This post is a collection of quotes about surrender from the SA White Book. (I have made minor modifications to accommodate the purpose of this blog.)
“To win, I had to surrender and admit defeat.
The pain of awareness of who I really was drove me to work the Twelve Steps of recovery. The real freedom began when I could be free of my past. I became as a child, teachable, having to reject my way of doing and thinking for a new way of life based on surrender of my will to God. Then I began working on my defects, as they were uncovered not only in the inventory of my past, but in the continuing pain of seeing myself trying to relate to others. This process, of course, is still going on. I also began clearing away the wreckage of my past and making amends whenever I was wrong. Believe me, none of this came easy! I just discovered that I had to do it to survive! I had to die to myself in order to live. Another paradox.
As we learn to recognize and surrender our triggers in sobriety and accept our limitations, fear of falling lessens. We learn the difference between indulging ourselves and taking care of ourselves. The new way of life works if, that is, we begin finding what our [addiction] was really looking for. Finding this is the result of a patient working of the Twelve Steps[.]
When the man described above withdrew from his addiction, resentment, which he had never before been aware of, suddenly erupted with volcanic fury and possessed him as his addiction had done previously. His physical addiction had been used to cover or drug the spiritual illness. For there to be any true and lasting recovery for him, he must right the wrongs in his life from the inside out. To stay sober and grow in recovery, he will have to surrender his resentments.
All this was scary. We couldn't see the path ahead, except that others had gone that way before. Each new step of surrender felt it would be off the edge into oblivion, but we took it. And instead of killing us, surrender was killing the obsession! We had stepped into the light, into a whole new way of life.
The fellowship gave us monitoring and support to keep us from being overwhelmed, a safe haven where we could finally face ourselves. Instead of covering our feelings with [our drug], we began exposing the roots of our spiritual emptiness and hunger. And the healing began.
As we faced our defects, we became willing to change; surrendering them broke the power they had over us. We began to be more comfortable with ourselves and others for the first time without our "drug."
Forgiving all who had injured us, and without injuring others, we tried to right our own wrongs. At each amends more of the dreadful load of guilt dropped from our shoulders, until we could lift our heads, look the world in the eye, and stand free.
We began practicing a positive sobriety, taking the actions of love to improve our relations with others. We were learning how to give; and the measure we gave was the measure we got back. We were finding what none of the substitutes had ever supplied. We were making the real Connection. We were home.
We cannot put this strongly enough: Experience has shown us that we must be part of others or we cannot maintain effective surrender, see ourselves rightly, or work the Steps. Without regular participation in the fellowship, there seems to be no recovery.
As we become aware of other addictions that are part of our lives, we pray for willingness to surrender each one. There can be no true recovery from addiction if we allow it to persist in any area, whether in our thinking or in our acting out.
The program doesn't tell us how to stop-we had done that a thousand and one times-it shows us how to keep from starting again. We had it backwards; before, we always wanted the therapist, spouse, or God to do the stopping for us-to fix us. Now, we stop; and then, in our surrender, the power of God becomes effective in us.
Most of us had tried stopping countless times. The problem was we couldn't stay stopped; we had never surrendered. So, the first time the craving hits again, when we get that urge for a fix, we give it up, even though it feels like we'll die without it. And at times, in our new frame of mind, the craving may seem stronger than ever. But we don't fight it like we used to; that was always a losing battle, giving it more strength to fight back. Neither do we feed or give in to it. We surrender. We win by giving up. Each time.
But we always fed our habit. We simply weren't aware of it. So whenever this happens, we simply acknowledge our powerlessness. Instead of either fighting or indulging, we surrender. We pick up the phone, we ask for help, we go to a meeting.
The first time we walk through the stress of withdrawal without resorting to the drug, we discover that we don't die without that fix. Instead, we feel better, stronger, that maybe there's hope. We talk about the temptation in a phone call or at the next meeting and tell all. Telling the deep truth in an attitude of surrender helps break the power the memory of the incident holds over us. And if we're hit with [the craving] again, we keep coming back and talking it out, regardless of how shameful and defeated we feel. We've all been there; we know how it feels. We also know the release and joy that surrender brings as we come back into the light.
Often it begins in the privacy of our innermost thoughts, when we're alone, when we're living inside our head and the emotions we could never face overwhelm us. So what do we do? Naturally, we want to reach for the drug again; that's what we programmed ourselves to do. Instead, we surrender. Again. Just like the first time. And the cry for help goes up again: I'm powerless; please help me!
And we take the action of getting out of ourselves and making contact with another member. As soon as possible. The closer to the heat of the action the better. We use the phone. We make the call. Not because we want to, because we don't want to. We call because we know we have to. Our survival instinct comes to life. And we go to a meeting as soon as possible.
