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.

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