How exactly does one go about surrendering? I am not religious. So surrendering to a god is not for me; but I am spiritual. It all sounds so great, but I just don’t know how to do it. How did you surrender?


I think of it sort of like I’m a plant, like a tree or a flower. No matter how much I might try to be one type of plant (for example, I might be trying to force myself to be an oak tree), I am not that type of plant. I’m a maple tree. I will always be a maple tree.

A maple tree can never be an oak tree. So the maple surrenders - it gives up its crazy quest to be something other than what it is - and it lives the life it’s supposed to live.

Your question now is, what type of tree are you? And how can you live a life of healthy growth? You can learn that in many places, including recovery groups (of which there are many options, many of which are spiritual without god), here on Talking Sober, in rehab, and in other recovery-focused spaces.


Just stop resisting and fighting life as it is.


That was not for me either. But ironically, I was able to put some solid ideas about surrender together after studying AA’s Step Three “Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood him”.

The lesson I got from that was that, in my case at least, a decision was insufficient. Decisions happen inside my head. I am required to back up that decision with action. So it is my actions which expose my decision.

First, I surrendered to alcohol. I made a conscience decision about 3 years before I got sober that I was an alcoholic and there was nothing I could do about it. I decided to just drink and see what happened. No pretense of quitting some day.

Second, I surrendered to the idea of sobriety. I decided to make it my job to lay a sober head on my pillow each night. To put that into action, I complied with my court ordered daily breath checks, I took Antabuse, i went to counseling. I stopped driving without a license and got rides or used the bus. After a few weeks, I went back to AA and took as many of the suggestions as possible. I got a sponsor immediately, at my second meeting, and did what he told my to do. I kept telling myself that these people knew how to stay sober and I did not, so I should at least try what they offered.

Surrender is an action plan that reflects our decision to live differently.


Im not religious, i believe that religion is within us all, for me its linked to my concience and what i feel but thats a whole other matter…for me surrender means an acceptance to myself that i am who i am and thats ok, ive had to search my soul for realisations of what i need to accept or at least work daily toward in order to move forward…that im an alcoholic, that i cant ever be a normie drinker, that i am powerless over alcohol…along with realisations of the negative im learning to accept i am also starting to also accept the positives of who i am, to work with them and celebrate them, there must be balance


I’m not one for the religious version and I’m not even big on surrender in the sense of giving up control. (A scar from my childhood trauma)

However I am a student of Buddhism and the word acceptance makes sense to me.

I’m also a student of science, and the brain science of addiction indicates that alcohol is addictive and once the addiction is activated, there is very little I can do to manage moderation due to chemistry, not just willpower. The one thing I can do to deter that brain chemistry is not drink the first drink.

So my “surrender” has been to accept that the science is real and that I have an addiction to alcohol. I practice acceptance. I surrender to the facts of the situation that have been demonstrated to me repeatedly over the years: I don’t moderate my alcohol use when I drink because I am addicted.

My acceptance or surrender to the facts allows me the cognitive and emotional space to determine to do something different. So I take that information and energy and pour it into changing my habits, changing my mindset and changing my identity to become a person who doesn’t drink alcohol.

I just re read that last paragraph and see that I used the phrase “pour into” to describe the shift I made. Instead of pouring drinks into me, I pour myself into my sobriety practices.

What are my sobriety practices?

  1. Check in here regularly to stay focused on my decision to accept the science and work on my new identity.
  2. Hold myself accountable by participating here, speaking with my husband and family regularly about my journey.
  3. Eat, sleep, and exercise with attention to my mindset so that I can avoid relapse.
  4. Seek out new forms of recreation that make me happy and help me remain committed to my decision.
  5. Practicing gratitude and mindful thinking about how special my life is now as I actively seek peace and joy instead of the next bottles of wine.

I think the word surrender is tough. It has a lot of baggage for people who have experienced abuse or trauma. It is also not a comfortable concept in western culture.

I hope my writing helps you think about it differently. I choose to accept that alcohol gets in the way of my best life. So I accept that it cannot be something I use.

I wish you the best!


Step 2: Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

Step 3: Made a decision to turn our will and our lives to the care of God as we understood God.

I’ve seen many maneuver around these steps without the belief in God. And it’s worked for them. But for others, they’ve had to come to a point where there was no choice except to come to believe in God. The only other alternative was to stay continually suffering in their own powerlessness, will-centered, destructive life.


I think of it as a surrender to the notion I have any control over my drinking. I stop trying to think I do. I stop trying to think I can be a normal drinker. I stop trying to think I can cure myself of bad habits. I surrender to the fact that I cannot have a single drink because I simply cannot handle it. And then I surrender to never questioning my decision to not drink. Any mind game my pickle brain tries to work, I refute because I surrender to the fact that even 1 drink cannot happen. Surrender for me is wrapped up in acceptance that I am an alcoholic .

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One day found myself in the ring in a fight for my life. The bell rang and the fight was on. I looked over at my opponent, he was much bigger than me, he was faster than, and he was meaner than me, but I had something he didn’t, moxy and confidence. I charged at him with all my might, and with a mighty blow, I was knocked out.

Defeated, I crawled back to my corner and licked my wounds. I spent the next several weeks training. I was bigger, I was faster and I was smarter.

We soon had a rematch, and on fight night I jumped into the ring. There was no way I would lose this time! The bell rang and I met my opponent in the middle of the ring. This time I played defense. He threw a right hook, I ducked. He threw a left jab, I blocked. Then he said something to me. Stupified by what he said, he threw an uppercut and I was again knocked out.

This went on for months, fight after fight, I was knocked out. No matter how much I trained, no metter how I tried to out smart him, he kept.winning. I was became desperate, not to win, but to not have to fight this guy again.

On the night of our last fight, I stepped in to the ring and I took off my gloves and said, “that’s it, I surrender!”

I finally realized that, the only way to beat this guy was to stop fighting him. He can stay in that ring all he wants, but I’ll never fight him again, and I am ok with that. I surrendered.


Jimmy Breslin, in his excellent depiction of alcoholism and recovery, his book Table Money, uses the metaphor of alcoholism as a wily old fighter who consistently suckers the young drunk into mixing it up just one more time. The booze always wins. And the way the young drunk moves into sobriety is that he becomes aware of the squeak of boxing shoe on canvas and refuses to fight. Surrender is giving up the fight, not giving into losing.


In terms of sobriety you surrender to the fact that you cannot control your use of drugs or alcohol and need to abstain from them for the rest of your life. People who don’t do this due to their own selfishness or some other reason generally fail in sobriety.

Surrendering to a spiritual entity as a matter of faith is a different topic. You can surrender to addiction without surrendering to a higher power…