When we first come into the program, this cry for help is, in effect, a shotgun working of Steps One, Two, and Three. Surrender, of whatever sort. That's all it takes, and not one of us does it with all the right motives. When the craving hits again, we repeat this surrender at the very point of our terror, in the pit of our hell. For that's where the admission of powerlessness really works, when we're in the raw heat of temptation and craving. Again, it's the change of attitude that brings relief. Instead of, "I've got to have it or I'll die!" our attitude becomes, "I give up; I'm willing not to have it, even if I do die."
Often, seeing we've stopped acting out our habit for a time, we feel we're free of it forever. This may just be the time it strikes again. So the realization slowly dawns that we may always be subject to temptation and powerless over lust. We come to see that it's all right to be tempted and feel absolutely powerless over it as long as we can get the power to overcome. The fear of our vulnerability gradually diminishes as we stay sober and work the Steps. We can look forward to the time when the obsession-not temptations-will be gone.
We begin to see that there's no power over the craving in advance; we have to work this as it happens each time. Therefore, each temptation, every time we want to give in to “drink” or any other negative emotion, is a gift toward recovery, healing, and freedom-another opportunity to change our attitude and find union with God. We didn't get here in a day; it took practice to burn the addictive process into our being. It takes practice to make our true Connection.
Surrender is a constant thing. Practice. Day by day, hour by hour. Put into practice so often, it becomes habitual. That's how we get the attitude change that lets the grace of God enter to expel the obsession!
We take responsibility for our own recovery, but we don't remain isolated and "in charge" of it. We surrender to God and take direction from the sponsor. Thus, we go to meetings and start making our Connection with people. Alone, we cannot make the transition to reality.
Surrender Steps One, Two, and Three
Until we actually experienced these first three Steps, we would never enter the liberating reality of the Twelve. These three were the archway through which we left the old life behind and entered the new life of sobriety and inner peace. They deal with deflation and surrender. The way up is down.
Our way of life brought us to the admission of powerlessness (Step One). Without that we could not see our great need. But the feeling of powerlessness without surrender left us with no real hope. As we saw that others had made this great transition, had been sustained and were now on the freedom road, we gained belief that restoration and new life were possible for us too-"We came to believe" (Step Two). But even this fell short until we completed this threefold attitude change by giving up to God (Step Three). Our habit cut us down; seeing sobriety and the life of God in others gave us the hope; but our own surrender to God brought the Connection that finally worked and kept on working.
A Change of Heart
Steps One, Two, and Three describe the change of heart from self to God, without which no real change in our lives can come about.
There seems to be no such thing as surrender in the abstract. Surrender is a giving up of something specific. Of course, we all had to give up the right to think and practice our habits. What we didn't realize was that we come to this crossroads burdened with a load of other negative attitudes. We found that if we tried surrendering our [habit] while holding on to our resentment, anger, pride, or dependency, for example, it didn't work.
There seems to be no such thing as surrender in the abstract. Surrender is a giving up of something specific. Of course, we all had to give up the right to think and practice our habits. What we didn't realize was that we come to this crossroads burdened with a load of other negative attitudes. We found that if we tried surrendering our habit while holding on to our resentment, anger, pride, or dependency, for example, it didn't work. These other passions were often manifested in our attitudes toward parents, authority figures, spouses, or others.
When we finally came to the moment of truth, whatever it was or however slowly we came to it, surrender had to be unconditional.
Surrender as an attitude becomes the key to this spiritual program and the summary of its very essence. Once this initial turnaround is made, it gives us faith in the surrender process. At each subsequent stage there will be a sticking point where a specific attitude or action will have to be acknowledged and dropped before we can be comfortable again. Surrender is not only the key to the Twelve Step program and sobriety, but to a joyous and purposeful life with others.
The surrender required in Steps One, Two, and Three became the fountainhead out of which all things flowed in practicing the other Steps. Because of this attitude change, we would later be able to look at ourselves honestly for what we were and confess it to another (Four and Five). We would be able to acknowledge and unclench our other defects as they became apparent (Six and Seven). Without such a surrender we would never think of taking Steps Eight, Nine, and Ten to begin righting the wrongs to others. And without it we would be unable to have any conscious union with God in prayer and meditation (Eleven) and give ourselves to others (Twelve). Beginning at the beginning was the only way into spiritual recovery for us.
In summary, for us surrender is the change in attitude of the inner person that makes life possible. It is the great beginning, the insignia and watchword of our program. And no amount of knowledge about surrender can make it a fact until we simply give up, let go, and let God. When we surrender our "freedom," we become truly free.
