Tuesday, September 1, 2009


"Do I realize surrender is not weakness, but strength that will reinforce my courage and confidence?" from Dilemma of the Alcoholic Marriage, page 85

I think that there is a lot of confusion over the concept of surrender. I've not been a person who gave up on anything in life. I doggedly would pursue something that needed doing until I accomplished that goal. Then I would move onto the next project. I was simply not a person who gave up.

But alcoholism was not a project that I could fix. I did my best to pretty it up and make it look like something other than what it was. But eventually it wore me down. I spent so much time and energy thinking about ways to beat it and make some sense of it that I didn't enjoy much about life.

The alcoholic took up every thought. She was what I thought about from the moment that I awoke. I would go through the day with work and yet, there trying to push through everything, were thoughts about the alcoholic. I wanted to make sense of it all--the need to drink, the lack of communication, the hope that love would fix things. But in the end, alcoholism remained as baffling to me as it has for so many.

So ultimately, I came to understand that I was losing myself. I was going down with the ship. That's when I think that I truly understood surrender.

I have read that it's important to distinguish between submission and surrender. I think that I did a lot of submitting. I understood that I wasn't getting though, that my attempts to love my wife out of alcoholism were not going to work. But then another day would come and I would have that feeling that "Today might be the day". I still hadn't gotten to the point of accepting that I wasn't going to beat alcoholism. I was still struggling to win.

In my life and especially in my marriage, I had become as crazy as the alcoholic. I reacted with fear and controlling behaviors in my life and marriage. I was so full of fear and rage that I didn’t see what I was doing.

But when I ran out of options, when I finally had to admit that I was done with struggling, that's when I accepted the reality of alcoholism at a subconscious level. And that feeling of surrender didn't occur until I came to Al-Anon and listened to what so many of you told me: That I could have freedom from anger, fear, and conflict; that I could begin to feel joy and even serenity. I finally learned to accept reality.

The new reality that I learned in the program was that I had a job that I could do, and that was to work on myself. It was not my job to decide when my wife was ready to get sober or begin recovery. It was my job to find out who I was and to work on my recovery.

I don't know why surrender and acceptance are so difficult to comprehend. Maybe it's because I thought that to surrender meant to give in and that it meant I was weak. I've since learned through the program that acceptance means that there are people and things that I can't change. I simply don't have that kind of power to change another. And surrender now means that I am giving up my self-will and letting go of my attempts at control.

"Surrender to the moment. Ride it out and through, for all its worth. Throw yourself into it.

Stop resisting.

So much of our anguish is created when we are in resistance. So much relief, release, and change are possible when we accept, simply accept.

Acceptance turns us into the person we are and want to be. Acceptance empowers the events and circumstances to turn around for the better.

Acceptance does not mean we're giving our approval. It does not mean surrendering to the will and plans of another. It does not mean commitment. It is not forever. It is for the present moment. Acceptance does not make things harder; it makes things easier. Acceptance does not mean we accept abuse or mistreatment; it does not mean we forego boundaries, our hopes, dreams, desires, wants, or ourselves. It means we accept what is, so we know what to do to take care of ourselves and what boundaries we need to set. It means we accept what is and who we are at the moment, so we are free to change and grow.

Acceptance and surrender move us forward on this journey. Force does not work."

from the book The Language of Letting Go


  1. Syd,
    I really struggle with acceptance. How's that for irony?



  2. Thanks Syd. You always have a way of writing just what I need to hear and making it so I understand. I understand that I can't change my husband, I guess I just keep wishing I could. I realize need to accept the way things are, but that has meant that I suffer too. I still need to learn how to set boundaries and do a better job of taking care of myself. Everyday, one day at a time.

  3. I love to study philosophy is all forms and because of this I finally realized that I truly do have a choice but to accept. The illusion in my life was that I had any control at all. But in my head, this illusion was very real and the root of so much of my self-inflicted pain. Good news is how easy it is with the tools of Alanon to dimiss illusions now and be happy.


  4. Thank you. This is exactly the message I needed today.

  5. The old patterns of "fixing" things and covering things up, the illusion that if you do this, or that, then it will all be o.k. I think a lot of it is long term thinking and coping patterns, and a lot of it is EGO. I know I struggle with my ego and resist it, when I need to surrender, then the ego fades off into the distance, and my recovery begins. Thanks again for an excellent and timely post!

  6. It's always amazing how we think we are walking alone and no one else has been in our shoes...then we read someone else's post and we read our own life story.

    Thank you, Syd.

  7. Syd! This post is amazing!! I related to so much of it and I'm so happy you wrote it. Thank you!

  8. I had no idea how difficult this is until I really began to do the work of internalizing it.

  9. It's seems so much easier to focus and blame all our problems on the behavior of another. Your words sum up the insanity of trying to change anybody except ourselves. Alanon is a wonderful program that has helped many families to recovery...and a power greater than ourselves. Your insight is so very inspiring.

  10. it's beautiful, the post, the surrendering idea...all of it.

  11. Oh yes, the pain is in the resistance. I have found that to be so.

    I thank God for finding AA and Al-Anon. It has made life beautiful.

    Thanks for this post - so well thought out and written.


  12. I vote that you write the next Al Anon book. You are good. I understand everything that you write. I really get it! Thank you.

  13. I love the paradox of surrendering to win. I could no longer fight. I could not get myself sober. Only my HP could do it.

    Conversations with God: "Until you stop telling me your truth I cannot tell you Mine."

  14. Well said...

    Thank you...

    Blessings and aloha...

  15. You so nail surrender/acceptance. In a film I like about consumerism, the narrator compares shopping habits to gravity: "Its not like gravity, like we just have to live like this. There's something we can do about this." We don't actively surrender to gravity every day, it is just something we accept, because, like with addiction, what's the alternative?

    Thanks for a great post.

  16. When I submit, I do it with resentment and resistance, only because I feel I must. Surrender, on the other hand, is a joyful choice.
    Thanks for this.

  17. Syd
    Thank you for this post it is an internal shift, surrendering, some moments I can and most of the moments I struggle with control.
    If I can just watch my thoughts and not always act on them it frees me.
    One day at a time

  18. what blocks surrender a lot of the time is pride... but it's so much easier and simpler to do. why fight a battle you cannot win...

  19. Thank you Syd. This helps me understand it a little better! You have such a way with words and explanations. I really appreciate this post.



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