Trouble With 3rd Step

12 Steps: Discussions related to the 12 Steps and using them as a treatment to recover from alcohol and drug addiction.
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Postby dahlgren » Thu Jan 10, 2008 2:05 pm

Hi PatchesPal, I'm Mike and I'm an alcoholic/addict.

Indeed this has become a truly interesting and stimulating thread, thank you to ScaredSober.

Your recent post caused me to go back and reread some of the posts on this thread as well as re-examine some of what has been written. Jim had written earlier about how "the 3rd Step was not about figuring out what God is, for that matter neither is the 2nd Step".

Thinking about that from my point of view and what it was like for me when I came in, I both agree and disagree with that, for myself.

The 1st Step as I understand it now required me to make a decision at some point and once I had made that decision then I could truly say that I had done Step 1. That's certainly not to say that I could have changed my mind and made another decision at anytime thereafter but once I made the decision, it was made and I had completed Step 1.

For me the 2nd Step did not start out with me making a decision as the 1st Step did. When I read the 2nd Step, "Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity". The key part of this Step for me was the first 3 words, "Came to believe...". Today I interpret that as, strat figuring out what I had to figure out to develop a belief in a Higher Power and says nothing to me about making a decision at that point.

The beginning of Step 2 does not require me to make a decision but to start thinking about what I needed to believe so that ultimately I could decide that yes there is a Higher Power and yes I believe He will restore me to sanity. It was the beginning of a process for me that required refining of thought and belief. Although I was raised in a parochial household and at one time had a very defined belief of God, by the time I got to AA I was convinced I was agnostic or better yet an aethiest.

I have over the years in AA met many a recovering alcoholic that had their established belief and idea of what their Higher Power was, which hadn't changed from earlier formed beliefs but was just damaged from the ravages of alcohol and drug use. I personally couldn't say that about myself, my belief about God is as different today from what I was raised to believe in, as an apple is different than an orange.

So my point in this is that for me, yes the 2nd Step was about figuring out what God was for ME.

Now comes the 3rd Step and I agree wholeheartedly that once I took the 2nd Step and moved on to the 3rd Step, it was again time for me to make a decision, exactly as it states. Hmmm, those first 3 words again, "Made a decision...". The 3rd Step was not a process for me, it was a decision and by this time I knew what God was about to me, nothing else to figure out here, just make the decision. As I started off with on this exhaustive reply (sorry), I can always change my mind about any decision which for me brings me to the process of using the 3rd Step daily, hourly or minute by minute if necessary. That process involves the 2nd of what I call the 3 mainentance Steps, 10, 11 and 12.

By me working Step 11 at least daily or as much as I need to work it on a daily basis, I'm performing the process of a 3rd and 4th Steps for myself.
So in my humble opinion the point to all this is that I believe the program is different for each of us. The basic premise of each Step is clear cut but just like everything in life, people interpret things in their own way based on their own life experiences up to the point of interpretation. I guess that's why this program worked for me and continues to work for me as long as it has. It only requires ONE thing of me to be a member, a desire to stop drinking. All the rest of the benefits or icing on the cake are there for the taking if and only if I am rigorously honest in working the Steps.

Keep coming back, you'll never know how much you help me.

In love and recovery,

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Postby Dallas » Fri Jan 11, 2008 6:25 am

The most difficulty that I had with Step Three was in meeting and achieving the necessary essential requirement -- just to be able to take Step Three. That requirement is so vital to Step Three, that it is specifically mentioned twice before we have taken Step Three. (And, this has nothing to do with any sort of requirement... of a desire to stop drinking, yet it has much to do with staying stopped!) :wink:

Until the essential requirement has been met -- there will not be sufficient force for change. And, there will be little power, if any, in the prayer that simply acknowledges my decision.

The Third Step is a contract. Every contract has requirements and conditions, and it requires an understanding of the conditions of the requirements, along with an acknowledgement of the conditions and requirements -- by way of making a decision to agree to the terms of the contract. These are the essential requirements that must be met prior to making a binding contract.

It helped me to better understand the elements of the Third Step proposal by considering that Bill's understanding and language that he used for many of the Steps was influenced more by his understanding of what he had learned as a student while studying business law at night school, and less influenced by any sort of religious or spiritual understanding that he may have achieved.

