quote by Albert Einstein.

That quote really fascinated me and became a bridge between my intellectual pursuits and the spiritual journey of the Twelve Steps. I found it especially relevant since it seemed like so many of my intellectual insights when I was writing my term papers or even my dissertation seemed to come out of nowhere, almost like magic.

So, I became really interested in Einstein. And fortunately, since I was required to take a second foreign language as my degree requirements (I was already studying French,) an advanced German composition class I was taking required us to write a composition on a native German speaker.

I chose Einstein.

Most people are probably familiar with Einstein’s famous formula: E=MC² (Energy equals mass times the speed of light squared.)

What many people may not know, or what I didn’t know, at least, was the incredible thing that Einstein had discovered about the nature of light.

Einstein discovered that light is both a particle and a wave.

According to the classic laws of physics, this is not supposed to be possible.

And yet it’s true. What Einstein discovered about light laid the groundwork for what we now call quantum physics. Because light isn’t the only thing that behaves this way.

So, what does this have to do with Step 3?

Well, when I learned this about Einstein, I started thinking about what was necessary to make this incredible discovery possible. Hint: It wasn’t his incredible intellect. (Not to mention, when he was young, Einstein was failing math.)

In order to follow where his research was leading him, Einstein had to let go of everything he thought he knew about energy and matter. Everything we still think we know about energy and matter.

And that’s what brings me to Step 3.

For me, making a decision to turn my will and my life over to the care of God as I understand God is a decision to let go of everything I think I know.

Because my best thinking is what got me into these rooms.

So here are a few of the greatest hits of what I thought I knew when I walked into the rooms of 12-Step recovery:

  • My addicted loved ones had to change/recover in order for me to be okay.
  • I have no valuable skills. (That was the nice way to put it. What I was honestly saying to myself was that I was a sorry excuse for a human being.)
  • Recovery wouldn’t work for me.
  • God is a terrorist.

I rarely can explain how or why, but I do know that the magic that happens when I make a decision to let go of the things I think I know is truly quantum.

So now I’d like to hear from you. What did you think you knew when you walked into the rooms that turned out not to be true? What are the things that you still think you know that maybe you need to let go of?

Share your experience, strength, and hope in the comments. I read every one.