I must have heard the phrase “let it go” a million times before I got sober. Then, when I did get sober, I heard it a two million more times. The phrase was repeated to me so much it had lost it’s meaning, if it ever had any. I didn’t understand what anyone meant by it or how it would help me.
What is “Letting Go”?
Let me be clear, my own interpretation of “letting go” may be different than someone else’s. My experience is just that, my own. For me, letting go is making a decision, that no matter how much I want a particular outcome of a situation, I will be comfortable with how it ends. That by putting my best foot forward, doing the work and staying out of the results I know, in my heart, that what happens is meant to be.
Letting Go Requires Faith
For me, letting go is not unlike believing in destiny. I believe that there is some sort of plan for me, a positive one. Yet that being said, I also believe that I have the ability to completely mess it up if I so choose. This is where faith comes in handy.
If you do not have any faith that your life is going to work out well if you are of service and engage in positive activities, you wouldn’t have much of a reason to do any of those things, would you? If I had no faith, I suspect I would live my life the same way I did while I was using. I would constantly be doing anything I felt like for instant gratification. Having faith, in turn, helps me to let situations go, knowing that things are going to work out exactly the way that they are supposed to.
Letting Go is Acceptance
When I try to control a situation, push for a particular outcome or manipulate others to get what I want, I get upset, stressed, or generally uncomfortable and distracted in my day to day life. In one of the personal stories residing in the Big Book of AA puts this idea in very good terms when talking of acceptance:
“Acceptance is the answer to ALL of my problems today. When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing or situation- some fact of my life- unacceptable to me, and I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing, or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment. Nothing, absolutely nothing, happens in God’s world by mistake. Until I could accept my alcoholism, I could not stay sober; unless I accept my life completely on life’s terms, I cannot be happy. I need to concentrate not so much on what needs to be changed in the world as on what needs to be changed in me and in my attitudes.” – Alcoholics Anonymous p.417
Stop Holding On
Letting go inherently means that we are holding on to something. Holding on to an outcome, holding on to a feeling, holding on to a person. The only things we have any control over in this world are our attitude and our actions. If we know this, deep down, and practice acceptance, letting go becomes automatic. We realize that being upset or angry about something is only a waste of energy, preventing us from being positive somewhere else in our life.
I realized this when I got sober. I was holding on to a lot of things that were dragging me down. I was holding reservations about never using again. I was holding on to friends who, ultimately, were terrible influences for me. I was holding on to what I thought was the only way to live my life, a life of drugs and alcohol. It took a long time to work past these misconceptions but when I did eventually let go of them, I came to know a much better life was waiting for me on the other side.