Once I was able to meet the necessary requirement -- my 3rd Step decision had sufficient weight to launch me into a course of actions that would make the achievement of the objective of my decision -- a reality -- rather than fanciful thinking. And, a reality -- regardless of what I believed or didn't believe -- and a reality -- regardless of what I felt or didn't feel. It would be a reality that was based upon actions rather than thoughts and thinking and feeling.

Dallas B.

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Postby Dallas » Fri Jan 11, 2008 6:59 am

On another note: I've had very similar experiences and identify much with ScaredSober's experience (the one who started this topic thread) .

ScaredSober wrote:Since my higher power is beyond my understanding, I am struggling with turning my will and life over to something I do not understand.

Gees!!! Even his words -- were identical to the words that I said to my sponsor when I was at Step Three!

Here is what my sponsor said to me, that helped me:

"Dallas, I have very little understanding of God, or any sort of Higher Power. And, when I faced the same difficulty as you are facing, the only thing that I needed to know and understand was this: Does God, or this Higher Power that might exist -- want whats good for me or does it want whats bad for me?"

Something else my first sponsor said to me that helped me, was:
"Look. If God isn't there -- what did I lose? And, if God is there, what did I lose? If He isn't there -- how is it going to hurt me any more than the way that I have been hurting me with my drinking?"

Thanks for the opportunity to share.


Jim W
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Re: The deal is there is no more deals

Postby Jim W » Sat Jan 12, 2008 12:09 pm

Tim wrote:
Jim W wrote:The thing to understand is that once the 3rd Step is taken, the deal is that there are no more deals. My life is no longer any of my business. My conduct is my business, but my life isn't. I am go where ever God takes me.

I could get rich, or stay poor. I could have a great job or lose the one I have. I could be healthy or get sick, marry the girl of my dreams or stay a bachelor. I could win the loteery (I don't that will happen, since to win I have to buy tickets), I could lose everything I have. I could sent to wherever God wants to send me, maybe some dusty little town in the middle of no where and live in a room with a light bulb hanging down from the ceiling and work with the one alcoholic in that town.

What I do know is that whatever God has in mind for me is always better than what I had in mind for me.

Thanks for your post, Jim. It reminded me of what it means that my life is not my business now, but God's business. Last fall I lost my job and the year before that I had surgery for prostate cancer. This year my wife was diagnosed with a serious health condition.

An old wag in AA said, 'In the end everything will be ok. If everything is not ok, it's not the end yet'

Hi Tim,
I have lived my life for me and it did no one any good. What I know today is that my life is not for me and that my experience is not for me-it is for you.

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Postby Dallas » Sun Jan 13, 2008 6:12 am

I wonder if the days will ever come -- when we get as much mileage and input on Step 9, making amends and cleaning up the wreckage of our past... as we do with Step Three... in making decisions.
:lol: :lol: :lol: :lol:


Jim W
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Postby Jim W » Sun Jan 13, 2008 9:13 am

Dallas wrote:I wonder if the days will ever come -- when we get as much mileage and input on Step 9, making amends and cleaning up the wreckage of our past... as we do with Step Three... in making decisions.
:lol: :lol: :lol: :lol:


I doubt it, because most never make it past about step eight and a half.

Jim W
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Willingness without action is fantasy.

Postby Jim W » Sun Jan 13, 2008 10:53 am

Dallas was wondering why there isn't as much discussion about amends as there is about the Third Step. Based on my experience this what I see:

The Third Step decision plays out in steps 4-12. The Fourth Step weeds out many who are lukewarm, but it seems to be in amends where the rubber meets the road. What I've seen is if a person is doing these steps to feel better, to "get a life," or for any other reason other than a life and death errand based on the absolute desperation experienced in Step One, he runs out of power some where along the line, sometimes in inventory, usually in amends.

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Postby Dallas » Mon Jan 14, 2008 1:17 am

Hi Jim,

Have you noticed... that there is no "Amen" after the 3rd Step prayer?

Then, there are some short prayers in Step 4, 5, 6, and then we get to the longer prayer, with the first "Amen" after it, with the 7th Step Prayer.

I've listened to a few guys who talk about it to the terms of Step 3 through Step 7 appears to them to be what the Pioneers were doing in Akron, before Bill wrote out the 12 Steps, breaking them down into small chunks, so that we could be thorough and complete, with little room to weasel through them. They also mention the fact of the 3rd Step prayer, that doesn't end... and the other prayers as the other Steps are being completed up through the end of the 7th Step prayer.