If surrender came only from without, it never "took." When we surrendered out of our own enlightened self-interest, it became the magic key that opened the prison door and set us free. Arrest and surrender in order to be set free-what a paradox! But it was our self-proclaimed freedom that had been killing us, and we began to see that without limits we would destroy ourselves. But we were powerless to limit ourselves, and the more we indulged, the more unmanageable our lives became. Each [drunken binge] became another powerful ray penetrating the nucleus of our psyches and loosening the forces that held us together. Thus, in time we came to the growing realization that we were losing control. It was to this truth that we surrendered-the truth about ourselves. "Something's WRONG with me, and I can't fix it!"
Awareness of the unmanageability of our lives was not apparent to us at first. But as we recovered from shock and spiritual blindness, we began to see how we were unable to function without lust, negative attitudes, and dependencies holding our lives together. Reaching the point of utter despair did not always come right away; it came to some of us only after we had been in the fellowship for awhile. The full effect of Step One seems to come gradually or in stages, with the unfolding realization of our unsoundness. It is out of this inner honesty with ourselves that the feelings of hope and forgiveness flow.
We were free to see and admit what we really were inside because we were finally free from having to act out what we were.
How long and how cleverly we had defended our right to wrong ourselves and others, and how long we denied there was any wrong at all! But every wrong attitude and act stored up its own punishment against us from within, until finally, the cumulative weight of our wrongs brought us to our knees.
The Third Option
Before finally giving up, we had tried one or the other of two options: On the one hand, we expressed our obsession by [giving in to it]. On the other hand, we tried suppressing and fighting it with white knuckle willpower. And with what a show of promises and resolutions! Many of us switched from [giving in] to suppression, back and forth. Neither option brought us the peace we sought so desperately. Expressing the obsession made it progress relentlessly, on and on, and suppressing it only made the pressure build inside until something had to give. Both options made it worse; we were between a rock and a hard place. We never knew there was another option-surrender. What a beautiful liberating word it has become to those of us who do it!
Surrender is letting go.
When finally [we] could hold on no longer, [we] let go, knowing it was the horrible end. To [our] great surprise, the ground was only a foot below [us]. As long as we either clung to it or tried to fight it into submission, our habit fought back, and being more powerful than we, it always won! Only when we let go does the release come, as though God mercifully raises the very earth itself to meet us.
Merely knowing and admitting we were powerless over lust, or whatever form our acting out took, didn't help until we gave up our right to do it and let it go. There was no mistaking this change of heart when it happened; we knew it and those about us knew it. There is no faking surrender. And thank God, when we did give up and stop fighting, He was always there, waiting with open arms. Instead of killing us as we had feared, surrender killed the compulsion!
Experience has shown us that the public aspect of surrender is crucial. It seems surrender is never complete until it is brought out into the open, into the company of others. This is the great test that separates wishers and whiners from doers.
The essence of effective sharing is that we want to be done with our [addictions, defects, and] wrongs and are sending them away. The aim is to bring our diseased attitudes and misdeeds to the light of others and God to be done with them. When it comes from such an attitude, sharing becomes a liberating and life-giving experience.
For those who enter recovery through this program, the realization of powerlessness becomes coupled with growing awareness of personal unmanageability-the fact that something is out of kilter at the core of the self. For it is our very self that has turned from life. If we are content with ourselves, simply minus the compulsion, there can be no recovery. Recovery is more than mere sobriety.
Deep inside we always knew there were other things wrong with us, and it turns out our addictions were really trying to keep us from facing them. This is why, once the initial surrender of Steps One, Two, and Three is made, Steps Four through Ten deal with exposing, confessing, and righting our wrongs.
What great relief to finally come to the place where we can say, not only "I'm powerless over [my drug / my habit]," but "I'm powerless over me!"
It's okay to be absolutely powerless over self. This is where we join the human race. And best of all, just as the admission of powerlessness over [our addictions] is the key to our physical sobriety, so the admission of powerlessness over our defects is the key to our emotional sobriety. Victory through powerlessness by the grace of God. What a glorious liberating discovery!
This is the point at which our self-honesty begins to grow, where recovery begins. But thank God, our defects are revealed to us progressively. In the fellowship of identification, acceptance, and forgiveness we are able to bear the realization without destroying ourselves or resorting to one of our drugs to escape. Our God is patient and loving and kind with us; as we must learn to be with others.
The program calls those who are tired and weighed down with the burden of self, those who want to be rid of the load but can't. It calls those who are trapped in the prison of self but know no way out. A broken and contrite spirit-the spirit of the First Step-is the key that opens the door and sets us free.
