What Does it Mean to Surrender?

“The day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” – Anais Nin

Twelve step programs have many recovery tools that can be beneficial to those who are struggling with food addiction, emotional eating, anorexia, compulsive eating or bulimia. One of these valuable concepts is surrender. This admission of powerlessness is at the core of Step One, and is really the heart and foundation of 12 step recovery.

In order to make a positive change in your life, you need to have a heartfelt commitment. Everyone who comes to our office shares that they want to make changes, but they’re not always at the point of true surrender. They may not have given their whole selves over to the process of change. They’re not willing to experience the discomfort, stress and uncertainty – the risk of blossoming.

Twelve step programs have a saying that it’s the “the gift of desperation” that often leads people into successful recovery. This happens after years of trying over and over again to change something, control something or give something up. They may succeed for a short time, yet as soon as a tricky situation comes up they go right back to their familiar behaviors.

At that point, the truly desperate will realize that they must surrender. Their way is not working.

Merriam-Webster says that by surrendering, we “cease resistance to an enemy or opponent and submit to their authority.”

Note that this authority is not your counselor, sponsor or any other person. Some think of it as the compulsion or behavior; other see it as the food. Surrendering to this “enemy” means having a healthy respect for the seriousness of the problem and acknowledging that we’re powerless over controlling it by ourselves.

Overeating and restricting food not only make people emotionally isolated and miserable, but can lead to many serious health issues and even death. Change is scary, but the consequences of not changing are even scarier.

Twelve step programs have many tools, resources and supports that can help you get to a place of surrender. Our counselors at the White Picket Fence Counseling Center can help, or we are also happy to make referrals to someone in your area.

Have patience and respect for your own time line. Some people surrender quickly, and others hold on for years. Commit to the process and stick with it – because you never know when it’s going to happen for you. Another much-loved saying in the rooms of recovery is:

“Don’t quit 5 minutes before the miracle happens.”

  • How willing are you today to surrender your harmful eating behaviors and commit to change?
  • Are you willing to let go of control?
  • Are you willing to embrace something new?
  • Are you willing to let go and trust the unknown?
  • Are you willing to seek support from someone who’s been where you are (e.g., in a 12-step program or support group)?
  • Are you willing to seek support from a professional who is highly trained and experienced in helping other people with similar issues as you are facing?

Click here for a list of 12 step recovery programs and links to their websites.

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