For me, their ideas appear to be pretty sound about it. It's that humbly getting down on our knees, and really having the Ego trashed and smashed, as we attempt to follow that simple formula of actions -- to produce what some of the Pioneers were referring to as an initial "conversion experience" that brought about not only a feeling as though they had been "reborn"... but, they made that ultimate surrender, that Dr. Bob had often referred to. And, then, as an example of their decision to "trust God" -- they got busy with making amends and restitution and cleaning up the past, so that they could get their "house in order" -- which would fit them to be of maximum service to God, and those about them.... which would be Steps 10 through 12.

Clearly, to me, regardless if I looked at the Spirutual Process that takes place -- either looking through a "religious tint" to my vision, or with the "Psychological tint" which many of the early New Yorker's seemed to prefer -- what's happening is that initial "transformation of thoughts and attitudes" that our book indicates that we must have, if we are to "get over drinking."

I've often wondered, if part of the problem as to "why" we have so many well-intentioned, and well-meaning drop-outs, who go back to drinking after the 3rd Step -- is that they never did complete the process of the 3rd Step by making it up to Step Seven. They didn't experience having the obession and insanity removed. They missed out on the --- conversion or transformation phase (whichever way we refer to it). And, as a result -- we hear them sharing about how they went back to drinking "before" they got to the "house cleaning and amends" phase.

Before anyone gets nerved-up (if anyone does) about what I wrote -- regarding medications -- please don't get nerved up to inform me, that "for some people it is a necessity." I know that. Some alkies really DO need medication, and their doctor decides that, and it's none of my business, and I prefer not to get into conversations with anyone regarding their medical stuff. I'm an alcoholic -- not a doctor! Not a professional. Not a scientist. :wink: What I'm referring to is "some" and not all. And, I also believe that there is a "therapeutic effect" that takes place on the individual, as they apply the "therapy" of Alcoholics Anonymous. So, "if" someone has to take medication -- I would hope that they are also getting the "therapy" that's available through the 12 Steps AND the Fellowship. :lol:

I suspect, that they were feeling good (they, meaning the After-3rd-Step drop-outs) -- and that they assumed that their good feelings were the manifestations and fulfillment of the 9th Step Promises, that newcomers love to read, but seldom actually experience. The difference, is probably similar to the differences in a light-weight drug, or a swig of beer, compared to a few full shots of hard-stuff! (How's that for a comparison?) :oops:

Those of us who have been around and down that 9th Step Path, sometimes forget that what is being referred to as experiencing the 9th Step Promises -- is actually pocket-change and pennies-on-the-dollar to the full-blown experiences that come as a result of the Step 9 phase.

It's kind of like that euphoric "rocketed into a 4th diminsion" that Bill wrote about -- we don't hear much about the "euphoric experiences" -- those natural-highs that feel similar (to me) as if I had taken a few drinks -- and the difference is -- I'm having those euphoric experiences -- while I'm stone-cold sober! And, I believe those euphoric-sober-experiences are available to us all -- who are using the same formula to cook them up.

I also tend to believe that those states of "euphoria" is part of the package for the "sufficient substitute for alcohol" that's mentioned in Chapter 11, A Vision For You.

This is not said as a knock to anyone on medication, so please don't anyone get nerved up about what I'm about to say -- but, perhaps one of the reasons that some must resort to medications for mood disorders -- is because they are not getting the high-dose of "euphoric experiences" that they could be getting, if they were using the same recipies in our cook book of Spiritual Experiences. I can understand how painful and depressing depressions and anxiety attacks can be -- especially, when I was dry, and white-knuckling it by going to lots of meetings, rather than cooking up some Super-High-Octane "euphoric" Spiritual Experiences.

I didn't know any different -- until I was introduced to our Substitute, in such a way as I could "learn to make it happen" (Kind of like the Learning Experience referred to, in the back of the Big Book, in the Appendex "Spiritual Experience."

