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Five Principles of Recovery - Surrender

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 cover Surrender.

We live in a time where society is more individualistic than ever.

In this hedonistic mindset, people place themselves on a pedestal. These are independents who believe they are invincible and omnipotent.

As masters of their own universe, they deify autonomy and serve self-ambition. Bowing down to God contradicts everything they stand for.

If personal glory is threatened, their pride will go to war.

If you view surrender through this lens, it will seem threatening. The ‘hands-up’ connotation it holds suggests defeatism; or, worse still, resignation.

For independents, a white flag is a public announcement of personal failure.

The social backlash would be more than they could bear.

In the context of our addictions, are we not already at war with ourselves? Has our struggle not been stupendous?

Are serious consequences not proof enough of scars?

When will we realise that our way isn’t working; admit we are out of options; recognise that we are repeatedly defeated; understand our game-over is always imminent?

What will it take to call it?

Though we stagger at the tipping point of change; we refuse to take off the masks that protect our masquerade.

Doing so means denial must topple.

The act of surrender is not for the faint-hearted.

It takes great courage to relinquish personal control; to humbly accept that you are not, actually, in charge.

It takes tenacity to acknowledge that, underneath it all, you don’t know who you are; your identity is fabricated; your personality honed to fit a culture you have come to depend on.

If you take off your crown and expose your pain, who will you be?

And, what are you holding onto?

Can you see that you are a prisoner-of-war, trapped in the battlefield that your mind has become; captured by lies?

The bravehearted lift their hands; accept the existence of God; finally admit their fight is futile.

Let everything go. See what stays.

Surrender asks you to lay down everything. This includes your perception of who you are; your mindset, attitude, ideas, excuses. The drama, distractions and deviances. Arrogance, opinions and adopted philosophies. Your social position, wealth and all material accessories. Relationships, great loves; the heartbreaks. Good times too.

The list is endless; and very personal.

We become transfixed by treasure. What we consider most important hijacks our heart, the head office of all that we are.

The question to ask is: who and what is actually in charge?

Our treasure defines us.

When our values are upside down, we become deceived. We start to see ourselves in the reflection of what society says the treasure represents.

No matter our add-ons, they can never fulfil the longing within.

We climb competitive cliff faces; still nothing satisfies. We rise up higher convinced our answer is out there somewhere.

But it never is.

And the danger is, that which defines us, will drive us.

Holding onto the illusion that we are in control of our lives is limiting and dangerous. This outrageous lie binds us to ongoing brokenness.

All along, the answers await within our heart.

In an act of surrender we can experience a magnificent defeat of our adversaries.

Victory will be ours.

Those of us who have used substances or adopted adaptive behaviours are trying to control how we experience life.

We are trying to avoid how harsh and empty everything feels.

We want to disconnect from painful reminders that keep past hurts alive; silence moral crimes we’ve committed; side-step relational responsibilities that ask too much of us.

In our deluded attempt to manipulate reality, we become enslaved by deceptions that drive us to self-destruct

Denial has us handcuffed.

Despite our vainglorious attempts to control reality, we are so out of control.

Forever fugitives, we are always on the run. Shame and self-hate are hot on our heels and that pesky conscience of ours awaits in every shadow. We trip over our guilt.

So, choosing surrender feels like a contradictory act of insanity.

But it is not!      

It is the bravest and smartest thing you will ever do.

It is only as you drop the disguises and dismantle false constructs, that your true identity can rise up out of the ruins.

An awakened heart activates the divine coding of our authentic identity. We begin to become who we were always meant to be.

When our core values solidify, we will no longer bow down to substitute comforters.

Double-minded days will come to an end.

Our surrender will save us.

Let’s consider key areas that apply in Recovery:



Simply speaking, our identity is our perception of self-worth as forged by early infusions of absolute truth, generational influence and traumatic experience. Most of us are a combination of all three.

This power-filled personal data is the catalyst that drives deep-seated desires.

From our start we experience separation. So, in order to fit in or be seen as set-apart, we add to who we intrinsically are.

We fabricate a personal profile.

Add-ons can include culture, family, how we live, our education, self-presentation, personality traits, our friends, career, material accessories, the music we listen to, the substances we take, the cultural dysfunction we join in with.

All of it contributes to the external construct which we come to believe is who we are. We come into agreement with so many lies.

Then we gravitate to people like us; or push away those who represent anything that might keep us small.

What a fallacy that is!

Fact is, we are already insecure. Our masquerade simply serves to silence unmet needs; hide the pain and dysfunction we don’t understand. In the meantime, we feel important; accepted; a part of something bigger.

The danger is our ‘something bigger’ will never offer meaning; nor satisfy the hunger that speaks within.

In Recovery, you will be asked to lay it all down. Through a radical act of surrender, you can be restored to your authentic identity.

For some time, the way ahead may feel unfamiliar and treacherous, but it’s a passage you must cross.

