What does it mean to “let go and let God”? And, why is it important?
Here’s the core issue: Addiction is based in the illusion of control and an overpowering need for control – control of the object of our addiction(s), control of others and control of situations. Underneath this overwhelming need for control is a myriad of emotional triggers: primarily deep-seated fear – of failure, of being overwhelmed by the world, of emotional intimacy, of being exposed, of loss, and on and on. Most of these deep-seated fears originate with various kinds of psychic wounds in the addict’s early childhood. I’m not going to go into depth regarding the exact nature of these wounds, although I can. That belongs to the realm of psychotherapy.
Instead, I’ll highlight the basic process of recovery from these wounds and the resultant ability to truly “let go and let God” as we proceed in recovery. Recovery from addiction requires a wholesale change of inner, psychic attitude: away from fear-based, obsessive control, and toward trust – in ourselves, in life, and above all, in a loving and caring higher power. It’s about learning to trust something or someone outside of, and higher than, our own limited selves. It is about learning how to relax in the world, and not be continually hypervigilant and uptight, anxious and fearful about what will happen if we let go. This is a profound change.
Another word for trust is “surrender.” Surrender to what? Surrender to things that are beyond our control. This includes other people, the economy, the weather, and a wide range of the circumstances of our life. Surrender isn’t weakness; paradoxically, surrender is the way of strength and conservation of energy. It is about not expending mental and physical energy on trying to control things that are beyond our control, and focusing our energies on changing the things we can control: namely, ourselves and our attitudes and behaviors, so that we become more functional and healthy.
How does this trust-based surrender develop in recovery? Occasionally, people in recovery are blessed by a sudden, overwhelming, powerful spiritual experience that causes a rapid, wholesale change in outlook and attitude. These experiences are not the norm. The norm is change of the “educational variety”: slow, gradual change over time. Over time, as we grow and change, we learn that we CAN safely trust ourselves, trust life, and trust our Higher Power. We begin to lose our crippling fear and replace it with trust, serenity and gratitude.