Surrender vs Compliance

The first medical article I ever read about alcoholism was written in 1953 by a psychiatrist, Harry Tiebout.  It was called "Surrender versus Compliance in Therapy; with special reference to alcoholism".

Tiebout noted that superficial compliance with a program of recovery is different from an internal transformation.  I think a good comparison would be the difference between changing a behavior as opposed to changing one's self (an awakening or transformation).  Some in Alcoholics Anonymous would say it was the difference between being "dry" and being "sober".  Simple compliance could allow an alcoholic to stop drinking.  The questions that come next are "Is it enough to allow a person to stay stopped?" and "What kind of life would one have?'.

Several posts ago I wrote about Brother Francis and his wisdom about recovery from alcoholism.  I think he nailed it when he said "The man I was will always drink".  AA suggests the first step on the journey of recovery begins with an admission of powerlessness that leads towards surrender and a spiritual awakening .  Both Tiebout and AA claim that "a deflation of ego in depth" is required.  Francis nailed it again when he said "Make sure your recovery is not a 'Handyman's Special'.  That is one that looks good on the outside but doesn't have a firmly constructed foundation".

Please don't take this to mean that compliance doesn't have its place.  Especially in the beginning, the saying "Don't drink and go to meetings" is valuable. Frequently it allows a person struggling to stay sober to buy time and put some distance from a drink into place.  It also connects the newly sober alcoholics with a power greater than themselves (alcoholics who have recovered and are leading fulfilling lives).  It can be compared to scaffolding which supports a person while the renovation is going on.

So, how does a person in recovery surrender?  Sad to say that one can't make himself surrender just like one can't deflate his own ego.  It's something that happens for or to him.  It's a byproduct of willingness and desire.  Tiebout described surrender as an "unconscious event".  An AA member said it better "Don't stop coming before the miracle happens".