There are a few ways we can talk about the battle of compliance versus surrender. The first part relates to clients in treatment.

Some people believe that because they say the right things and do “what’s required” of them in treatment that they are working in the program. We find that these people never actually change their behavior; nearing the end of their treatment they begin to act the same as or similar to when they first came in. The recovery mask drops and we see the person for who they really are. Compliance is a dangerous dynamic, as most of the time, the person doesn’t really know that they are being compliant. We have often heard people saying “but I don’t understand what the problem is, I’m doing all the right things, getting all my assignments done, participating in group and really dealing with all my issues. So what’s the problem?”

It’s a good question.

The problem is that without surrender you won’t change. So where does the surrender come from and how can we make it happen?

The birth of surrender comes from the acceptance we experience in step one. Surrender to most people implies that they have lost, they are giving up, the fight is over. Addicts are not the easiest people to deal with when it comes to losing or letting go so the concept is foreign. But it is a must; we need to surrender to the fact that within us we don’t have the power or ability to stop using substances. That left to our own devices we will use or abuse substances till it kills us. The second part of that surrender is accepting that we need help from external sources in order to get into recovery.

Counterproductive belief systems in recovery sound like this.

  • I’ve got this.
  • Now I can handle this on my own.
  • I hear what you’re saying but…
  • Yes I know, I know…

There are many signs to people who are compliant; as mentioned before we won’t see any real personal change with their behavior, and when pushed they will revert back to old behavior as a default coping mechanism.

The second part of the battle between compliance VS Surrender is once the client has left treatment.

This type of challenge really does separate the complaint from the surrendered.

Some people say the right things, do all the work and planning for when they leave, and when they do actually leave they take the reins back. They tell the people around them all the new lingo they have learned. They actually start using recovery info as a weapon against their own recovery. They throw around this new info to convince people that they are in recovery, but the moment it is time to act on this new information, they don’t or can’t because it isn’t a subjective reality to them, its objective. Its something outside of themselves. Everything is a farce because the majority of their recovery is not real. The honesty and integrity of the program is only used in front of people and not behind closed doors. This alone is enough to completely undermine everything recovery stands for, relapse will follow shortly after, followed by statements like; “but I don’t understand why this happened. I was doing everything required of me.”

So why does relapse happen? Where does the Compliant falter?

I think part of the problem is people don’t know how to make the real changes, they are not completely willing to make the needed sacrifices or dedicate the needed time to their new way of life. The first year of recovery is very taxing as it takes a monstrous amount of your time to focus on your recovery at that level and I believe that people don’t see recovery for what it actually is.

Recovery isn’t easy, especially in the first few months. Feelings are hard to deal with, we are reminded on a daily basis of the destruction we have caused, no one around us really trusts our change, people are broken because of our past behavior and it takes time for the relationship to heal. There are a lot of exterior influences that push us to react the way we used to, throwing up a middle finger and destructing.

Another trap that people who are compliant fall into is trying to separate their lives from their recovery. Like doing recovery on the side while still trying to reap the benefits of this new life. Anyone, including myself, that I’ve seen really embrace recovery has made their recovery their life. It’s hard to tell the two apart. People who are compliant often have severely different lives. One side going to meetings and sharing about recovery, then the same night going to a club and pretending to be normal. Like trying to mix oil and water. The addiction culture and recovery culture won’t and don’t mix, one of them will win. Unfortunately, it’s usually the addiction culture that pulls people in because it’s familiar and comfortable.

The majority of people who have long term recovery will tell you that recovery comes, came and will always come first in their lives.

This is the recipe for the surrender I’m talking about.

  • I can’t do this on my own.
  • I need as much help as I can get.
  • I don’t really know much about recovery but I’m willing and open to learning.
  • Recovery is difficult but I’m prepared to embrace the struggle.
  • Please tell me what to do next.
  • I’m accountable for my decisions.
  • I’m responsible for my actions.
  • I can’t, He can, so let Him.