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Surrender Isn't A Bad Thing
For half my life I’ve known that I was an alcoholic. A reminder of that came to me recently when I found a journal from my sophomore year of college. In it, I’d written a piece called Cigars, Ginger Ale, 7-Up, & Bubble Gum. It was a strategy on my part on how I was going to kick cigarettes and alcohol. You can probably already guess how that worked out.
For the next twenty years, I did everything I knew to modify and moderate my drinking. I came up with counting systems. I carried a pen in my shirt pocket and made tick marks on the back of my hand to keep count of how many drinks I was allowed to have before I cut myself off and drove home. I purposely tried to make myself drink (and like) scotch in college to cut down on the large amounts of Jim Beam I was consuming. For a while there I made myself drink Heineken because I knew if I drank more than four or five, I’d have a wicked headache the next day. At one point I even came up with a catchy slogan: Three & Out. This was how many drinks I would allow myself to have in social gatherings before I switched to water or secretly snuck out of the bar. I even went so far as to have a silicone bracelet created, like the old Lance Armstrong LIVE STRONG bracelets, to help serve as a reminder when I went out to meet people for drinks. Looking back I can tell you, none of that shit worked.
Somewhere along the way I decided to send things up the chain of command and see perhaps if God would help me out. I started attending church regularly and tried to get plugged in with people who didn’t go out and party 3-4 nights a week. I wasn’t thrilled about having to walk the walk and overhaul my whole way of living, but if God would just help me get this drinking under control, I’d make the adjustments as needed. I did daily devotions and prayed each morning. I read the testimonies of dozens of alcoholics and addicts who had those “I saw the light” moments and just flipped a switch and never picked up again. But despite my sincerest intentions and efforts, that didn’t work either.
At some point I decided I would outsmart my disease. I did hours of online research, reading hundreds of articles and journals from doctors and therapists on how to understand my addiction. I bought numerous books off Amazon and read them, soaking up the latest opinions and strategies on how to defeat alcohol. I say defeat, but I really wasn’t interested in defeating it. What I really wanted was a magic cure that would help me understand who the hell I was and why the hell I drank the way I drank. I wanted to find a way to still be able to drink regularly, but without having the health and relationship consequences that were the results of me taking things too far. I wanted to be able to drink in moderation like everyone else without blacking out, passing out, getting sick, missing work, etc, etc, etc.
By this point things had gotten so bad that drinking was really taking its toll on me. My binges and hangovers were ridiculous, so much so that I would swear off drinking, even going so far as to tell people I’d decided to quit drinking. And for weeks and months on end I did. But then something would come along to set me off and I’d end up in a downward spiral of drinking. It might last a couple of days, it might last a month. Eventually I’d come to my senses and clutch one of the methods mentioned above as my latest attempt at understanding and climb back on the wagon.
During one of those failed attempts at beating my addiction, I’d stumbled across an extended version of the Serenity Prayer. We all know the one that’s said in AA and NA meetings: 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. But this longer version had something in it that really grabbed me. It went on to say trusting that you would make all things right if I surrender to your will. Surrender to your will??? Whose will? God’s? My higher power?
That line resonated with me from the moment I first read it. But I couldn’t understand it. I wrestled with it and tried to make sense of it. I tried to rewrite the script, change the blueprint, intellectually alter my DNA. I’d read and contemplated and hypothesized till I was blue in the face. I’d done everything I knew to do to deny the fact I was an alcoholic. None of it had worked. Could surrendering be the answer?
After 20 years of swimming against the current, I was exhausted. I didn’t know if I’d wash out to sea or down the drain. I didn’t know if my family would disown me, my friends would desert me, or if people would ridicule me. But I didn’t care. I surrendered. I decided to say it loud and clear so everyone could hear me: I’m Chadwick Easterling and I am an alcoholic.
We are taught that surrendering is a bad thing. To surrender is to give up, to tap out. Surrendering is saying “I quit, you win.” If you’ve ever watched a UFC fight and seen someone in a rear naked choke hold, their airway is cut off. They can’t breathe. They are forced to surrender and admit defeat or go limp and unconscious. Surrendering, tapping out, saying you have a problem, admitting you’re helpless, that doesn’t make you a loser or quitter. Continuing to live in the denial, shame, and guilt of addiction does that for you.
I’ve been sober almost a year now. I still don’t see the big picture but I no longer fight things. I’ve made as much sense out of it as I can. Maybe some things aren’t meant to be understood. What I can tell you is since that time I’ve experienced a peace and joy that I can hardly put into words. I can look myself in the mirror. I don’t worry about what I might have said or done last night. I enjoy things I never knew I liked. Things I used to think I like I’ve found that I don’t really enjoy. I’ve let go of a lot of nonsense. Things are falling into place. Every moment isn’t a battle or internal struggle. Trust me, life is so much better. Quit swimming against the current. Surrender. You won’t drown. I promise you’ll wash up on higher ground.
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