A hurting mother recently said to me, “I have no hope that my son will ever stop doing drugs. I feel so defeated and tired of this fight. I give up.” When I saw the mom a couple of months later, she looked brighter and seemed less burdened. She told me that she and her husband had started going to Families Anonymous where they met other parents dealing with the same issues with their children. She told me that she had learned the difference between giving up and letting go.
Surrendering and letting go are very common concepts in the field of addiction and mental health. Time and time again, addicts and alcoholics tell their story of me finally surrendering and fighting to control their disease, when true miracles occurred in their lives; some instantly and others over time.
I have been asked by clients to help them understand the difference. I decided to turn to some experts, my Wednesday Women’s Group, to get their feedback the amazing women in this group are recovering from addiction/alcoholism. Some struggle with other underlying emotional issues such as depression and anxiety. They have varying degrees of sobriety. Some have been struggling for this disease for 20 years. Most are mothers with children ages 2 weeks to 40 years of age. Here are some of their comments:
“Giving up is darkness, Letting go is light.”
“Letting go /surrendering involves a connection to God. Giving up doesn’t.”
“Giving up is your will. Surrender/letting go is God’s will.”
“Letting go involves being okay with the result.”
“There is hope in letting go. Giving up implies hopelessness.”
“It is releasing as opposed to dropping something of someone”.
“I had to give up before I could let go. I think I had to walk through the darkness of giving up to get to the light of letting go. You should not stop in the dark.”
And from The Language of Letting Go by Melody Beattie:
“Letting go doesn’t mean we don’t care. Letting go doesn’t mean we shut down. Letting go means we stop trying to force outcomes and make people behave. It means we give up resistance to the way things are, for the moment. It means we stop trying to do the impossible–controlling that which we cannot–and instead, focus on what is possible–which usually means taking care of ourselves. And we do this in gentleness, kindness, and love, as much as possible.”