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I was telling a non-addict friend about how hard it is for addicts to let go of control. We are such control freaks that the lesson of “letting go” is our greatest struggle once we enter recovery – nevermind letting go on a deeper level.

I know this is pretty cornball – especially since last week I prefaced my blog with a Peggy Lee song – but I’ve been trying to find a way to write about having faith and this song suddenly popped into my head.

I really don’t know why songs that were background radio music during my childhood keep filtering into my consciousness these days but they do let me know that the answers we discover for ourselves through trial and error in the personal growth of our recovery – well – they are not new answers.

When it comes to things like “having faith” or “letting go” there are two choices on how to live: Do you want to experience the stress and emotional exhaustion of trying to control the outcome of situations, exerting your will and best laid plans? Do you want to ignore fear and allow it to be disguised as diligence and motivation to push your plans through by force? Do you want to hold onto to the superstitions or OCD behaviors that covet obsessional thinking, behaviors that create a tightening in the chest, that keep you living in the state of anticipation and dread while relying on your horoscope, your psychic, your tarot cards,or whatever extra-worldly help you hope will bend the future to your liking?
OR do you want to take a few deep breathes, acknowledge your dreams and fears, and practice living in the present moment, trusting that however the future unfolds everything will be as it should be.

If you have any doubts about letting go of fear – which shows up in the desire to maintain control even when it’s truly impossible – try this exercise: make a list of all the times you forced things to go your way. Don’t let your selective memory list only the times there were good outcomes. List the times when shit hit the fan and things didn’t work out or when the outcome was terrible. Now revisit that emotional place – do you remember how nuts you felt, the inner panic, the adrenaline spent on the mental hamster wheel of obsession compulsion and fear? Now list times when you “let go” and gave up control, times when you let life happen. When you were disappointed, how bad did the bad feel? How often were you surprised by the outcome?

Does this mean that to live a life of surrender we stop taking action? Hell no! In fact, by taking one step at a time toward your dreams it is the same as showing the universe what your intention is – then allow the future to unfold however it is supposed to. Sometimes you don’t get what you want but you definitely will end up on a ride worth taking. LET LIFE SURPRISE YOU.


Patty is a nationally recognized certified recovery coach and writer. She lives in New York City.

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