By: Diane Cameron
We learn about surrender early in recovery. It takes a long time to really get it, and maybe even longer to really mean it. But then, after several trials and some successes, we are willing.
“Ok” we say, “I’ll turn over this job/relationship/person.” “I’m willing to let go and let God.”
WE spend a lot of time asking our sponsor exactly how to do that and mostly we find that creating some kind of ritual helps a lot: we add a note to the God Box, or e light a candle, maybe we write down our desire and then we burn that paper as a gesture of true surrender.
But then what? What happens after we turn something over?
Most of us get stuck at that point. The impatience kicks in because we don’t know what to do. How—exactly—will we know if a Higher Power is answering our call for guidance?
What we need are some tools for discernment.
One friend asks, “Should she change jobs?” Another one thinks about changing her whole career. A friend from meeting debates, “Should she buy a house or continue to rent?” Someone else talks about graduate school versus yoga teacher training.
“A choice between goods” is one definition of discernment. It’s not right or wrong, good or bad, but a choice between goods.
But how do you “do” discernment?
Years ago, my spiritual director gave me this list of tools for discernment:
Get quiet and listen for the subtle
Then use your gut, your courage and your integrity.
Another good discernment practice, and this one takes a little time which is helpful as most of us are impatient. It goes like this:
Fully describes Option A to yourself (preferable in writing): the graduate program, the classes, location, books, homework, money, and benefits, people. Declare (to yourself) that this is the choice you have made. Then live as if that is the final choice—that and only that for two weeks. Pretend to yourself it’s a done deal and go about your life as if that is true. No mental debate for those two weeks. But during that time pay attention to your body, energy, heart and head.
After two full weeks of living option A, then again, again fully commit yourself, but now to option B. Again, make full mental and emotional commitment—for two whole weeks. Now what do you notice or sense in your body, mind, heart, and energy? Write about what you see and sense. What messages do you get?
In addition, you’ll want to talk to people who have chosen either options –or similar ones—and then pray/ask for a sign.
Discernment may sound like a slightly religious word, and that’s because almost every faith tradition has practices to help us make life decisions. Confusion and related decision-making are two huge helpings of being human, so faith traditions offer guidance.
In our Twelve-step programs we have maybe even a little more confusion—we are still learning to trust our Higher Power, and ourselves and we’ve faced down some past decisions we’re not happy about, so we may be a bit wary.
So, when we make a surrender—and we do this over and over in our recovery years—we also need to practice the tools of discernment as a practical and tangible way to both wait on and see our Higher Power in action.
Diane Cameron’s book, Out of the Woods is a guide for women new to recovery. With time, recovering women face challenges and Cameron shares her experiences in hopes to teach readers how to handle the unexpected trials of double-digit recovery.