“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.


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