Surrendering to the Truth about Ourselves The second half of Step Two, "...could restore us to sanity," was not hard for many of us to acknowledge; our First Step had revealed at least some of our irrational thinking and behavior. And we slowly began to realize that such loss of control was a form of insanity. But just as an unsound mind was the inevitable by-product of our attitudes and wrongs, its healing would be the by-product of working the Steps. There is great promise here. Restoration to sanity becomes a very real hope, because we see it happening around us. Sanity is contagious!
Sometimes the program comes harder to those who are "believers" than to those who never had any faith at all or who had lost it. Often, such members find they must start "from square one," as though they had no faith or had never heard of the program. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link, the saying goes, and lack of surrender in any of our known defective areas blocks the grace of God and makes it impossible to forge any chain of enduring spiritual and emotional strength.
Knowledge and pride were our chief obstacles here. Knowing the Truth, or knowing the Program-often being selfstyled authorities and even sponsoring others-only kept us from changing our attitudes and righting our wrongs. Knowledge never gave us power.
We discovered the hard way that we had to leave our knowledge and pride outside the door when we entered. We could only join with our fellow members and be a part of when we identified on the basis of our current addiction, powerlessness, and distress. We identify with each other at the point of our weaknesses. Our wrongfulness and our wrongs are what bring us together and to God.
Many of us have already been through the [sex], alcohol, drug, pill, and overeating scenes. We've become aware of our compulsive approach to almost everything in our lives. There's no place left to go except to face the truth about ourselves, stop resorting to other addictions and forms of [escape] we think we can get away with, and surrender to our God.
Step Three "Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him."
The Turning Point
The first recovering alcoholics, out of whose experiences the Twelve Step program was forged, had a tough saying: "Find God or die!" Addiction has a way of destroying the body and soul.. [We must find our true Connection or die both spiritually and physically. In Step Three we surrender our defiance and become reconciled to our God.
We discovered that the root of our problem is conscious separation from the Source of our lives; the solution is conscious union with that Source. Thus, coming to the end of ourselves in surrender brought us to the place where we could finally let God have a personal place in our lives.
One Day at a Time
Once we've taken Step Three, it is easier to begin to practice it in our daily lives. In times of emotional disturbance or indecision, we can pause, ask for quiet, and in the stillness simply say:
"God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference. Thy will, not mine, be done." (Twelve and Twelve, p. 41)
We become able to transcend our [drug / habit] more and more by calling on God's power to expel the obsession, surrender temptation, and trust Him in all things. As we do this, we learn to begin each day with the same type of commitment, asking God to keep us sober for just that day, "One Day at a Time." This means we are learning to live without our [addictions] and really want to be free.
In simple but profound words, the whole program can be reduced to what someone discovered for himself: "Without God, I can't; Without me, God won't."
Another reason why righting our wrongs must be part of our recovery is that this is how we reverse the deadly separation at work in the addictive process and restore union. To the extent we surrender and stop practicing our defects, righting the wrongs they cause, we experience union within ourselves-wholeness-union with others, and with God.
Only true union fills the void our [sick connections / addictions] were trying to satisfy. But finding God, or finding spiritual union with another is not the result of a search at all, but of a moral housecleaning. As an AA old timer has said, when we uncover and discard our wrong attitudes and actions, we discover our true selves, others, and God. God is not something added in from the outside. He is someone we discover on the inside when we clear away the wreckage.
Uncovering ourselves is what makes union possible. How can we be whole if part of us is hiding from ourselves?
Thus, the grand equation for getting well and filling the great void at the heart of our lives is Uncover ———> Discard ———> Discover
Steps One, Two, and Three bring us to the point where we are able to start this process, and once begun, the healing work of Steps Four through Ten becomes a way of life.
Each cycle of awareness, surrender, and discovery produces growth, union, and sight, which bring about more awareness, surrender, and discovery. The road narrows as we go, but since there is always more revealed within us to discard, our sight improves, and the vista becomes incredibly more wonderful and fulfilling. Many of us identify with the excitement of one member's discovery: "Righting my wrongs is where the Connection is! So every time I surrender my desire to [give in to my addiction] or resent and take God's deliverance, I've experienced union with God! Can you believe that? I can't, but it's true. And every time I surrender my desire to judge or condemn another or hang on to self-centered fear-every time I'm doing what I have to do to stay comfortable-I'm getting united. What a gift! And whenever I fail and do the wrong, uncovering it to another and making amends not only make it right but produce union too. This has to be the most unbelievable thing in the universe."
Having now come to the end of self and surrendered in the first three Steps, we are ready to begin taking the stairs upward toward recovery, healing, and growth from Step Four onward. These actions bring us face to face with the dreaded monster we've been running from-ourselves. They encourage and enable us to see the uglies within so we can become willing to change. Every liability will turn out to be an avenue of grace.