Everything entangled with your addiction must go.



Emotional entanglements provoke great highs and deep lows. Their dramatic effect etches into us.

If the effect is negative or destructive, the impressions can drive each party to self-sabotage.

So. Here’s the harsh news. Unless you were married beforehand, and have understood that your union will need special attention, any relationship built during your addiction must come to an absolute end. No negotiation. Attaching sentimentality or nostalgia can be deadly.

Do not be deceived, propensity for relapse here is sky high.

This same premise applies to some family members.

Proceed with caution here though. I am not suggesting that you become dramatic and change your family name. That’s not the point. Family does matter. In many cases, parents and siblings can offer excellent support, provided they become informed and educated, invested in accountability, rather than any form of enablement.

Distance is needed when there is a conflict of interests. And we do not suggest you assert this boundary by pushing delete. Instead, you communicate and lay down healthy ground rules. If your sibling chooses to participate in aspects of life that are lethal to you, then alternative relational arrangements must be made; perhaps connection becomes limited to group functions.

Everyone you used with or who influenced your behaviour needs to be released. Be aware that many of these relationships are damaged anyway. You gravitated towards each other because you shared similar brokenness. You met each other on common ground. It was a ‘soort-sook-soort’ attraction.

If you continue, it will be a matter of time before you revert back to old behaviour. One of you will surely fall.



Music is a big deal.

This is because smell and sound are two of the strongest links to long-term memory.

Our brain is really efficient. Neural pathways record experiences which get filed into the memory centre of the Limbic System.  Millions of synapses are interacting with our environment constantly; picking up on familiar sensory moments. As data is assessed and processed, it looks for the most travelled pathway that offers it opportunity for action.

As you habitually engage in communication, activities, intimacies that drive your self-destruction, you form deep pathways that hold explosive memory material.

Think about it: a song you loved catapults you back to a sunset moment, the smell of grass to a lazy afternoon. The linking points are endless. These activate cravings.

Once you enter the Recovery process, the destructive pathways begin to break down. Repetitive practice of new behaviours disables dangerous data. As truth and reality etch into your mind, healthy choices come naturally.

Be warned though – the old pathways remain. This is why Recovery is a life-long journey; why vigilance is essential; why we cannot slack back into old behaviours; cannot trip-switch past playlists.

In trauma-speak, we call these our triggers. If you entertain them, or even lightly indulge them, old familiar feelings will re-assert. Before you know it, you will be going down memory lane, dialling up your dealer.

The cultural aspect is also a problem. Identity became attached to the bands you got down to. They must go too.

It does not mean that you can never listen to hip-hop or techno again. But you have to give yourself a lot of time, and re-introduce it very carefully, with high accountability. Don’t go back to the old songs, where lyrics are highly charged. Sounds like a nuance thing, but its super important.

Consider getting into that conversation when you have clocked up a year in Recovery. Involve your accountability partners; and even then, proceed with caution.


Your Time

You need to be willing to let go of large chunks of your time.

Think of all facets of Recovery as an investment into a meaningful and successful future. You may we have ruins behind you, but your past need not define you.

Do not give it that power.

Make the restoration of your precious life your absolute priority. But, remember, balance is important too.

A healthy lifestyle is multi-faceted. Any time you are zoning in on one area only, do a Recovery check. Are you being excessive, or becoming obsessive? These are warning signs. Track back to the triggers and dial up your accountability team.  

It’s most often the small foxes that will ruin a vineyard.

Cross-addiction is a real danger. If the unmet needs are not dealt with, rogue desires will seek relief elsewhere.

A balanced lifestyle includes time set aside for rest, relationship, work, creativity, community, spiritual fellowship and play.

In Recovery, service is also essential. It deals with our tendency to become self-centred.

Being considered about your daily, weekly and monthly schedule will protect you from the dangers of isolation; ensure you don’t end up feeling divided and vulnerable.

You will also need to attend support groups so you can interact with people who can relate, guide and offer accountability.

Practicing Step 12 in all your affairs is a great act of kindness. What you have received, you start giving away.

Remember, there’s a person out there who is where you used to be.

Reach out and show them the way.

Teach them too.


For those of us who so easily indulge in dramatics, I offer a disclaimer.

To surrender is to let go. This is an attitude of heart. Surrender does not suggest that you become indiscriminately reactive. It does not ask that you instantly sign divorce papers, part with valuables, pack up your life, place your animals on a pavement…


It asks you to look into your heart.

Ask yourself…

What is that in your closed fist?

What: in your life, in your thinking, in your cultural expression of who you are, have you deified?

What and who have you exalted to such an extent that they now hold a sovereign position in your heart?

Open your hand. Let it go.

Go ahead, lay it down.

Now start slow, and be faithful with the small, discover that which no longer hurts you.

As you are faithful with the small, much more will be given.

Surrender is not a road you need walk alone. Find a supportive community, enlist an accountability partner. Lean on God.


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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