Help. Hope. Healing.

How I Let Go and Let God

By Rex Goode

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In the early days of recovery, it’s natural to feel a need to focus on overcoming the behavior. It seems at the time that it is the goal, the thing we’re even bothering with the process for. So, when people start with the platitude to “let go and let God,” and the jargon about “turning it over” and stuff, we think that the thing we need to turn over and let go of is the behavior that has been causing us the problem.

Acting out behavior is a problem, but it is not the problem. The problem is idolatry, putting other gods before God resulting in a damaged relationship with God. The most obvious manifestation of this misplaced worship is the acting out behavior of the addiction, but it is not the only manifestation. It pervades throughout our interactions with others and our reactions to life’s situations. In the case of sex addiction, this is especially true of situations around relationships.

The approach of trying to resolve the acting out behavior first is that it is like any other thing we are trying to learn. You don’t learn how to do things by starting on big, complicated projects first. You start out small, with the basics.

I am a software engineer. I know several computer languages and systems. When I learn a new language, I usually have some project I need to do in that language. I can’t just sit down and write the program in the new language until I get some experience with it. Yet, I usually have some need to get to the project fairly soon. So, I work at doing small projects that have something to do with the larger project that is the goal, learning the syntax of the language and how it interacts with the system.

I approach my addiction in much the same way. I know that the goal was to eliminate acting out behavior and develop my relationship with the Lord. It’s the big project. To learn this, and keep learning it, I choose smaller projects that will teach me the principles I need to know to tackle the big project.

When it comes to a goal to eliminate acting out behavior and develop a relationship with the Lord, the former is more like an objective. The ultimate goal is the relationship with my Savior, much like the ultimate goal in my study of a new computer language is to become proficient in that language and make it part of my marketable skills. I hope that the one project is not the only project I’ll ever have using that language.

Likewise, living a life of abstinence from my addictive behavior is not the only use I should make of my relationship with God. The 12th step of Alcoholics Anonymous says:

12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

The Addiction Recovery Program of the LDS Family Services 12th step is similar:

12. Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, share this message with others and practice these principles in all you do.

The end goal is not a destination at all, then. The principles of repentance as outlined in the 12 steps applies to everything. So, why not practice letting go on the small things to sharpen the skills for the larger fight. I’m not saying to just let your sexual behavior continue unnoticed and unaddressed while you work on the smaller stuff. When I learn how to do a thing in a computer language by accomplishing a smaller task, I immediately go to the bigger project and get that part of the bigger project done.

The smaller matters of an addictive personality have to do with day-to-day relationship situations that arise. The benefit of learning letting go for these smaller matters is more than just as a training exercise for the greater matters. Often acting out behavior is triggered by the sense of powerlessness over the smaller matters, as in, “I can’t feel satisfaction right now in this situation, but I can get alone and get some instant satisfaction through acting out.”

An example of one of these smaller matters is related to me being a kidder. I like to tease people. I like to point out their idiosyncracies. I don’t mind it when it’s done to me. Once in awhile, I meet a fellow kidder who, by the old saying, “Can dish it out but can’t take it.”

For someone to think he can poke fun at me without me getting upset, but gets upset if I do the same, I have a lot of options. I can terminate the relationship. I can just get angry and blow my stack. I can tell him that if I can’t kid him, he can’t kid me. Or, I can let it go.

I do this letting go by the same method as described in the scriptures about forgiveness. I say in my heart, “…let God judge between me and thee, and reward thee according to thy deeds (D&C 64:11).” I don’t say it in a childish way, but sincerely. I remind myself that I can’t control another person. I can only choose my reaction, and I choose to react calmly and kindly.

In the past, this kind of unfairness would have sent me right to acting out at the next possible opportunity. Being able to let go, acknowledge my powerlessness, and then move on helps me let go of the anger towards another person and averts my compulsive behavior.

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9 Responses to “How I Let Go and Let God”

  1. julie said:

    Thanks for this article Rex. I had a hard time yesterday because of a situation that I thought was unfair. I have a really hard time with the unfairness of life, but it does me no good to hang on to the anger about it. It is what it is and the sooner I accept this the better for me. I still need to learn that I can surrender my anger and resentment as well as my addictions to God.

  2. Rex Goode said:

    Thanks, Julie. Despite what I wrote, I often have trouble with it too. It gets easier as you practice it, but I’ve also found that the better I learn how to let go, the more difficult the tests of the principle get. 🙁

    Thanks again.

  3. kahuna said:

    I like this. Thanks, Rex.

  4. palin said:

    This is so true. I have finally gotten to about 2 1/2 weeks sobriety by practicing this very thing. I have stopped focusing on the behavior and focused on my relationship with Christ. This has made all the difference. I’m finding that when temptation comes and I just remind myself that my relationship with Christ is more important I’m given the strength to resist. Better yet, when I remember to do the little things to improve the relationship I find I don’t have to remind my self as often as the temptations aren’t noticeable at that point. They don’t even phase me when I’m doing the small stuff to practice for the bigger goal, having a good relationship with my Lord and Saviour.

  5. Rex Goode said:

    palin, thanks so much for your insight and thanks even more for commenting.

    Rex

  6. urb0123 said:

    Oh hey look!! I finally got logged in and scrolled all the way down to see the leave a reply box.

    Yes, this is the key to recovery. One of the definitions of addiction is that we have lost control. How can an addict, by definition, stop the behavior? We can’t. It isn’t possible. We have to ask him to stop us. I found that there is a big difference in asking him to “…please help me…” versus “I can’t do this, please do it for me?”. At least for me, asking for help says I actually have input, where asking for Him to do it is more honest and humble.

  7. Rex Goode said:

    urb, it’s great of you to comment.

    For me, at the level you’re talking about, it seems to be about semantics. But, whatever works for you…

    I know I can’t solve my addictive behavior, but I have a lot of stuff I can do. Like the serenity prayer says, I change the things I can and accept the things I can’t.

    Rex

  8. urb0123 said:

    I can see that, I didn’t explain where I am coming from very well. I am so arrogant that when I was a teenager, I felt determined that I was going to pay back every penny my father ever spent on me so I wouldn’t owe him anything. I still don’t let people help me even when it would be very easy for them and make a huge difference for me. So when I approach Him, and ask for help, what I really mean is, “I can do 90%+ of this myself, but I just need You to do the little extra.” I have to admit to myself the truth, which is I might be able to do 5% if I put forth a superhuman effort for an hour. Any longer than that and the desire crushes me.

    Ross

  9. Rex Goode said:

    Being arrogant must be difficult. I’m sure glad I don’t have to deal with that. 😉

    I see where you’re coming from now and agree.

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