Now is when we start unloading that burden of wrongs and guilt we had been heaping on our backs. From out of great despair comes true surrender, which releases within us the desire to be good and make things right with our fellow man. If we cannot bring ourselves to do this, we have surely not yet passed through the gate of Step Three. Better to stop and go no further lest in pretending to work the other Steps, we seal over our wrongs like an infected cyst. No one seems able to make the Third Step commitment while knowingly holding on to his or her wrongs.
But just as surely as our wrongs are what brought us to despair, so our surrender to God and others in our wrongs will open the doorway to that great release and transformation that await us. Healing takes place from the inside out, and we come to see the truth in the ancient proverb, "He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy." We are the doctor in this soul-surgery, and we perform the operation without any painkillers. Thank God we're not alone; those who have gone before us have put themselves under the knife and have come out into the bright sunlight of a new life, emerging to know themselves, others, and God, and the very beauty of life itself. This is our finest odyssey.
Even though it seems impossible and unnatural for us, we make a searching and fearless inventory of ourselves. We do it because we don't want to! And this becomes part of the great adventure of doing the difficult. Knowing there will be another human being we'll share it with, one who has gone through his or her own Fourth and Fifth Steps, we face looking at our darkest secrets and misdeeds and get them all down on paper. Taking responsibility for our own recovery begins in earnest with the Fourth Step inventory.
There's another reason why the inventory is a must. How can we ever experience forgiveness and freedom from our wrongs unless we bring them out? Getting our secrets out into the open is one of the first concrete demonstrations that we want to change and starts an ongoing process that will continue to bear good fruit. The Fourth and Fifth Steps can be the beginning of a lifelong ability to increasingly face ourselves and take responsibility for our own recovery. Recovery and healing await us when we open this door to the miracle of spiritual union with ourselves and others, and, without even realizing it, union with the Source of our lives. Until we can write out our Fourth Step, we apparently cannot see or face ourselves; until we give it away to another, we aren't willing to let go of our wrongs and be free.
"Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs."
Thus, the Fifth Step is another surrender. We give up the right to continue practicing the diseased attitudes and actions revealed therein and give up our sick isolation. Surrendering in this way brings us out into the light. It is the acid test of our ability to be honest about ourselves. If we cannot do this with another, how can we ever hope to have an honest confession or relation with our God?
Steps One through Five should have the natural and inevitable effect of creating in us a new heart that wants to do right. Note that the wording of Step Six, "Were entirely ready . . ." depicts a state of mind issuing from a prior change of attitude. If this state of mind is not present, something is amiss. The crucial attitude change that should have accompanied Steps One through Five-surrender-has never taken place.
We do an initial Steps Six and Seven, usually following the taking of our Fifth Step, when our awareness and resolve to be rid of our [defects] are high. Without this willingness and initial surrender, we're not going anywhere in this new adventure in reality. We come to the place where we are entirely ready to start this healing process by surrendering the right to hang on to our defects (Six); then we ask to have them removed (Seven).
One way to start this process is to make a list of all the defects of character that were revealed in our Fourth and Fifth Steps. Then, when ready to let them go, we ask God to give us the power to overcome them. The Seventh Step prayer in Chapter 6 of Alcoholics Anonymous can be helpful as a starter:
"My Creator, I am now willing that you should have all of me, good and bad. I pray that you now remove from me every single defect of character which stands in the way of my usefulness to you and my fellows. Grant me strength, as I go out from here, to do your bidding. Amen." (p. 76)
We ask God to remove our defects, but we start taking the actions required, for "Faith without action is dead." On a daily, hourly, moment-by-moment basis we begin. Usually, it's one defect at a time, every time it shows up. One incident, one encounter, one trial at a time, we stop, look, and listen to our feelings and review what happened. Sometimes we have to write it out to see it. No matter what wrong the other party has done, if we are disturbed, there is always something wrong with us—specially in the area of attitude.
If we don't see what's wrong, we ask for the willingness to do so. When we see it, we acknowledge it and ask for courage and wisdom to make it right. Then we go make it right, leaving the results up to God. The results inside us are immediate; we are overcoming our defect.
"This is without a doubt the greatest therapeutic process known to man. It works every single time! I'm not subject to Fate anymore; I have a choice! I can change the course of my life! I can change me!"
In Steps Six and Seven we surrender the defects uncovered in our inventory. In Steps Eight, Nine, and Ten we amend our past and present wrongs. In actual practice, these Steps all work together. We can't surrender our defects without making right the wrongs they cause. And conversely, making right the wrongs they've caused helps us surrender our defects.
"That must be why none of the help I sought ever changed me; I had to change myself. And for some reason, I can't fix myself without fixing what I do to others."
