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The most difficult experience in recovery life for addicts is letting go of control. Addicts want to control everything. Ultimately, the creme de la creme in control for an addict is the high that comes from their drug of choice. That experience of control has been described as feeling like a cozy warm blanket.

The need for control is pervasive. It impacts many who do not identify with addiction as a problem. People try to control their money, their safety, their sense of belonging, their dignity, relationships with family members, their pets, on and on it goes.

When people grow up in a dysfunctional family laced with insecurity and unpredictability because of neglect and abandonment from abuse, the white-knuckle grip of control becomes embedded deep within behavior. It’s the only way they know how to live! People become hyper-vigilant with their need to control. It drives them and others crazy.

I grew up in a religious cult. I learned to fear the end of the world being triggered by a ball of fire. I was taught that communists were coming and that my friends who were unsaved would be cast in a lake of fire! I cannot remember ever knowing differently as a small child. Imagine how that would impact a young boy!

To control this awful outcome I tried to pass out leaflets to tell my friends that they needed to get “saved” to avoid perishing in fire! I was careful not to step on cracks in a sidewalk, believing it was a mistake and would trigger something bad. I once raced out of a baseball stadium thinking it was going to blow up! I was less than 10 years old when these behaviors happened! My parents sent me to a psychiatrist because I thought I could hear my friends who had been killed screaming from hell! My parents thought I was crazy! They took me to a child psychiatrist to get me fixed. No one figured that I was the wrong patient to be in the shrink’s chair. No one seems to wonder why my parents would take me three times a week to the terrors of a cult worship service! No one even labeled the church a cult. Wouldn’t you question a parent who would insist that their impressionable child watch horror movies three times a week?

As a result of growing up in this kind of environment, I became very controlling. It has been fueled by sex addiction, work addiction, and my need to control others all around me. It sabotaged my entire life from true intimacy with others until I learned to live differently.

I learned to live differently through working a 12-step program. Of the many lessons I have learned by working the 12-steps, one of the most important is detachment. This lesson shows up every day in my life. It is ever-present.

Step 3 of the twelve steps is “Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him”. Working this step has been key to my recovery toward the initiation of detachment. Many people struggle with the concept of the word “God”. When it is implied that you interpret “God” as you understand, insinuates that you interpret the concept. Many people just don’t believe that the idea exists. For those, I suggest that you remove the belief and insert whatever concept helps you surrender control. What is necessary is to detach!

Detachment is about letting go and surrendering control which is an illusion! Upon your best efforts, the only thing you can control is your own capacity to make choices about what you face in your own life.

However, this capacity becomes skewed with the illusion that if you do certain things the ultimate outcome will be in your control. This is a problem. Control becomes an obsession. It becomes so big that you cannot imagine living any other way even though you drive yourself bat-shit crazy trying to control what you cannot.

The most painful part of recovery I have ever experienced is that of detachment. Simply letting go of what I cannot control—people, financial outcomes, the well-being of the world—and sit with the feelings of insecurity, anxiety, stress, and vulnerability. To tell you the truth, it sucks!

However, the truth is that no one can control others! What I have discovered is that when I let go, it feels almost like free falling into the abyss of unfulfillment. However, I have learned that I can go down, detach from what I cannot control, and come up again controlling what I can—my choice to live my destiny. This surrender gives me unconditional confidence to fulfill my intentions by controlling my choices of living—not yours! My concept of Higher Power helps me do this! You will need to figure out yours.