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Five Principles of Recovery - Submission

Five Principles of Recovery

Accountability  .  Submission  .  Surrender  .  Compromise  .  Attitudes


In a series of articles, we are exploring Five Principles of Recovery, which if maintained, can offer freedom from the bondage of addiction. In this article, we discuss Submission.

We underestimate our enslavement.

Pursuing freedom on our own terms is pointless. As long as our mindset remains locked into illusion, we will continue to backslide.

Gaining forward momentum involves facing ourselves. But then, looking into the mirror of our own heart is the part we try to avoid. The radical act of humility required seems beyond what we can bear.

Merriam-Webster define humility as: the state or quality of being humble; freedom from pride and arrogance; lowliness of mind; a modest estimate of one’s own worth; a sense of one’s unworthiness through imperfection and sinfulness; self-abasement.

Humility is hard. Facing the shame attached to our massive defeat is soul destroying. When we reach our point of no return, whilst denial offers the ongoing antidote of avoidance, embracing reality is the answer.

This involves accepting that our fall from grace was effected by our own hand.

Our first submission is to the fact that we can no longer lean on our own understanding. We need the wisdom and guidance of a higher power; a greater authority.

Submission does not propose passivity; quite the opposite. It asks that you become engaged in your process; and yet stand accountable. Your Recovery is up to you. Profitable outcomes will follow when you learn to strengthen your will to choose best under pressure. The alternative of resorting to old patterns to relieve your tension can no longer be an option.

The question asked at the crossroads of every choice will always be this: Do you want to get well?

Many people misunderstand submission.

We think of it as an exchange of force where two opposing parties come together. Following a wrestle of wills, one yields to the others power.

Forceful submission will be short-lived. This is largely because the surrender achieved is in response to a threat or some trade placed on the table. If opportunity to coerce or negotiate exists, wrong motive will lead choice.

The commitment will not last. Once internal pressure lifts, an indignant assertion of personal rights will likely follow.

Long-lasting submission relies on recognition of personal responsibility. This is a 101 Recovery.

For a person to commit to the change they seek, they must be able to look back and recognize that they were present at every one of their choices; and all their regrets. All forms of swampy sentimentality must be shrugged off.

If you sincerely wish to enter the process of Recovery, any bent toward rebellion must be relinquished. Sincere submission involves whole-hearted surrender to the idea that you cannot continue on your own terms at all.

So your white flag must be lifted. Your inner man must understand: it’s Game Over.


Rebellion fuels the fires of denial.  

Merriam-Webster defines it as: an opposition to one in authority or dominance; defiance; resistance.

Those of us enslaved by addictions and adverse behavioral conditions persist on pursuing substances and actions despite obvious evidence of self-destruction.

We rebel against everything; even when we are on our knees. We rally against societal systems that are normal, healthy and safe. They don’t work for us. We are a law unto ourselves.

When we first enter Recovery, we cannot see the error of our ways because we measure what we were doing against our own independent standards. Our circle of influence has colluded with our crimes. Our heinous acts became normalized. We ended up desensitized to their damaging effect.

But! Let’s look to reality: 95% of the planet do not smash hard drugs and steal from their family, or rob people. Behavioral choices place addicted people outside the norm by default. We justify. We consider ourselves special and different. We get a kick out of opposing authority.

Rebellious acts also offer protection. If we are able to sneer at what is good, we don’t have to face how bad we have become; see how desperate we actually are. Admit that we are cowering under the weight of our own choices.

After insisting on your own way, an act of submission will be difficult to digest.  But, this is crash reality:

No successful Recovery can do without it.  

Let’s consider some practical applications:

An After-Care Plan

As your rehabilitation process comes to a close, you can consider yourself to be Captain Recovery; become a candidate volunteer; believe you are equipped to counsel others; get into all that feel-good stuff…

But! If you leave and do not follow a clear After-Care Plan, you will fall. It’s that simple.

Honoring concretes in your plan will be critical. These specifics outline the framework of your sober lifestyle; address all social and personal spaces you will be called to inhabit once you return to society; and anticipate personal, relational and circumstantial red-alerts.

Every person involved in your Recovery process must be exposed to this blue print, so they are equipped to interact with you; to edify and encourage, to correct and clarify.

The Recovery journey is never static, so quarterly reviews are important too. As you move forward, things will change, personally and circumstantially. You will experience both accomplishments and setbacks. In a set-back phase, increase contact with your accountability partner and get back to basics.  And, when the going gets good, proceed with caution. Pride easily provokes false courage.