No matter how much we come to know about the Twelve Step program, it is the actions we take to let go of our defects that bring the results. And dramatic results they are.
An Ongoing Process
In recovery we find that Steps Six and Seven, once taken, become a continuing process. And rather than being a matter of eradication of the impulses to think or do wrong, it is freedom from their power over us, one temptation at a time. The defect itself may remain, but we no longer have to obey it. When we surrender the impulse and cast ourselves onto God each time it shows its ugly head, we receive the power to be free of it. And gradually, the impulses themselves get fewer and farther between. Healing.
Some of us may experience sudden release from some defects, but for most of us there is one practical way to overcome our wrongs that has never failed: We surrender them up to God and practice making them right.
If we have a habit of lying or fudging the truth, we undo it by correcting the lie with the person involved. If we're resentful or hostile, we undo it by going to the person affected and admitting where we've been wrong. Where the other party is not overtly affected, we overcome the resentment by surrendering it and praying for that person. Or, we may find we even have to tell that person about it to break its power over us, provided it doesn't injure them or others.
We make the decision not to resort to [our drug], surrendering it up to God, and then He gives us the power to be free of it.
I need someone to bear my shame and guilt. Anyone! It crushes me, and I can’t stand it. In the past, I tried to get rid of it on someone else. And it worked-for a time. It kept me from looking at myself. Of course I had no idea that I would have to keep on finding scapegoats again and again and again to transfer my wrongfulness onto others. The easiest targets were my own wife and children. Now I see why they could "never do anything right" and why I was always finding fault. I had to. I needed to transfer my wrongs continually to keep from seeing what I really was on the inside. The rest of the world didn't fare any better. The boss was an idiot, fellow workers were inferior types, the President, Governor, neighbors, brothers and sisters, institutions.... I was letting my negative force out on everyone and everything I could safely do it to, especially those within my own circle of nearness.
I see now that this behavior is yet another natural instinct gone astray. I can't bear my own wrongs; they destroy me. But I have to have someone bear them or I'll die. But no one can. Even if they want to, they can't. I had been looking in the wrong place.
After learning, through the fellowship of the program, to turn my will and my life over to the care of God by trial and error, I have come to see that it really works. All my emotional, spiritual, physical, and material needs are being met, one day at a time.
And I now know that I can turn my wrongs over to God too. Instead of making others bear them or bear them myself in selfdestructive depression or resorting to a succession of other "drugs" to cover them, He can bear them for me so I don’t have to. He can take them away.
Every time I surrender a wrong in process-temptation to resort to a drug, defect, resentment, or fear, and say something to the effect, "I don't want to bear this; I want You to bear it for me; I cast it onto You," it works. Someone has to bear my wrong, and God does. I can't conceive of such a provision for me, but I accept it. All I know is that whenever and on whatever defect I take this action, it has never failed.
Now we see that the amends process is a healing one-for us! The damage we've done to ourselves can be healed. We surrender our ego, pride, and fear and go to it.
We take the action of forgiving, even when we don't feel forgiving. Most of us never seem to feel forgiving until we take that inner action of giving up our right to resent. Practicing forgiveness in our hearts as we think of these people, then aloud, perhaps even with our sponsor, we forgive every person on our list and keep on forgiving them every time the resentment returns. We may find it necessary to forgive and pray for them each time we think about them until we are free of the resentment. The willingness and the gift of love do come if we persist.
What is resentment but a conscious decision to turn against someone, a separation? It is thus an inner anger, a distortion of the truth, a lie used to cover our own wrong. Resentment and its companions, hostility and anger, are not only one of the universal hallmarks of our spiritual malady but, un-surrendered, are one of our greatest liabilities.
Why forgive? For us it is very simple. If we don't forgive, we're never free. Unless we forgive, we are not forgiven; we remain chained to our wrongs, unable to free ourselves, leave the dark dungeon of our past, and walk in the sunlight of love. If we are to give this aspect of our program its due, we should give it special emphasis: "Surrendering our resentments, we asked for willingness to forgive all persons guilty of real or imagined wrongs against us and forgave each one."
Sober Is Not Well
There is something wrong with the person who cannot make a straight, honest, unequivocal amends. If this is true of us, we suspect it is because we are not fully surrendered. That attitude of self-obsession underlying our spiritual illness still lingers. And most of us fit into this category. We are as powerless over this inability to make a clean amends as we ever were over [our addictions and defects]. That's why we have to do it, because it doesn't come naturally! We don't feel like making amends, but we do it, and the feelings follow. If we find we are not yet willing to make the amends, we go back to Steps One, Two, and Three, admit our powerlessness, surrender our pride, and cast ourselves onto God and others for help.
