Sitting in an old wooden chair with a semi-cushioned pastel seat, worn smooth and faded by those before me, in an office filled with the aroma of cigarette smoke, (as you could still smoke inside at that time) – My heart beating wildly in my chest with the very distinct thumping sound of my own pulse pounding in my ears – my mind racing, while my legs involuntarily bobbed up and down with my fingers interlocked in a death grip and my teeth clinched – I listened as my counselor responded to the myriad of desperate fears and concerns I had laid out before him, (in great detail I might add), and summed them up by saying, “Well Rebecca, you are just going to have to let go and let God.”
THIS was NOT acceptable! Did he not understand the gravity of my predicament or how utterly hopeless my situation was? Had he been listening to a WORD I had just said? Did he care at all? NO! He certainly did not!! (Or so I thought at the time.) Of course at this point I wasn’t able to tell him just how very angry and short changed I felt, (as communication skills were not my strong point)…I would instead stew on it for a while until some time in the not so distant future when I would surely explode into a tirade of tears and rage on some innocent soul.
Of course what I was seeking so desperately then, was a desire deeply rooted in every human heart which was the longing for peace ~ peace of mind and peace within my soul. Peace is defined as “An absence of mental stress or anxiety; Absence of hostility; Cessation or lapse in violent internal conflict; A state of harmony AND…Unlikely to last unless further steps are taken to prevent resurgence. But what were those steps? How could “I” obtain that peace? What seemed early on to be the answer was ~ “If I want peace…then didn’t “I” need to make it happen?”
But as time passed – days turning into weeks, weeks into months and months into years – I would grow and come to realize and marvel at how the physical aspects of life and the world I lived in, demonstrated in a very real way, spiritual principles and truths for living and thriving in it; One of those truths being the idea that by exerting my strength and my will into a situation, I could in fact actually make it worse – even threaten my own well being; Where if I instead, “Let Go”, I would have a much greater possibility of being safe and doing well.
One example of this is Rip Currents. They are the single most hazardous beach condition that a swimmer can face. Every year over 100 people lose their lives in rip currents. The greatest threat to human life by a rip current is that the individual who finds themselves in one panics and tries to swim against the current, becoming exhausted and soon going under and drowning. Some tips for avoiding the this dangerous situation is: (1) Never swim where there are no lifeguards; (2) Learn what to look for in the water to spot a rip current; (3) If you DO find yourself in a rip current the key to survival is to NOT panic, NOT swim against it or fight it, but rather to swim parallel to the shore with the current until you are out of it and then either swim in or allow the waves to assist you back to shore.
Having had a couple of my own experiences with rip currents, (neither of which caused my life to be in jeopardy), I have tried it both ways. Once I found myself in one and tried to swim against the current. It was such a small area that I felt I could do it. It was incredible the power of the current and how VERY quickly I found myself extremely fatigued. On still another occasion, while shell hunting I found that fighting the current to look for shells was impossible along the shore line, but allowing the current to take me down the beach was an interesting andrelaxing experience as I just allowed it to carry me. (NOT advising anyone to do that, but the water I was in was about thigh high and I was in no danger.)
Another example of this was to be found in my experiences growing up with Asthma. As early as I can remember I always had bronchial asthma – very severe. To make this worse, I was also allergic to pretty much everything, so life was a constant cycle of allergic reactions triggering asthma and asthma attacks and illnesses related to it such as bronchitis and pneumonia causing me to become more sensitive to those things I was allergic to. What I remember most about asthma was the greatly dreaded and frequently experienced sensation of suffocation.
I can remember waking from my sleep & feeling as if I were breathing through a straw that someone was holding the end of. There would be bone crushing pain in my chest and my back as I would sit up trying desperately to breathe only to feel tiny bits of air passing into my lungs, usually causing a hissing sound. No matter what I did, no matter how straight I tried to bring my posture ~ no air would come. By the age of 7 or 8 I knew what I had to do. In the face of the late night attack that would strike leaving me unable to even call out for help, I knew I had to stay “calm”. That’s right…the worst thing an asthmatic can do in the face of suffocation is to panic. To panic is to bring about the very thing feared most – total shut down. I would begin a breathing technique that was self taught, (which prevented aggravating my bronchial tubes causing terrible coughing fits that would only worsen the situation), and would allow enough air so as to not pass out. I knew that if I couldn’t get my breath or call out for help, to throw something and that would wake my family. I knew to not give in to the futile urge to try and cough to clear my lungs. I knew to get the glass of water beside my bed and sip on it. I knew to sit up and not lay flat and most importantly…I knew to pray, because even as a little girl, peace always came when I talked to God. As I would do these things, my body would begin to relax and I would find myself able to breathe better and to sleep.
Both of these experiences influenced my concept of “Let Go and Let God” as I grew in the rooms of recovery. Like all people, I have had my fair share of struggles and difficulties in this life – many of which have occurred in my sobriety. My natural impulse for a long time was the desire to not face painful or frightening situations, but rather look for a way to lighten or avoid this pain all together. But, having learned that the “easier softer way” only paves the path to future consequences, pain and destruction – I found it was much better to follow a few simple guidelines: (1) Don’t put myself in situations where I don’t have access to support – don’t isolate; (2) Learn how to recognize “stinking thinking” so as to better spot it when it happens and avoid getting into it; (3) Know where the solutions are and how to use them by using and communicating with a sponsor; (4) Talk to God and allow Him to do for me what I can NOT do for myself.
You see, the peace that I wanted could not be obtained by what “I” did to make it come about. In order to have that peace, “further steps had to be taken”. So what were the steps? How was it to be done? The steps were numbered 1-12 and the result of them was peace – because it was in the 12 steps that I found a release from the obsession and compulsion to drink and use; I found release from the cares and worries that used to dominate me; I found my imagination fired and my heart filled with a passion and desire for this life; I found these things not by what I “did”…but by grace. (Grace is defined as an undeserved gift, unearned favor and obtained ONLY through perfect surrender) In order for me to experience the “gift of grace” and all the freedom and life that come with it…I had to “Let Go and Let God!”
© 2012,2013 Rebecca Balko