Read - The reality of Surrender
Surrender is a funny word. For so many years it seemed to me to be a massive cop out word. Akin to ‘giving up’. But it’s not. It’s an entirely different thing when it relates to surrendering in some way to life.
The sort of surrender that I’m talking about is when you 100% realise that all of your working out and machinations and trying to control things and analysing and god only knows what else has come to absolutely nothing. That there appears to be nowhere else in the world to go. That all attempts at escaping into this harebrained scheme or that master plan or this distraction just don’t work. When it feels as though there is no more track left to run on. In that moment, surrender occurs. You can’t force it, manufacture it, cajole it, hoodwink it or manufacture it. It isn’t like that. It has to come from a place that’s not in your control. A part of yourself that really realises that the game is up.
It’s happened a couple of significant times to me. The first was when I woke up in November, 2002 and realised that I couldn’t drink anymore. I couldn’t keep putting myself through it. I couldn’t keep doing what I had always done and expect things to change. It was a real road to Damascus moment for me.
The previous evening I had behaved appallingly. I was on holiday in Gran Canaria with an ex (J) and I’d become very drunk in the afternoon. I was a distressing drunk. I remember sitting on the sofa rocking backwards and forwards, unable to escape the darkness in my head, making attempts to pull my hair out. It wasn’t pretty. I also remember prior to that, that I had been going up to the bar and ordering two glasses of wine for myself and J and while at the bar having an extra bacardi and coke that I didn’t tell him about.
I was a mess. J was gorgeous and did what he could do sober me out and clean me up and after a few hours I was feeling more or less sober ish. We went out for dinner. I can still remember the look of horror on his face when I ordered a bottle of wine. He’d just spent god knows how many hours sobering me up and getting me out of the pit of my own despair only for me to apparently voluntarily throw myself back into it. It’s the first time I’ve written that down and I can see how totally nuts that must have appeared to him. But the keyword there is ‘apparently’. At the time I didn’t feel as though I had any choice. I needed to escape my (non-specific but nonetheless incredibly scary and debilitating) pain. I’d just added to it with my behaviour in the afternoon and I couldn’t bear the shame of it, so I went to my usual doctor - alcohol.
But something happened in that look. Of course it wasn’t just the look. It was all the well-meaning friends who had tried to suggest that there might be something wrong. The attempts that my friends had made at introductions to people who were sober and HAPPY. The nagging suspicion in my head that all was not exactly well in the world.
And the next morning I woke up and I knew that I’d surrendered. I didn’t have a fucking clue about how I was going to manage to live the rest of my life. All I knew was that it couldn’t continue in the way that it had. That was literally all I knew. I’d been to AA six months previously but had decided it wasn’t for me as the time of the meetings coincided with when the pub was open (I was successfully running a pub!) and that wasn’t convenient... But by the time I went back in the November, the pub was on the market and I realised that I needed another sort of life. I had no clue what it would look like.
J and I played a lot of cards that day in November, and I very quietly realised that I wasn’t going to drink but that I needed help. In AA it’s called The Gift of Desperation. Maybe that’s what surrender is, the gift of desperation. When you realise that there is absolutely nowhere else to go and so you simply have to be where you are with warts and all.
I surrendered, it was terrifying, I wouldn't call it brave, even. I had no choice.
That was November, 2002. I haven’t had a drink to this day.