Surrender To Swim—What People Mean by Surrender to Win

A crucial principle of recovery explained

“And we have ceased fighting anything or anyone.” — Alcoholics Anonymous Pg. 84

If you’ve been fighting and it hasn’t been working, it may be time to stop fighting and surrender. Because, in recovery, we ceased fighting everything and everyone.

Does surrender mean submission? No.

Does it mean apathy? No.

Does it mean just acquiescing to circumstances? Absolutely not.

In the beginning, when we hear it, we cringe. 😳

Cease fighting? So give up? Never! (Lol)

But we did not have an understanding of what this meant, in context.

Surrendering wasn’t about weakness at all. In fact, to cease fighting required great courage and a leap of faith, for this concept of ‘Surrendering to Win’ didn’t make sense to us at first.

It’s not giving up, it’s just choosing a different path, guided by principles that we know have worked for those who have gone before us.

These principles don’t work quite as well alone. Kind of like the human body — the legs don’t work as well without the feet and so on. But together, the principles of the 12 steps work beautifully. And the two guiding principles that are the hardest to make sense of, on their own, are surrender (aka acceptance) along with our good, old and mysterious friend — humility.

But the great thing is, we don’t have to understand them, or even believe in them 100 percent, in order to begin practicing them. All we need is the willingness to be brutally honest with ourselves, the open-mindedness to find another way and the perseverance to move forward, do the work and give it a chance.

Surrender is like swimming. The first thing you have to do in order to swim is stop fighting the water and surrender to it. To swim, you must work with the water instead of against it. That doesn’t mean that all you do is float. There are various ways of swimming and surrendering doesn’t mean you only surrender, stop fighting and float. Floating is nice, but sometimes you have to or want to swim. Sometimes you swim to get somewhere, to exercise or to have fun. All these things are allowed when swimming, as long as you do not fight the water — as long as you work with it instead of against it.

When we surrender in recovery, it is not the water that we cease fighting, it is life. They always said, “Surrender to win!”, but I like to think of it as surrendering to swim. This makes much more sense to me and when I think of winning, this brings a little resistance because then come my ideas of what it means to win. Sometimes, I don’t ‘win’ and it is important that even in these times, I continue to swim.

When I think of surrendering to swim, I remember Dori and I hear her singing…

🎶 Just keep swimming, just keep swimming, just keep swimming, swimming, swimming… 🎶

Photo by Ricardo Frantz on Unsplash

When we surrender, we shift the focus away from the world around us and onto ourselves. We focus less on how the world should or shouldn’t be, and more on more on what we can be. We remove the word should from our vocabulary and we practice becoming one with the moment — one with life.

We do our best with what we have and we move forward in faith — faith that if we simply trust the process, focus on ourselves, do the right thing and help others, we will be blessed. How or when or with who is not relevant.

We believe without seeing and we focus on what is in front of us.

When we are distraught, we take our attention away from everything else, the past, tomorrow, the way we think things should be, and we focus solely on one question.

What is the next right thing for me to do, right this moment?

This may be as simple as doing the dishes, working on your recovery, reading something good for you, or taking a walk. It may even be something difficult. It doesn’t matter. We simply focus on that one thing, right now, and doing our very best at it. And as long as we are doing our best, we let our best be enough.

Any time we find ourselves at odds with life, if we are completely honest with ourselves, we will find one thing at the root of our discomfort — fear. Fear can wreak havoc in our lives if we let it. And making decisions based on fear is a very slippery slope.

When fear won’t leave us, we simply make an intention for or pray for (whichever suits us) it to be removed, tell someone about the fear, and turn our attention to someone we can help.

Is action sometimes necessary? Of course. But when we live this way, our action is inspired and we can embrace it with confidence and faith.

Photo by Shalom de León on Unsplash

Either way, I can promise you one thing. And I believe this to the core of my being…

There is a solution. Always. No matter how far down the scale we have gone. No matter how at odds with life you are or how hopeless your situation appears, there is always a solution. Always. Always. Always.

And, the solution is in you.

It IS you.

And if you really dive deep into the solution, not the problem, you will be amazed.

You deserve to be here. You deserve a beautiful life. And there is one here for you.

Do not be discouraged, no matter how hard it may look right now. There is another way. And there are plenty of people willing to help you, as long as you are willing to help yourself.

We do recover. ♥️

Written by Holly Kellums

Originally published on

Featured image by Cristian Palmer on Unsplash

Published by hollykellums

Internationally Published Author * Influencer * Recovery Coach * Human Potential Activist

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