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  • The AA Big Book likens finding recovery from alcoholism, and a fellowship of others who have found it, to being a “passenger of a great ocean liner the moment after rescue from shipwreck, when comaraderie, joyousness and democracy pervade the vessel from steerage to Captain’s table”. Anyone who has been caught up in the grips of addiction or alcoholism, or any other –ism/-tion, and found a way out, understands this. It perfectly describes how it feels, once you find a way out. There’s that sense that, with nothing to lose, you can now go forward and LIVE, without fear or worry. If you’ve ever been there, you know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t, you’re either fortunate that you didn’t need to be there, or I wish you all the luck and good fortune in getting there. It is available to any who need it – all you have to do to get there is surrender.

    But, after awhile, a funny thing happens to some. You begin to find success in life, thanks to this new “fearless” attitude. You get a decent job, and don’t blow it in 6 months. You find yourself in a sustained relationship, that isn’t entirely, or three-quarters, in your head! You buy a house. You get a promotion. Then, one day, you find yourself living in fear again. Only, now it’s a different kind of fear. You think you have something you have to protect, now. You don’t want to do anything to blow what you’ve attained. You begin to act differently. You find yourself trapped again, albeit in a more comfortable trap; but you know deep down inside that you are no longer free. You’re living to keep the wolfhounds at bay. You’re living in fear that one false move, and you might blow it.

    This is no way to live. Granted, it beats the hell out of addiction, and that’s what you tell yourself to rationalize the fact that you are living in fear once again, but no matter how you slice it, you are still living in fear. In your heart of hearts, you know it, and you know that it doesn’t have to be this way.
  • I was incredibly fortunate to stumble into a series of workshops, when I found myself in this place, that set me free again. They were called “Abundance”, “More”, “Recharge”, and “The Next Step”. This set me on a course that I am still on, and was as great a gift to me as recovery itself was – maybe even more. Some of what they taught us in these workshops seemed to run contrary to what I thought I had learned through the 12 Steps of recovery, but that wasn’t necessarily true. It went contrary to some of the limiting beliefs those that helped me to find recovery had, but it didn’t contradict the principles of the 12 Steps – if anything, it enhanced them.

    In Abundance, we learned to use affirmations and denials to determine what we wanted, or didn’t want, in our lives. We learned that we had the ability, each and every one of us, to choose what was in our lives. You affirmed what you wanted in your life, and what you didn’t want in your life. Amazingly, this worked. You learned to be grateful for what you had, and to be grateful for what you desired to have – to thank the universe in advance for providing what you needed. This, too, worked. The more you tried it, the more it seemed to work.

    The most valuable lesson I learned – and I can’t remember whether I learned it in the Abundance workshop, or the More workshop - was the difference between “surrender” and “quitting”. This was just one of those things that resonated so deeply and strongly with me, and may have made the difference for me between “settling” for a comfortable, though relatively fearful, life, and going for more in life, and being willing to pursue my dreams and visions to the fullest extent.
  • They called it the “Surrender” exercise, and told everyone to put their palms together, and then to pull their palms apart. “Palms together, palms apart.” Then, they said to continue doing this. So, everyone continued putting their palms together, then pulling their palms apart. Palms together. Palms apart. This went on. And on. And on. Minutes passed. Palms got tired. Arms got tired. There was no further instruction. 25 people sitting around in a large circle, doing this ridiculous palms together, palms apart “surrender” exercise. They never said anything else. They just looked at us, with no expression, and we continued to do the exercise.

    Finally, I figured it out. I thought. “It’s a ‘Surrender’ exercise! Don’t these fools get it? You keep going until you surrender. Here, let me show them how surrender works. I’m an expert at it. Follow my lead, people.” So, I stopped. I surrendered. I thought. I was so proud of myself. Now, if I could just convince the others to surrender, we can get done with this silly exercise, and move onto something more interesting!

    But, they all kept going. Palms together, palms apart. “No, no, no, people, don’t you get it?!? It’s about SURRENDER! Just stop, and we can move on to the next cool thing. Come on, watch me. See? I stopped. I surrendered. Just stop it, already!”

    But, they kept going. It seemed like hours. I was furious. Self-righteously so. “Goddamn, unrecovered people, don’t you see? No, you can’t see, because you’re not surrendered, like me.” After awhile, it slowly began to occur to me - “maybe I’m the one who’s having trouble with surrender, here”. As I looked around the room, everyone else seemed really calm, and really into “palms together, palms apart” - they were groovin’ to it, jammin’ on it, serenely down with it, while I was all bent the fuck out of shape about the whole goddamned, stupid-assed silly exercise.

    I finally accepted that I hadn’t surrendered at all. I had just quit. It was very humiliating. Humbling. I learned a lesson that has stayed with me for many years. I had tried to figure out the “trick” to the exercise, and thought that I had cleverly nailed it, when there really wasn’t any trick to it. It wasn’t about that. It was about learning to accept that, sometimes in life, you just put your palms together, and your palms apart, and keep going until you get through whatever it is. You surrender into it. As opposed to quitting, and not playing at all, because it’s uncomfortable or confusing or you don’t feel like playing.

    I think I needed to remember this.

    Palms together….palms apart. Palms together …..
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