Twelve years. It’s taken me twelve long years to move the word “surrender” from the abstract idea column to the action column. Surrender has become an action, rather than the absence of action. It has moved columns because I have learned it is, by far, the hardest thing to do.
I have had some success with raising the white flag. I no longer have any preconceived notion of catching a thrown ball or successfully geolocating my way home from, basically, anywhere. But surrendering to the fact that I can not stop my own child from illegal drug use – that is heart-smashingly difficult. But reality keeps reminding me. I can not stop her from calling her drug dealer when she is overly anxious. I can not stop her from spending all of her savings, and neglecting car payments, rent, insurance and credit card bills – leaving her penniless (and sometimes homeless) time and time again. I can’t stop her from choosing to smoke crack because her sublocade shot prevents an opiate high. I can’t stop her from laying in bed for days on end after buying designer benzodiazepines from dark web shopping malls. I can not stop her from slowly – or quickly – killing herself. I want to stop her. There is nothing more that I want to stop.
Surrendering is not a new concept in the world of addiction. It’s literally step one of the Big Book. To move forward an addict must admit they are “powerless over drugs and alcohol.” This sort of surrendering is not just word play. It requires deeply accepting the insanity of their situation: admitting years wasted trying to manage, control, deny or ignore the disease. It’s the hardest, most essential, step.
Well it appears that us loved ones have to do it too. Not just pretend to do it. Or half-heartedly do it. I have to admit I can not will her to sobriety. I can not find the perfect rehab. Or a psychiatrist with a magic wand. I can not make her use her “recovery tool box.” I am helpless. Twelve long years have taught me this. Step one of the Al-Anon Big Book requires “admitting we are powerless.” Powerless meaning letting go of any misconception of control. And then actually stopping the manic, obsessive searching for the Holy Grail. So many of us admit we can’t solve it, but then spend endless hours actively trying to solve it! The stakes are so high: it’s hard to stop oneself. But after a certain amount of time we must. And, most worrisome, we must stop any future projection of everlasting wellness for our loved one. We must accept what is. It is not up to us – no matter how much we want it, work on it or wish for it.
We must surrender.
Not “sort of” surrender.
Here’s the difference though: They must let go to live.
We must let go of wanting them to live.
And that’s a very big difference.