You will need to hash out ground rules with your family. Come to specific agreements and discuss clear boundaries that offer all involved reciprocal respect.

Be vigilant. The propensity to indulge in self-defeating patterns will remain a life-long risk.

A Spiritual Community

There are arch enemies in sobriety and isolation is one of them.

Becoming a useful and valuable participant of a community attends to that part of us that longs to belong, that needs feedback. Remember, our heart is wired for love. Communities offer companionship, connection and accountability.  

They also offer us the opportunity to bring our Step 12 to life; to practice principles we have learnt in all our affairs, in service to others.

Serving others not only reduces our tendency to become self-absorbed, we become witness to the fact that every single person struggles. With what we have learnt, we are able to edify, encourage and strengthen others.

We experience what it means to love and be loved.

No Romantic Relationships!

After you leave treatment – no romantic relationships; for one whole year.

The emphasis here is zero compromise. No crossing of fine lines where friendship slips over into intimate benefits, or fills up emotional spaces that you need to navigate.

Only the already-married are exempt.

If you were in a relationship that did not graduate to marriage, it will need to come to a close; for good. You will need to accept that it was not founded on healthy principles. No matter best intentions or huge illusions, complex agreements that were dramatically forged will undermine your ability to focus on what really matters right now.


Because you are vulnerable; and romantic relationships are volatile. They include emotional entanglements that provoke great highs and deep lows. During the rebuild period, you are not ready. Placing your Recovery before any personal desire to engage in relational pleasures must be priority.

The year ahead is a time for you to figure out where you fit, in everything. Re-integrate into established family dynamics, explore the pressurized work field; find your balance.

The outside world will feel foreign; much about you will have changed. On some days, you will struggle to find your footing. To add another person into the mix, with all their baggage is an insane proposition.  In the game of probability, you increase your chance to relapse. Unmet expectations alone can trigger volatile emotion. It’s a no-go area.


Because if another person hurts you it will crack the delicate foundations that are forming; a broken heart in early Recovery will break you. You do not yet know who you are.

You are like babe learning to walk.

Support Structures

Stable support structures are the cornerstone in Recovery.

These include family, groups you attend, the church you are a part of, and even sport teams you hook up with.

The idea here is that you expand your accountability team. As you submit to rules and ethics that maintain healthy community, you re-inforce the personal values that must underpin your Recovery ethos.

Also, as you enlighten the people you will meet around your sobriety pre-requisites, they can act as your wing men; be on your Recovery team.

This does mean that you need to honor transparency. Whilst the societal stigma of addiction is difficult to transcend, keeping your condition secret increases your risk of relapse.

The addict mindset is sneaky, clever and manipulative. We can pull the wool over the eyes of others in a flash. We are experts at jinxing the system and our ability to mask is excellent. We are great pretenders.

So teach your team, but in doing so, retain personal responsibility. Do not encourage co-dependence or cultivate friendships with people who like to take control. Ensure the people around you know your ways; and when they call you out, have the humility to step back and view things from their perspective.

Accountability Partners

We have introduced this idea in our first article.  Quick recap, in Recovery, accountability is key!

In considering your partner, choose wisely.  Ideally, they should be able to relate due to their own exposure to similar experiences. In this way, they will understand your issues. They will be your go-to person when you need to talk, and you will be able to take them into your confidence.

Talk through relational ground rules before you agree to go ahead. Agree to communication that respects healthy boundaries; and be careful of slipping into co-dependence. Your accountability partner cannot become your crutch.

Your journey of Recovery will require that you step away from the shore and take new well-calculated risks. Tempering your impulses and urges will be an ongoing challenge. Here you can draw on your innate ability to exercise self-control.

Remember, feelings are not facts.

Your accountability partner cannot be a family member. Whilst the idea of offering your mother, father or sibling this important role can seem appealing, or even appease, it is not a good idea.

Family members are too close and there will be existing dynamics that need healing, or patterns that need re-framing.

Conflict is a natural part of life and can become especially heightened in the family environment.

Talking through conflict clashes with your appointed partners can offer good perspective.

In our next article, we will cover Surrender.


By David Lacey

Human Assets Manager

David has been in Recovery for six years. He plays a key role in both the Management and Multi-Disciplinary Teams of Healing Wings. He stands testament to the fact that when we bravely face personal truths, new opportunities open up. He is a man who stands firm in faith. He does not bend or blend. Compromising the integrity he has worked so hard to regain is just not an option.

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