The Big Book tells us that practically no one liked to admit complete defeat when it came to alcohol or drugs. Alcoholics and addicts are a headstrong bunch. But not many of us like to admit complete defeat in other areas of life either. We want to think that we are doing the right thing, for the right reasons and intentions, and if only everyone could get on board the world would be a happier place. Recovery can be described as the slow and painful sloughing off of those old notions.

In the beginning, almost every area of my life was baffling and troublesome. Surrender was necessary in every difficult area of life in order for me to discover a new way of living.

When one is newly sober, it is often a struggle to simply be “cash register” honest. Maybe we admit we have a problem with drugs but maybe we resist the notion of powerlessness over alcohol. Yet after we fully admit that we are alcoholics, we learn what it feels like to be fully and completely honest. We learn not to steal, not to overtly lie, not to cheat other people, not to intentionally harm others physically or emotionally. Seeing as the newcomer is in a state of total willingness, they are often open to many suggestions. This is such a crucial time in sobriety which is why many people suggest going to treatment and sober living to give the newcomer a better chance to grow and challenge themselves. Old environments and relationships often abide by old rules.

In my experience once one works the 12 steps and gets more time sober, a beautiful, full life follows. Inevitably your spirit wakes up a little bit more. Often you realize you have been engaged in some behavior that doesn’t match up with your value system. This has happened time and time again in my recovery. Maybe you aren’t stealing but you didn’t give a cashier back extra change wrongly given to you. Maybe you aren’t cheating, but you are seeking validation in people outside your relationship. Maybe you aren’t getting into fist fights anymore, but you are gossiping and participating in character assassination. Maybe you are sponsoring other alcoholics or addicts but suggesting things that you are not doing yourself in your own program. Discomfort can come when your spirit lets you know adjustments should be made. These are all opportunities to grow that many people in 12 step fellowships have encountered. Unfortunately, these lessons can be even harder to learn because we might feel we already know how to be honest with ourselves, that we are already people grounded in spiritual principles. These struggles are such valuable opportunities to revisit Steps 1-3.

It makes sense. We don’t learn everything at once. If we did, we would be overwhelmed and probably quit. So when I surrender to a circumstance outside of my control, this is an opportunity for me to grow in my faith but also to investigate any old behaviors or ideas might not be serving me well anymore. Part of my faith is to trust that my higher power is teaching me the lessons I need to learn now, and I don’t have to learn any faster than that. I can trust that something greater than myself knows what I need to learn so I can be the best version of myself in the present moment.