Recovery Connections

John Schwary is CEO of Transitional Living Communities, a 850-bed recovery program he founded in Mesa, Arizona January 9, 1992 when he had a year sober. He's in his 27th year of recovery.

In these posts, he views life mostly through the lenses of recovery. While the blog is factual, he sometimes disguises events and people to protect anonymity.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

When I first heard the word surrender after I went into recovery it was an alien concept. I wasn’t one of those wimps who would surrender to anything. I’d fall on my sword first! The idea ran counter to everything I’d learned, everything I believe in. After all, I was the guy who fought the law for much of his life, even though the law always won.

It seemed like I trusted no one when I was young. I rebelled against everything. Because of the rampant alcoholism in my family I trusted no one's decisions but my own. And instead of surrendering to others ideas, I went to the ultimate and thought I controlled everything. And of course this idea is what caused me to spend a lot of time incarcerated for many years trying to figure out how to successfully drink alcohol and shoot heroin.

The real surrender for me came the day in 1991 that I admitted I was an alcoholic. For some reason, I always held out against the idea of admitting I was powerless over alcohol or anything else. I knew I was powerless over heroin and other drugs. But I only admitted that because I kept getting arrested repeatedly for drug offenses. I think I held out alcohol as being okay because it was legal. Yet, every time I drank I went out the door one more time because when I drank for a week or so I ended up with a needle in my arm.

It’s still a fascinating revelation to me that from the day I admitted I was an alcoholic my life changed. Even though it might sound like some 12 step drama, it was an epiphany when I finally admitted that I was an alcoholic. Although it didn't happen in a flash of lightning, my life entered a path I'd never been on before. All of a sudden I was in acceptance about many things I‘d denied. I no longer had any reservations. There wasn't a molecule in my body that said "oh, you can have a drink."

I had over and over again proved to myself that I was powerless over alcohol, and any other alien substance I put into my body.

Surrender opened the door for me to the promises of the 12 step program. Once I surrendered life started on a different path. Never again was I to go to jail, be homeless, jobless, or living in a muck of despair.

Even though it seems counter-intuitive, my surrender set me free to do a lot of wonderful things with my life.