One of the recommendations you are likely to hear from others in recovery is that you should learn to ‘let go’ of things. In fact, letting go is one of the key points you learn from a recovery programme such as the 12-steps. Those who have managed develop a high level of serenity will usually tell you that this was one of the secrets to their inner-calm. So what does it mean to let go and how do you develop it?
Letting go can be defined as learning to accept what is happening in the present moment. For example, if you have just finished an exam and are waiting for the results, you could spend your time worrying about it, or you could decide to just let it go. This advice to let go is summed up in the serenity prayer that is used by the 12-step groups: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
How to Let Go
You probably agree that sometimes letting go is the best thing to do, but how do you actually do it? Below are a few suggestions to help you achieve this level of acceptance.
You would be far more likely to let go if you could understand why doing so will benefit you. One reason to just accept things is that it means you no longer have to worry about how you would fix the situation – it is as if a great weight has been taken off your shoulders. A common mistake that people in recovery make is to spend days worrying about things that they cannot possibly change. One of the other benefits of letting go is that it gives you courage to face life on life’s terms.
Learning to show yourself some compassion will greatly improve your ability to let go. If you have an inner voice that is overly critically and judgemental, it will make it feel as if everything were your fault and your responsibility. Self-compassion means replacing this with an inner soundtrack that is more supportive and encouraging. Developing self-compassion also means you will develop a more positive outlook on life, which makes it easier for you to let go.
One of the other important keys to being able to let go is to learn to live in the present moment. Most of the thinking that makes your life miserable is likely to be related to the past and future. It is necessary to make plans, but there is no benefit in worrying and getting obsessed about it. If you can learn to focus on what is happening in your life just now, you will find that things just get much easier and you feel much happier. A practice such as mindfulness can greatly improve your ability to let go in this way.
If you join a group such as AA or NA, you should find that following the 12-steps would make it easier for you to let go of things. In order to get the most out of this type of programme though, it is probably best to have a sponsor who can offer you feedback and support. It is also important to keep in mind that the 12-steps are an ongoing process, one that is never really fully completed.
As with most things in life, letting go is something you learn to do with practice. In the beginning, you might only be able to let go of little things, but it is similar building up a muscle – the more you are able to let go of, the better your life becomes.