At Spokane Falls Recovery Center, we believe that sobriety is possible, and recovery is lifechanging. When long-term sobriety is achieved, significant change is inevitable. Growth occurs naturally when we are able to put down the drink and work a program of recovery. Anyone who has gone through this process can attest that each new challenge in their development is accompanied by struggle. It is during that struggle that we learn the difference between trying to control the process, and letting go of that control so we may trust the process.
There are stretches in recovery when we may feel as if the odds are stacked against us, and nothing seems to be working out the way we think it should. The first time this happens we may frantically try to “fix” everything that has gone wrong. What we learn is that, left to our own devices, we will run ourselves ragged if we try to arrange the people, places, and things in our lives as we see fit. Ultimately, we are not in control, nor should we live in a headspace where we think that we could possibly accomplish such a feat. The illusion of control is tantalizing in its appeal, but if chased it will certainly lead to more struggle.
Letting go is a harrowing experience, but it becomes easier to practice if, when we let go, we also hand it off to a higher power to sort out the details. The simple fact is that the challenges work themselves out when we are able to let go and trust the process. For many recovering alcoholics, this has made all the difference. Trusting that God will manage the process takes the pressure off of self and creates the space to surrender.
Part of surrendering involves accepting that we will always be alcoholics, whether or not we are drinking. We have alcoholic brains which invariably create a pattern of behavior that includes alcoholic tendencies. When left unchecked, these behaviors can lead to a toxic lifestyle. For those not well-versed in the program of alcoholics anonymous, what and who we are talking about is commonly referred to in the rooms as the “dry drunk”. When life feels miserable for someone who is suffering from this condition, and to the extent it is also miserable for anyone in proximity, they will surely drink if remedial action is not taken.
Typically, the dry drunk is experiencing a lack of spiritual fitness, contingent on daily maintenance that has been foregone. Restless, irritable, and discontent, the dry drunk will flounder his way through the chaos of his life. At every turn, there will be another disappointment; another piece of evidence that the world is out to get him. Desperate to feel in control, he will attempt to force his will, and usually to no avail. This is the turning point and the cornerstone for measuring an alcoholic’s aptitude for working a program of recovery. If the alcoholic can recognize the difficulty he is experiencing, and practice acceptance instead of blaming it on others, then real progress is being achieved.
We will be given the opportunity to learn this lesson many times, and although we become better at recognizing the signs, it can still be befuddling. It is the closest thing to a paradox that we may experience in this life: the more we try to organize, the less organized it becomes; when we surrender to entropy, things work out. If that isn’t a case for spirituality, we are not sure one exists! What we can say is that it is abundantly clear that we are far from perfect, and that missteps are all part of the process. We trust that.
Alan Watts wrote many books and articles on religion and philosophy. Although Watts speaks from a spiritual perspective, his teachings are translatable to some of the concepts learned in recovery from addiction. This is a short piece on letting go of control and trusting the universe:
Alan Watts – Control