“In order to win, you must surrender.” That is one of the first enigmas of life that I encountered when I started my journey down Recovery River. Hell no, I thought. You have to fight to win in this life. That’s what I had been taught. You come up swinging or you get your revenge some other way. I had my masters in passive-aggressive behaviour. Life is tit for tat. You’re nice to me and I’ll be nice to you. You piss me off, and look out! I didn’t do surrender. Surrender is loss.
There are few of us who come from a ‘functional’ family. Most of us grew up in families that were somewhere between the Cleaver’s in Leave it to Beaver and The Addam’s Family. As a result, we arrived at adulthood with ideas and beliefs about life that were unbalanced. If a drug, alcohol or other addiction, either our own or that of a family member, was thrown into the mix during our early years, those ideas and beliefs are even more distorted. When I arrived for treatment, I had to admit that my best ideas, plans, thoughts and theories about life had brought me to that point. Something wasn’t working, in fact it was pretty much broken.
I was told to surrender. I had to admit to myself that my choices in life weren’t in my best interests. I had to admit that they were leading me to an early grave. I had to see that the river I was paddling upon was not the one I wanted to be on. There were no bucolic scenes of grassy banks with hopping bunny rabbits and Bambi. What I was witnessing was a combination of the burning river in Cleveland and the contamination of Love Canal. I was a gawd awful mess. Something had to change. I had to give up what I had thought was true and accept that I didn’t know much of anything when it came to life.
I had few friends, and those were drinking buddies. When there was nothing left to party with, they left. I couldn’t wait to walk the one block home from the liquor store to crack open a bottle and take a swig. I fell off bar stools, slipped on steps, staggered and sometimes drove home from the local bar. I gravitated to whatever was cheapest to get my sought after high. I was losing my partner, I was alienating my family, I couldn’t remember what I had done the night before, or any night the past week. Was that working for me?
It’s hard to admit, that for a long time I thought that I was normal. “Everyone has blackouts. I’m just looking for a good time. Ya, sure I stumble and fall, big deal! Sometimes I overdo it ‘a bit’, so what? I work hard, I deserve to party. What do you know about my life? I can handle myself, get out of my way. I can stop all this whenever I wanted to, I just don’t want to so get out of my way.” What I slowly came to realize was that I couldn’t. I had lost my grip on reality, only I was probably the last one to know it.
I will forever be grateful to whatever power it was that got me the help that I so desperately needed. Here I learned that cold fact that my best thinking had brought me to this place of desperation. I had to admit that I couldn’t do it alone. I had to admit I while I still had a house, car and family, I was no different that the guy in the back alley drinking cheap wine from a box and smoking whatever was offered. I needed help.
I swallowed my pride and found myself with a group of other like minded folks who gave me this enigmatic slogan: “Surrender to win!” Fortunately I was beaten down enough by life, that I agreed with what I was told. I gave up. I did what they told me to do. I admitted that I didn’t have life’s answers. I looked around and saw folks that seemed to be happy, laughing, smiling and willing to lend me a helping hand.
After a number of years on Recovery River I am grateful that I know I don’t have all of the answers to life. I’m grateful that I have a willingness to learn, to seek and to ask. I am grateful that I let go of those beliefs that were literally killing me. Now I’m one of the folks who seems to be happy, laughing, smiling and willing to lend a hand to anyone who is reaching out for it, And I smile when I hear that phrase being told to a newcomer, “You gotta surrender to win at this man!” I know that a wonderful journey of discovery is about to begin.