Overheard at a mechanic’s garage last week: “This guy told me to suit up and show up. Then he told me to always do my best. Then he told me to let go. I don’t know what that means. Before a game, I can remember my coaches telling me to suit up and show up, and do my best. Nobody ever told me to let go.”
People receive a lot of advice in the early months of recovery, and if they are serious about staying sober, they listen to it. The slogans of the Twelve Step programs have proven themselves for over eighty years now. Keep It Simple, One Day at a Time, First Things First—the common sense of human experience is presented in these brief instructions. It’s simple, but it’s not easy.
“Let go” is a difficult instruction for many to follow. The phrase is usually expressed as “Let go and let God,” and the spiritual aspect of the slogan is challenging for some. For others, letting go might mean “pretending I don’t care,” an attitude they want to avoid in sobriety. Most commonly, people confuse “letting go” with “giving up.”
There’s an explanation that helps put this advice in perspective. The newcomer is advised to let go of control. She or he is encouraged to expend all reasonable effort on doing the next functional thing, while letting go of an attachment to results. It’s not about abolishing expectations—it’s about managing them. If we expect nothing of ourselves, we probably won’t get much done. If we expect too much of ourselves and others, we are set up for perpetual disappointment.
The trick is to keep our sense of worth separate from our accomplishments and circumstances. Happiness is created by not expecting too much; accomplishment is created by not surrendering our standards completely. Most of the judgments we place on ourselves are subjective. They won’t matter when we’re gone.
Letting go isn’t about mediocrity or the destruction of ambition. It’s about seeing what’s real: we are not our successes, and neither are we our failures. Expend effort to get results, but don’t take the results personally. Suit up and show up, do your best, and view the results like a movie script—interesting, maybe entertaining, sometimes instructive, but not the final judgment about who you are. Let go.
Are you having trouble getting where you want to go? Are drugs and alcohol always sending you out of bounds? If you need some high-level, quality treatment, call Sobriety Matters at 713-904-4699. Our team of professionals can help you develop your plan for a better life! We can help you “show up”!