Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Learning to let go

The following essay was originally written in November of 2003...

I was in Al-Anon for several months when I decided it was time for me to start step four. What I didn’t realize, however, was that I wasn’t ready for step four. In fact. I hadn’t really completed step three. I had not made the decision to turn my will and my life over to God. I had not yet learned to let go. I had heard the slogan “Let go and let God” countless times. I never could understand it. But I wanted to understand. Because I knew enough about myself to know that I couldn’t, or wouldn’t, let anything go. I wrap myself up in things and wallow in them. I tend to wear my heart on my sleeve. My feelings can get hurt pretty easily and I let those hurt feelings get me down. And when I get down, I get way down. I would dwell on things for days and weeks at a time. It was starting to pull down the people around me. People that I love.

When I started to realize how much my inability to let go was affecting the people around me, I knew I needed to really learn how to do it. So I prayed. I prayed every day for weeks. “God, help me to learn how to let go.” Since God helps those who help themselves, I did what I could to learn how other people let go. I asked my friends in the program. I asked my sponsor. I got some interesting pointers. Learned about visualization and breathing exercises. Those worked for a few seconds. Then I was told to pray. I tried that and still asked for a more direct answer. I guess I was hoping for the answer to my prayers to come in the form of some catchy slogan that would really work for me or something from the literature. I listened to everyone's experiences, hope and strength and I kept praying.

Then I got my answer. It was as if God said to me, "Alright, Joe. You want to know how to let things go? The only way I can teach you is to give you something... and you have to let it go." I was faced with a major emotional crisis. I was in more pain than at any other time in my life. I wanted to die. Thank God one of my best friends was with me at the time. She couldn't stay but she called my sponsor and he came and got me. For the next six hours, I hurt and I cried and I talked. I was told, "I'd be glad if this happened to me." Which I thought was crazy. Then I was told, "This is a gift." and I didn't want it. Then I realized that I was given a choice. Either I let this bring me down, all the way down to the point of ending my own life or I just let it go.

So I let it go. I got through it. I was still hurting, but I wasn’t worried. I was still crying, but they were tears of happiness. I was devastated by this emotional bomb that went off but I learned to see it as a gift. What my sponsor said started to make sense. This was a breakthrough for me. In only six hours, I was smiling and thanking God for what I had learned. Six hours instead of six days and I knew I had finally learned how to let go.

I tried to come up with an analogy that would explain it without going into the details of my crisis. I imagined myself standing on a platform while heavy objects kept falling around me and I had to catch them. It was okay to catch them, because they were mine. My problems, my crises. I wasn't supposed to hold onto them but I couldn't let go of them. I didn’t know how and it didn’t occur to me to just let my arms fall to my sides. These objects were like rocks, bowling balls and heavy chains. I stand there, afraid of being pulled down off my platform from the weight of these things and their downward momentum and I prayed to know how to let go. But for some reason, I couldn't just drop what I was holding onto. The answer to my prayer came in the form of this giant hundred pound bolder that fell right on top of me. I reached out and grabbed it because it was mine. I held onto it. It was hard and rough and it tore through the skin on my hands and arms and it started to pull me down. This on top of everything else I was holding onto. I started to lose my footing. This boulder was going to pull me off of my platform and I was going to be destroyed by it. But at the last moment, I knew I couldn't hold on anymore... and I let it fall... And everything else I was holding onto fell with it...

I got my footing. I was no longer weighed down. My hands and arms still hurt and ached but the pressure and the weight was gone. It took that one giant boulder to teach me not to hold on because holding on just pulls you down and eventually destroys you. Finally, I learned how to let go and let God.