The Law of Surrender in Addiction Treatment

The Law of Surrender in Addiction Treatment


What exactly is the law of surrender, and how does it relate to addiction or alcoholism recovery?

The law of surrender (this is nothing official, mind you, just my own opinion and observations) is that no real addict or alcoholic can make any meaningful progress in their life until they surrender completely, both to the fact that they are addicted, but also surrendering to a new solution.

That is a bit of a mouthful so let’s pick it apart.

Note that most people stop short when they think of surrender and denial, and they believe that the struggling addict or alcoholic only has to admit that they do, in fact, have a problem. They must admit to themselves and to the whole world that they are, in fact, a very real alcoholic or drug addict.

Yes, this part is critical. Without this, there can be no recovery, and no meaningful progress. That much is true.

But it is also true that the struggling alcoholic or addict must also surrender to a solution.

It is not enough to just walk away from the drugs and the booze and expect for our life to magically mend itself. Simply eliminating the drugs or the booze is not, in itself, a solution. If that worked then our problems would have ended a long time ago.

No, for a real addict or a real alcoholic, they need something more than just admitting that they have a problem. They also need a solution.

And this is what the law of surrender is really all about–knowing that you must surrender to something, that you must give yourself over to positive change, to a positive program of action. You cannot just sit on your couch, be completely idle, and expect that removing the chemicals is going to somehow cure you. It doesn’t work that way.

Addiction is much more insidious than that.

In fact, even if you somehow manage to avoid chemicals for the foreseeable future, your brain is still in “addict mode.” You are still prone to addictive thinking, and your disease will just try to find other, perhaps more sinister ways to manifest itself.

In other words, if you think your problem is booze, and you manage to put it down while also basically “white knuckling it” through recovery, then you are very likely to pick up some other form of addiction–drugs, sex, food, gambling, etc.

What the law of surrender indicates is that you must surrender to the fact that you have a disease, and therefore you need a new solution and a new design for living. And you cannot design this yourself, at least not at first, because if you try to design your own recovery then your addictive mind will take over in the background and steer your towards a relapse.

Therefore what you must do if you want to rebuild your life and truly overcome your addiction is to surrender fully and completely, not just to the fact that you have a problem, but you must surrender in such a way that you go seek help with a completely open mind, saying to the world “I have no idea how to live my life any more, please show me how to live, I will do anything that you suggest.”

That is true surrender. Not just an admission of a problem, but earnestly seeking a solution. That is the law of surrender.

So how does this play out in real life? How do you apply this law to your own situation?

My suggestion is simple if you are still stuck in active addiction: Call an inpatient treatment center and ask for help. Call a rehab center and ask them how you can get scheduled to come in and do a 28 day program. This can be scary for someone, especially if they have never been through treatment before, but it is the single best action that you can pursue if you are still actively abusing drugs or alcohol.

Inpatient treatment is more than just detoxification and an admission of a problem. Going to inpatient rehab will give you solutions, options for the future, and a whole social network from which you can begin to build your recovery. It is likely that you will get a therapist and possibly a peer support coach while in rehab. You will meet a group of peers who are also trying to get clean and sober. You will probably be exposed to 12 step meetings such as AA or NA. And the rehab will give you directions for follow up and aftercare, so that you can continue your treatment even after you have left the 28 day program. You will have lots of options for support and continued treatment on the outside, including meetings, IOP groups, therapy, counseling, and so on. They want you to succeed and they will give you every resource possible to help you achieve sobriety.

Now the law of surrender is not only about the newcomer who is seeking to turn their life around. It is also about the rest of your life in recovery, because we remain somewhat powerless over other people, other things, and the random and chaotic nature of the world that we live in–even during our sobriety. Things happen, and they are not always the things that planned for or wanted, and so we may still have to deal with a certain amount of chaos in our lives. Even in long term recovery, surrender can still play an important role.

There are certain things that we cannot change, and for those things in our life, we need to practice surrender. It is not always easy, which is why many people in recovery continue to go to meetings, to therapy, to seek help from their peers, to have a support network–even after many years of continuous sobriety. The struggle between acceptance and surrender can go on for the rest of your life, and it is possible that you may need help with it in the future. So I would recommend that you stay plugged in to some sort of recovery network going forward, so that you can stay strong when things get tough in the future.

You may be wondering at this point: Is it possible to force yourself to surrender instantly, even if you may not fully want to change your life right this minute?

My experience and my observations would indicate that “no,” you probably cannot force surrender–either on yourself, or on another person. Real surrender, true surrender, full surrender–those things will come to the person who has truly hit bottom, who is seriously ready for real change, and who is willing to do just about anything to get that change in their life.

Real surrender is not a casual kind of decision. You don’t say “oh, I guess I will surrender now, and see if that helps my recovery.” No, instead you fight and claw and scratch like a caged animal, fighting to retain control over something that is actually beyond your control, and only after a long and grueling battle will you finally let go in a peaceful way and allow yourself to entertain another solution. This is the fight that every alcoholic or addict goes through, trying to have their drug and somehow maintain control and avoid consequences, trying to somehow figure out how to control it all while still having fun with their drug of choice, and it just never evens out. They experience more and more chaos until one day, hopefully, they reach a breaking point–and then they can finally surrender “for real” and become open to change. Good luck.