Recovery Rule #1 – Surrender to Love

Student standing above the sign surrender and struggle

When my world flips upside down, I want to bolt. Where? Anywhere. Just not here.

I was a runner when I was out there. Running to the bottle. Running to people and places that I would have been better off avoiding. Running anywhere to get away from feelings and emotions. Running away from me.

In the rooms of recovery, a different path was proposed. Instead of running, a plodding journey was suggested. A journey without destination.

The journey promised serenity. Not over there. A journey to the here and now.  It was said that in the here and now I could be comfortable in my own skin. Here and now I could be at peace with my fellows.

The journey started with two steps: An admission of powerlessness and unmanageability and a leap of faith. By the third step I was told to turn my life over. But to what. God? I had doubts, honest doubts. And I had resentments… lots of them. I was in conflict, internal conflict, with most everyone I encountered including any notion of God.

And what does turning my life over even mean? Assuming there was a higher power, or even a Higher Power, was that power going to text me directions? Was the hand of God going to engrave directions into stone? That didn’t happen. But I had faith that maybe my life would get better if I put down the drink and the drug. I waited. I stayed sober. I listened and sought. I kept working steps.

It wasn’t the first month… or even the first year. Time takes time.  But I tried my best to stay on the path. The journey continued.

I kept coming back to this thing they called surrender. I pondered that. I meditated on that. I even prayed… reluctantly.

I knew I was  beat. For years waving the white flag was more than called for. But surrender? To let someone or something take charge of me? I resisted, but I stayed on the journey.

I remember when it hit me. It hit me with force. Years of working with a sponsor, listening to others and reading the literature finally clicked. I needed to surrender to something greater to me, something I could trust to guide my thoughts and guide my actions. I needed to surrender to Love.

Why? It was practical. I needed practical… and simple. I tend to overthink.

For me, surrendering to love was far more practical than waiting for directions engraved on tablets of stone. It simply meant that when there was an event or thought, I would ask myself, “What is the loving thing to do?” before I reacted or responded.

Someone cuts me off on the freeway? Before racing alongside the other driver and lashing out perhaps I should pause and ask: Is that the loving thing to do? Raging and racing puts other drivers at risk. Hardly loving. Lashing out at the offender falls far  short of loving my neighbor. In no way does that calm that driver down. If anything, it stokes the flame and sends them racing even faster… putting others at risk.

And me? I go from annoyed to enraged.  Because I didn’t surrender to love, the stage is set for the day. I am filled with resentment, making me a worse driver in the short term and a worse employee, husband and father throughout the day.

The driving example is obvious. The real magic comes when I surrender every aspect of my life to Love. When I surrender and ask if it is loving before I react or respond I am not a gossip, I am not a procrastinator, I am not a liar, I am not a hater… I am at peace. I am comfortable in my own skin.

They say 12-step recovery is a collection of suggestions. Maybe for some that works. For me, it works better when there are rules. Not rules imposed by others. But rules I choose for myself. Rule #1, the rule I strive to live by (often imperfectly), is to surrender to love. And it is by following that rule I have since come to know a Higher Power that I can rely on at any time.