In this new blog series contributors discuss the term “Surrender” and what it means for their recovery and their lives in general. This post is by Craig B.
I learned early on in my recovery that “surrender” is a key element in the healing process. The concept of surrender takes on different forms depending on who you talk to in recovery. I’ve heard people in meetings share about surrendering to everything from the steps, to the disease, to a sponsor, to the principles in the program, to the “idea of recovery.” For me, surrender was a different kind of experience, but one that is not unique. I’d heard of similar experiences from people in the rooms before I had my own surrender…to God.
My personal surrender wasn’t exactly beautiful and full of positive emotions. It was messy, ugly and downright full of defiance. I’d been giving recovery from addiction the run-around for nearly a decade, never conceding to my innermost self that I was powerless over my addiction or that I couldn’t manage my own life. My story is a familiar one for addicts. I’d been to jails and institutions galore. I’d wrecked cars, blacked out, checked out, and wound up in places I never knew existed. I’d had a gun to my temple and a knife to my gut. I’d lost friends and a family member to the disease, and I even woke up next to a dead girlfriend, who’d overdosed and taken her last breath sometime in the middle of the night. Still, despite all these consequences, I continued to drink and drug. I couldn’t control the obsession and the compulsion that followed, regardless of some brutal results.
Finally, when my life seemed to be headed nowhere, and I couldn’t put my finger on the cause of all of my emotional pain and mental anguish, I’d sought escape from myself by running away to South America, only to find I’d accidentally brought me along for the trip. My best thinking and judgment had me wandering through the desert pueblos, dangerous city streets and my own mind in a place notorious for easily accessible hard drugs at a very inexpensive price. I learned that it’s simply a cheap place for an addict to die, but by the Grace of God, I’m alive and well today, and it all came down to a single moment of clarity. I can’t explain how this moment came to be for me no matter how hard I try. I hang onto this mystery whenever I’m feeling disturbed. This mysterious moment of clarity came less than a week before my surrender.
I experienced the moment in a filthy hostel room in Medellin, Colombia on a day in late November when I found there was absolutely no escape from myself, regardless of how many miles I drove or flew or hiked. I looked around the room and saw a reflection of my life. I was surrounded by empty bottles, empty pipes, and empty bags. Despite the evidence of my consumption, I’d never felt so hollow. I may as well have been an animal, because I no longer felt like a part of the human race. I thought back to a time in my life when I felt I was ok…a time I spent in rehab many years earlier, when I wasn’t using. Instead, I was praying, and I was an active member of a community of recovering addicts. The thought took shape and for an instant, I almost hit my knees there on the floor of that addiction infested room. Before I dropped to my knees, however, I felt the pain of resistance. I just couldn’t humble myself at the moment, but still, I fought against my own resistance, stood up, and I said the most honest prayer of my life. ..”God, f……help me.” I paced around the room for hours, confused, unwilling to break. I had no idea I was already broken beyond human repair, but I would know this in a few more days.
I’ve heard God works in mysterious ways. I got honest, called my mother and told her about my condition. Less than a week later, I found myself on the bathroom floor of a treatment center, crying from my guts for the first time in my life, moaning and howling, with my foot in the toilet, my face on the floor, and the pain turning me inside out. It wasn’t a glamorous scene. There would be no portrait of the occasion like I’ve seen of Generals surrendering to terms of a lost war. My surrender was messy, full of snot and puke, kicking, screaming, and a whole lot of resistance, until I finally gave in and asked God to take me and do whatever He wanted with me. I was done, and I’d seen where God had heard that desperate prayer in Medellin. That half -measured cry for help was enough for Him. He’d pulled me from the depths of my inadvertent suicide mission. I lay on the floor of the rehab bathroom, hoping it was over. The tears weren’t coming anymore, and the pain was getting easier to bear. I’m sure my next request came from somewhere in my childhood, because I knew nothing of love for myself or anyone else at the moment. I asked God to wrap His loving arms around me…then, it was over. I can’t say I felt completely at peace. I felt like I’d just gotten my ass kicked, but at least the pain subsided.
I walked downstairs and there was a behavioral tech on duty. They called him Midnight Mike, because he worked the graveyard shift. It was sometime before 1 a.m. I told him what had happened and what I’d done. He said, “You’ve surrendered.” Then, he smiled and handed me a Big Book. He told me to turn to page 449, to a paragraph about Acceptance. He asked me to go outside, sit in a chair near the door and read the paragraph. I took the book from him, but before I reached the door, he tossed me a blanket. “Here, take this,” he said. I took the blanket, though I wondered why I needed it. It was Florida in November, not exactly frigid conditions. Nevertheless, I walked outside, smoked a cigarette and read the paragraph Midnight Mike suggested. In that paragraph, I read something that said, “nothing happens in God’s world by mistake.” I thought back to all the times I should have been dead. I felt like this statement was true, for the first time in my life. Though I’d hoped to believe many times before that there was a plan to this universe, a grand design with no error, it finally registered with me on a personal level. I had the evidence for myself. I knew I had a purpose here, and it was only to be found in recovery.
After I finished my cigarette, I walked inside and handed Midnight Mike the blanket and the book. He looked like he’d been crying a little bit, himself. He told me about the night he’d surrendered to God and how much it meant to him. He had a little over a year sober, and he said he was certain God was looking out for both of us. Then, he said something that I’ll never forget. “You know, I don’t know why I gave you that blanket, but something told me, you needed to know that God had his loving arms wrapped around you.” I stood in disbelief. I hadn’t told Midnight Mike about my final prayer on the bathroom floor, with my foot in the toilet, lying in a puddle of my own puke and snot. Though I have a tendency to cloud the big picture with my petty desires and expectations, I knew for sure that night that nothing happens in God’s world by mistake…