One of the signs that people can be off-track in recovery from addiction is that they fight to stay sober. This is sometimes referred to as white-knuckle sobriety because the only thing keeping the person from drinking or using drugs is willpower, which can be taxing on the individual. It can be very hard to find happiness in recovery while still fighting addiction. This is why the key to success in sobriety is surrender.
What Causes White-Knuckle Sobriety?
The most common reason for white-knuckle sobriety is ambivalence, meaning that the person is not fully committed to this new life. The individual still believes that there is an option to relapse, which means there is always the choice to fight against it. Very often the affected individual secretly hopes that one day it will be safe to drink or use drugs, but this is what makes sobriety so difficult to manage. If the person were 100 per cent committed to this new life then there would be no choice to make and, therefore, no need for willpower.
Fear can be a good motivator, initially, for helping individuals to become sober, but is not effective long term. The problem is that it usually means the person feels as if he or she has to do something unpleasant to avoid even worse consequences, and this could lead to ambivalent attitudes toward recovery. It is much better if the individual had a positive reason to stay sober, such as all the rewards of recovery.
What Does It Mean to Surrender in Recovery?
Surrender is a word that can have negative connotations – it often implies giving up, which is typically considered negative. Surrender in recovery is actually a very positive step as it means the person gives up a fight in which there is no chance of victory. The individual reaching this stage will have already tried, on numerous occasions, to control their alcohol intake; the fact that they are addicted means they cannot maintain this long-term. Trying to win against alcohol is just a waste of time, so the only real option is surrender.
It is common for people to describe surrender in addiction as similar to a great weight lifted off their shoulders. It is all about freedom, not having to wake up each morning ready for another day of battle. In Alcoholics Anonymous, members are advised to ‘surrender to win’.
How to Surrender and Recover from Addiction
The most important way that you surrender in recovery is by understanding that the war is over. If you still hold on to even the slightest hope that the ‘good days’ of drinking or drug use can return, you haven’t surrendered. You need to understand that it will never be safe for you to relapse, even if you have managed to stay sober for decades beforehand. Look what happened to Philip Seymour Hoffman – he had been sober for 23 years, but he relapsed and it killed him.
Another way that you surrender in recovery is by becoming willing to let go of your old ways of dealing with the world. This faulty thinking allows individuals to fall into addiction, and additional faulty thinking keeps them there. If you continue to believe that you already have all the answers then it means you have not surrendered. It takes humility to be willing to let go of beliefs and ways of thinking that have a negative impact on your life, but this is what you have to do in order to surrender.