It is possible that, once relieved of the compulsion to act out our addiction, we may feel cured and start coasting along with our tank on EMPTY. But the same personality defects that energized our addiction are still with us and, unattended, will take their toll again, sooner or later. Why are they still with us? Because they are us. Progressive victory over these defects, not their eradication, is the power of God at work in us. What we really do battle against is not other people but our old natures, the negative force within us we can obey anytime we wish, the force that is always willing and able to wrong another. This is why our program must come to fruition in our daily living or there is no recovery.
A Program for Living
"Continued. .." The simple wisdom of that one word. The essence of this Step-and this program-is a continuing process. These spiritual principles are a way of sound living, not merely some one-time technique for kicking a habit. We replace the addictive process with a process of recovery and growth. Step Ten is thus a continuation of the moral inventory of Steps Four and Five, the surrendering of our wrongs in Steps Six and Seven, and the righting of our wrongs in Steps Eight and Nine, all based on our personal surrender in Steps One, Two, and Three and done on a daily basis in the workaday world of everyday living.
Daily living is the arena in which this program finds its true mettle tested. For it is as we encounter The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune ... The heart-ache, and the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to that we see what we are made of and recognize our great need. Our relations with others are the touchstone. Thus, the spouse, the children, the parents and siblings, the boss, the fellow workers, and our fellow program members all represent the greatest potential sources for conflict and emotional distress as well as the greatest opportunity for applying these principles and creating union and healing.
"Making amends seems to be what gives me the most practice in changing my defects of character. It makes me think twice before opening my big mouth, knowing how painful the prospect of making amends will be."
"Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out."
A Faith That Works
Our admission of powerlessness should have been surrender to God. Our change of attitude resulted in commitment of our lives to God. The moral inventory was our admission of what we really were to God. Those thousands of "telegrams" for help-getting moment-by-moment relief from our obsession and defectswas resorting to God instead of to self. And atonement with those we had hurt and estranged marvelously opened the way for restored union with God.
Little did we realize that in taking all these actions for survival, sobriety, and serenity, we were finding our God! So long as we held on to our [addictions, defects and wrongs], He was lost to us. But now, with our having torn down the wall of our wrongs, with nothing between, there He was, within. "Ah, fondest, blindest, weakest, I am He whom thou seekest! ..."
Striving after God is as natural as breathing. Most of mankind has been praying from the beginning. The problem was not God; there was something wrong with us. Our wrongs had separated us, not from praying to God, but from union with our God. As a result, our concept of God was wrong, and we were lost to the true God. He was either an avenging tyrant we were afraid to approach, the great Authority Figure, a Santa Claus, or some other reflection of our distorted attitudes and dysfunctional relationships.
No wonder it never worked for us. And no wonder that what we really wanted was to fill the great void at the center of our being and to have a faith that worked.
With little regard for who He is or His will for us, we insisted on trying to use God for our own selfish ends, which only kept us from seeing what we really were and who He really is. Thus, with all the false gods we clung to—our addictions, our character defects, other people in our dependency, things, pleasure, food, work, money, success—some of us still instinctively went through our religious exercises, of whatever persuasion they might have been, lost to what was on the other side of our idolatry.
But what if God was for us, not as we saw ourselves, but as we truly were? What if He saw us with all our wrongs and made Himself one with us in providing for our release? If this were true, we could bring God into our wrongs! And we who were absolutely without power over our wrongs could be freed from their power every time we gave them up to God.
Have we not seen this in our own experience? Each time when we are faced with temptation from within or without, and we surrender, are we not freed from its power? Whenever we fulfill this simple condition we are saved from acting out our wrong. No matter that we may not know how God is doing it. That it is His victory and not ours is obvious, considering our inability to save ourselves.
If this be true, how fortunate we are to have so clear and continuing a need for calling on such a God for release, guidance, and peace. How precious a privilege to be in His sphere of influence, under His guidance, if indeed we have become reconciled to Him in those first nine Steps. And how natural it is for such a one to pray.
Just as surely as air is the breath of life for our bodies, prayer becomes the breath of life for our spirits. Prayer is the means by which we make our Connection. Just as talking to another in the fellowship of forgiveness is the medium of life between people, so prayer as the expression of our inner being is the means by which we have fellowship with God. And it is just as natural! This is why we must learn to walk in the light and have fellowship with one another and why the right kind of meetings is so important. Right fellowship with others is of the same order as right fellowship with God. If we say we have the latter without the former, we are not true.
