Surrender in Recovery


This article was written and published by Faith in Recovery


The definition of surrender is to cease resistance to someone or something and submit to its authority. For someone who’s experienced drug or alcohol addiction, the idea of surrendering to something isn’t a foreign concept. As someone in active addiction, you may have surrendered time and time again to drugs and alcohol, relinquishing the control you didn’t think you’d ever regain. But what does it mean to surrender in recovery? Today we’re going to talk about surrender in addiction recovery and ways you can do this in your own journey.

Why Is Surrender in Recovery Important?

When we think about surrender in the context of active addiction, it’s clear that substance abuse forces us to surrender our thoughts, actions, relationships, responsibilities, and dreams. Everything that we hold near and dear is offered in complete submission to drugs and alcohol.

Another way to view active addiction in terms of surrendering is that it “hijacks” the mind, forcing us to relinquish all control. When our bodies and minds become so accustomed to a particular substance, we no longer have control over ourselves.

Fortunately, this doesn’t always have to be the case. The application of surrender can change when someone with a drug or alcohol addiction chooses to receive treatment and commit to sobriety.

But what does surrender mean when you’re sober? In 12 step programs, such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA), surrendering in sobriety means relinquishing control to a higher power. Several of the 12 steps – step three and step seven to be exact – focus on surrender.

Surrendering also involves letting go of our ego. This is the part of us that is consumed with ourselves, our wants, needs, and desires. When we surrender in sobriety, we let go of that desire to control everything and the desire to satisfy ourselves at all costs.

Additionally, surrender is not an indication of weakness. Nobody likes to give up power in this world, which is why so many people view surrender as giving up.

When people with addictions surrender to a higher power, whether that be God or someone else, it’s a sign that they’re hopeful of the outcome. For them, it’s not so much giving up, as it is, “I tried, I couldn’t, but maybe you can help me.”

When we finally give over a difficult task to someone else who we know can assist, the stress and pressure to stay strong or maintain our willpower is alleviated. We can finally breathe, acknowledge the areas we need help in, and begin to heal.

Especially when it comes to addicts who only surrender once they’ve hit rock bottom, at this point, they’re faced with a life or death decision – either surrender to someone who can help you recover or give your life over to drugs or alcohol.

Ways to Surrender in Addiction Recovery

As a faith-based inpatient rehab, our programs encourage patients to surrender to God or another Higher Power. We believe that relinquishing control not only has its physical benefits for recovery but spiritual benefits, as well.

When you start surrendering self will in recovery, it will be difficult at first. It’s normal to want full control over everything, but considering that your willpower has been impacted by addiction, asking for help is important in staying sober. Below are some tips on how to surrender in addiction recovery and learn how to embrace it.

Notice When and Why You Want Control

The source of our not wanting to surrender is our desire to stay in control. Surrender isn’t a one-time thing in sobriety but rather a decision you have to make every time you come across a tempting situation.

With that said, you will come across plenty of situations in which you want control. While it’s important to gain authority in areas of your life, such as your finances or your ability to walk away from tempting situations, you won’t have this opportunity in every situation in life.

Sometimes we have to surrender in difficult moments where control is out of reach, and we must learn new ways to cope. You won’t get stronger without some sort of resistance, so take notes in moments where you’re frustrated or overwhelmed with the desire to take the reins for the future.

What made you feel this way? When do you feel this way the most? Understanding this about yourself will help you adjust and make surrender a more consistent goal.

Accept Yourself

At its core, surrender is rigorous honesty that forces us to acknowledge things that we’d rather forget. Self-acceptance goes hand-in-hand with this concept, as it requires us to acknowledge things we’ve done that we aren’t proud of, as well as our weaknesses.

Remember, addiction recovery is not about testing your willpower but rather finding healthy ways to abstain from drugs and alcohol. Self-acceptance forces you to acknowledge what you need help with, and surrender invites you to ask for help.

The Takeaway

In the end, you can only be as honest with your Higher Power and others as you are with yourself. Surrender requires complete transparency, which is also a cornerstone of the 12 step method.

When you begin experiencing life through the lens of something greater and stronger than yourself, you understand that your powerlessness started even before addiction took hold. When you accept this, you can then begin to attack the root causes of the problem.

Surrendering coping mechanisms that don’t work, old habits that don’t benefit you, and false beliefs that lead you nowhere can feel like a loss at first. With loss often comes grief, and the beginnings of surrender can feel like a period of mourning.

But in the end, surrender can ultimately lead you to joy and freedom when you realize that you’re finally acknowledging and accepting something that you’ve known all along but were too afraid to face.

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