I remember the moment I surrendered. I was pulling out of the NYC port authority on a grey hound bus headed back upstate New York to my mom. It was late. The trip would take all night. I hated taking the bus. I would have never taken this eight hour bus ride before…but now, no one would help me get back home (for what seemed the millionth time of starting over) and that bus ticket was all I could afford.
And as the bus pulled out from the dark garages, the bright lights shining in the city streets became visible again.…my eyes teared up as I looked out into Manhattan, a place that was a part of me, where I spent the all my early years, when drinking was not a problem. When I ran around the city from club to club not thinking at all of how much drinking and drugging could affect me in the future. It was all fun and games, VIP bottle service and spotlights. Who wouldn’t have been taken by all the glitz and glamour of Manhattan luxury life…
But on this night, some five or six years later, coming back after six years in the craziness of Miami …the devastation was clear. I was defeated. Mind, body and spirit. And as the bus pulled ahead in the dark night and the city lights grew dimmer in the distance, the tears rolled down my face. My eyes were swollen and flooded by now. I was almost in disbelief as I watched the city I loved be taken from me, taken from me because again, I failed to stay sober…because again I lost my job…because again, I was caught up in a perpetual cycle of binges that lapsed days and left only one or two momentarily flashes of sobriety, only enough time to pass out, eat… and then call the dealer again.
The fall was quick this time. Within three or four weeks of me being there, I was right back where I had been before…many, many times before…fogged in confusion and completely ashamed and embarrassed of what I had done…that I could not keep my head on straight…that I could not do better.
I was tired of this unbearable feeling, of this weight, of this hole in heart, in my soul. I had known for years that my drinking was out of control. That my drug use was causing me to lose jobs, I was in a toxic relationship and unable to cope with the reality of my life. The minute I felt anything, I pushed it down. I had all of the textbook symptoms of alcoholism, and I knew the moment I read the Big Book for the first time, that it was me. No denying it…page 21 of the Big Book sank deeply and heavily into my heart.
But that was almost three years ago I first read those pages. I had been in and out of the rooms of AA and had not really been able to grasp any of the concepts. For the first two years or so I would stumble in and out of the rooms, unable to stay sober for more than two or three weeks at a time. During that time, I had many pink clouds - I caught glimpses of the bliss of living sober and healthy – but I was so incredibly oblivious to the cunning and baffling nature of my disease that I had not stood a chance at that time. I was not ready. I would read the steps and understand the words, but not the true nature or sprit of the message that they or the rooms carried.
I would take bits and pieces that I liked, but never the whole program. Try this or that, but never the whole. I even tried to finish the steps while still dinking …I kept hearing people say, the solution is in the steps, which when I read for the first time, I thought, oh. That’s it? That’s easy. I can do this. I had a very spiritual upbringing so for me it made complete sense what was being said, I understood it in my mind but had never practiced it with my heart…. and so I thought if I could just finish the steps, I would be better… I thought that was it. But every time I had a little slip, my sponsor made me start over. So, I remedied that – I stopped telling her I had drank (not something I recommend). That way, I could finally get through the steps – and be cured. Needless to say, it did not work. As they say (and I came to find out), it’s our own thinking that gets us here…and this is a perfect example of how our thought processes are not capable of making decisions and planning our lives when we first come in. The way we make decisions is distorted. We need the help of others – and a higher power - to learn how to live again, to live sober.
Our minds and habits are controlled by the disease, and we have no awareness of the subconscious strength controlling us, especially at that time when you are so new and the fog has barely left at all… it took me at least six months before I had any comprehension of reality outside my drug induced mindset, almost six months to even experience a feeling or emotion again. So numb we are when we come in…but the truth is that with this numbness and alcohol soaked brain, we do not have the answers and our way, as always, never works. We need to unlearn the negative habits and thinking that got us here.
But until you are fully aware in your heart of your own inability to resolve your life and your alcoholism, until you have felt the misery and demoralizing defeat (many of us through monotonous runs of trial and error), until you have experienced that moment when you’ve lost all hope that you have any of the answers….until then, you do not have the gift of desperation that leads you to the necessary and completely surrender – complete surrender that everything you have done is not working and you are ready to give up trying your own ways and your own ideas.
You must give yourself fully to the program and recognize that this way of life has a design for living that works, a program for living where you never have to drink again. But you must accept and surrender to it all. You must surrender yourself completely to this way of life and simultaneously surrender your old ways – you must be at that point when you throw up your hands in complete defeat and exhaustion of mind, body and spirit - and say to god – I give up! And once you admit this fully to innermost self, you are ready to follow any and all suggestions. You are willing to take all of them, not just that parts you like. It is only through utter and complete defeat that we can find - and experience - the full surrender.
Now, you are on your way to Step One.