Thus, prayer becomes not so much a matter of asking for something as it is a means of life and growth of the inner person. Prayer and meditation meet at this point; they both offer the means of union with our God. Fulfillment, peace, and rest. While meditation in the narrower sense is a quieting and opening of the inner person to God, prayer is what we voice audibly or inwardly when we are in any condition, place, or time. Often, prayer and meditation become one.
Meditation has proven to be not only beneficial to mind and body but one of the best natural methods of quieting our inner disturbance. These results can appear in meditation even apart from any prayer or religious association.
For us however, meditation without working the first ten Steps can thwart the achievement of the intended result and defeat its purpose. If we meditate without prior surrender of our will and lives to God, what will we be connected to? Without facing our own wrongs, how can our inner eye see aright? And without an attitude of wanting to right our wrongs, how can we hope to know the Good? Some of us have had the experience that when "in the wrong place," we can in meditation. actually connect with the dark side of ourselves. After all, we get back a reflection of what we really are. However else we work the Steps, there is benefit in working them in order.
"Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to sexaholics and practice these principles in all our affairs."
This is the Step that doesn't need to be written and can't be made to happen. It is the inevitable result of what has already happened. If a person is experiencing the reality of Steps One through Eleven, he or she is manifesting the truth of that new life.
Staying sober is our initial objective; a spiritual awakening is the unintended result. If our experience tells us anything, it is that there is no healing without such an awakening. And the difference between merely not acting out our addiction (being "dry") and healing is the new life. If we want the old life intact, simply minus the habit, we don't really want healing, for our sickness is the old way of life.
What is "the result of these Steps"? It is the surrender of Step One to the reality of our powerlessness, that we are sexaholics and our own way is not working. It is commitment to God as the one who can restore us to sanity (Two and Three). It is the ability to see and disclose to another the true nature of what we really are (Four and Five). It is giving up all those defects of which we become aware and asking God to take them (Six and Seven). It is a desire to right all our wrongs (Eight, Nine, and Ten). And it is conscious union with the true Source of our lives (Eleven). An awakening to Life.
The result of working the Steps is not primarily a physical or emotional awakening, though these are involved. It is essentially a spiritual awakening, where the spirit that was dead to God, others, and rightness is made alive to God, alive to others, and alive to rightness. Spiritual awakening is not mere sobriety, an awakening to knowledge about the Steps, belief in the Steps, or psychological insights into why they work. It is a change of state, an awakening of what was once dead.
"Love" is one of the most abused words in the language. That's why we speak not of loving but of taking the actions of love. Just as with faith, love, we discovered, was not a feeling, but attitude in action. We took the actions we knew we should be taking toward others because we did not feel like it. The feelings followed. Love for us is doing-doing what does not come naturally.
We start going to meetings and participating in the fellowship of the program before we feel we want to. We stop giving in to our addictions and character defects before we feel we can. And we start taking the right actions toward others before we feel like doing them naturally. This is the paradox of this "impossible" program.
How can we do this when we feel so powerless and aren't sure we even want to? We have a God who works, that's why; His business is raising us out of our death! But "faith without action is dead." We receive that power as we take the action, not before.
Many of us discovered that once these actions become customary and incorporated in our day-to-day living, we actually begin to change. We become better people and, as a result, happier with ourselves and others.
The key to doing what does not come naturally is surrender, the to this whole program. The key to our own happiness. When we distrust our own feelings and just go ahead and do what's right, the miracle happens.
By working the Steps we became aware of how our natural tendency was to take from others, using them as inputs to our lives, much as we used food, drink, or entertainment. Now, we start learning how to recognize and surrender this "natural" impulse, deny ourselves the right to misuse anyone, and start giving of ourselves with no thought of getting anything in return except our own peace of mind and freedom. "The measure we give is the measure we get back."
I am a resentful and angry person, a judging and condemning person, a fearful person. There is no healing for me if I deny, evade, or cover my defects. "I'm as sick as my secrets."
But, I can live free of the power any and all these defects have over me by resorting to God instead of such negative emotions. I thus have a daily, hourly reprieve from my lust, etc., based on maintaining the right attitude. And I maintain the right attitude by working the Steps and Traditions and going to meetings, meetings, meetings, meetings, meetings.
God has apparently not chosen to eradicate my defective self so that I am no longer capable of lust, resentment, fear, and the rest. If he ever did that, I'd have no need of Him; I'd be an automaton. It's progressive victory over my defects that's the name of the game. I myself am what could be called a "sinner." But I take from God the power I do not have in myself to transcend my sins. Victory through powerlessness by the grace of God!
That's the beautiful paradox of this program: In and through my powerlessness, I receive the power—and love–that come from above. And that's the difference between self-denial and surrender. Self-denial-white-knuckling it-brought misery and failure. Acknowledging what I am, surrendering, and relying on God's power bring release, freedom, and joy.