The daily ritual of letting go has been a part of my recovery that has been the hardest to practice and the most powerful thing that I do practice daily.
When I came into my recovery program I was very clear that my life was unmanageable compared to what I could and wanted it to be, and I also saw that at the rate my addiction was progressing life was going to be even less managable within a few months. In other words I came in with damage done, but not all that I was going to do if I continued.
I also came in knowing that I was seemingly powerless over, in my case, alcohol. I knew how I wanted my life to be and I knew that drinking was consistently keeping me from engaging in my life in a way that moved it forward.
What I also knew was I did not want to be an alcoholic. Being an alcoholic conjures up many things for people, but I feared that it did not conjure up someone who discovers an illness they have and begins the process for recovery and long-term remission from the disease. I sensed that it brought up images of mothers with smeared lipstick, cigarettes hanging out of a corner of their mouths with eyes squinting to focus through a fog of booze and smoke – thank you Joan Crawford for that Mommy Dearest image. I sensed it would mean people and employers would do a rewind of their experiences with me and attribute every action or reaction of mine to drinking. I sensed and knew that it meant giving up control of an image of myself that I had labored to cultivate of a woman who ran her home, her career, and herself in a way that would make Oprah proud. Because the truth is I think the image was cracking, especially to those very close to me, and it needed to totally crumble for me to be humble enough to benefit from a recovery program that succeeds through a total letting go of my will for that of my Higher Power’s will.
And it has been helpful that I read a book where this issue seems so common for people considering their relationship with alcohol that it appears in many chapters and in many ways. For example it says something about many alcoholics being unwilling to admit we were real alcoholics. That no one wants to be different from other people. That through self-deception and experimentation with drinking they will try and prove themselves nonalcoholic. The book also lists the ways in which people attempt to prove they are an exception to the rule such as drinking beer only [check 1 for me], limiting the number of drinks [check 2], never drinking alone [check 3], drinking only at home [check 4]…” At 4 I stopped feeling good about what I was reading.
I had come into a recovery program knowing I was exhausted, that my efforts to moderate or quit forever had been largely unsuccessful, that I was embarrassing myself, and that I was hurting friends and family with my actions while drinking or recovering from drinking. I couldn’t deny it and thought that low point would be enough. But instead I have found that while I embrace, enjoy, and benefit from the program, I have struggled with acknowledging that deep down I am an alcoholic because it means I have failed, I have to tell the people I love I am less than perfect (like they didn’t known already!), and I have to accept that people will judge me as they will when they learn I am in recovery. Crap…I thought quitting drinking was going to be the hard part. Turns out that was easy.
So every day I let go of my need to believe I control anything other than the choice to ask a Higher Power for guidance, wisdom, and strength. If I don’t let go I will never accept the reality of my condition and, as my program says I have to fully concede to my innermost self that I am alcoholic. This is the first step in recovery.