I also believe that, what Silkworth was referring to, as to why drinkers drink -- that euphoric change in perception that takes place after a few drinks -- is one of the primary problems in alcoholic drug-addiction, or non-alcoholic drug addiction. It's that "chasing the rainbow" that we do. And, if we don't experience the "sufficient-substitute", at least periodically, some of us are going to automatically return to "chasing those rainbows" with a water-back! :lol:

Back in my old days, it wouldn't have mattered to me what someone was saying or referring to, if they asked me "Hey Dallas, wanna get high? Wanna take a trip?" It was "You bet'cha!" If I could do it will a pill, or a few drinks, or on my knees praying -- I was "open-minded" about it! :lol:

Then, in my early days of sobriety -- I started to get closed-minded. I never heard people talking about euphoric highs. (It's probably similar to the Pink Cloud effect -- that some members actually laugh at, in such a way as to discourage a newcomer or an Old-timer -- from experiencing what's available to them).

That's my take on it. :wink:

Thanks for letting me share.


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Postby Dallas » Mon Jan 14, 2008 2:07 pm

I always have regrets after I've made a reference to medications. Invariable, someone will read or hear and understand something different than I wrote it or spoke it. Then, they will get offended or mad me, because they understood differently -- in regards to what I meant or intended.

garden variety
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Postby garden variety » Tue Jan 15, 2008 10:27 am

Heya Bro!

You did OK - No need to beat yourself up. Many of us know that you really really care about the new man or woman, and there is that special part in you that identifies with the "re-tread". I mean you seem to be able to sense things real well, and you did a great job in another topic thread with the new guy having trouble with step one. You got some good intuition brother, so don't sweat things about folks getting "nerved up".

Let me share my two cents which will probably be a quarters worth. But here goes.

OK - I was one of those in the medication gang at first. I have a handful of medical conditions and even a couple psychologic issues still. Diet and meditation has virtually all but cured an anxiety problem I have. I still need medication for one issue, it isn't so much anxiety or moods but its related to my attention span. But that one was up to the professionals to treat and diagnose, and they called the shots pretty accurate.

Well in starting off in recovery, my head was so mixed-up sideways and up and down, that I didn't know which end was up. I tried to kill myself. I had clinical depression. I met all the qualifications and had all the warning flags. To this date, I don't have any regrets about having that treated using medication. It probably saved my life.

Shortly after getting on an anti-depressant (cylexa?), my moods improved. At least I could function and get out of bed and not feel sucidal or homicidal. But that's where it ended. I wasn't in the best of moods but I wasn't in the worst of moods either. I was just surviving, not living.

Well I started working the steps and it was over a period of time, maybe 4 years sober. I woke up one morning and was listening to Howard Sterns. I was barely awake, but somehow I was laughing myself into tears. Then I listened to Howard. He was talking to a lady who was a fan and had got shot by an old boyfriend and paralyzed from the waist down so she needed to be in a wheelchair. Howard started funning with her, talking about her bra size and such. He wasn't being mean or harmful either. He could just sense what this lady needed and he was giving it to her in a fun way. Stern did a great job of lifting that lady's spirits. And mine too.

A couple days later, I woke up to Stern, and he was having a crappy day. He was in a bad mood and his folks were all talking about him and telling him to lighten up. Here is where I was starting to feel the effects of the 12 steps. Suddenly after that wake-up, I began to get "normal" feelings. I got out of bed and looked in the mirror at myself. Instead of turning away in disgust which is what I used to do, I studied myself. My face. My fat belly. My mood.

I had an "awakening" experience. It was OK to be "normal". I didn't have to look like a movie star. But even the rich movie stars had crappy days - like Howard Stern. And it was OK. I realized I didn't have to always be an "A-plus" guy or an "F-minus" guy - If today was a "B" or C-minus" day, it was OK, and I was OK, too. Then I thought about a couple days ago laughing myself to tears before I got out of bed. Then I realized that I hadn't laughed like that for years. In fact, I hadn't smiled for years. So I smiled into the mirror - it was real cheesy and put on - then I busted up because it looked so fake. So here I am at 6 AM on just your regular day looking in the mirror like a monkey - and cracking myself up.

A couple weeks later, my money situation was heading south, and I couldn't afford the $30 co-pay on my anti-depressant. I figured I knew what was coming because I tried to get off the medication before (under the guidance of my shrink of course), and it was bad days ahead or so I thought. I had 5 days until payday, so I figured to try and wait it out even with the bad moods.

Five weeks later, my shrink calls and reminds me it's time to come in for an appointment. Suddenly I'm amazed because I didn't have any anti-depressants in my system for 5 weeks, and I felt like I did that day I was looking in the mirror - "normal".

I set up the appointment - now this is right around the holidays - and I see my shrink. I tell him the most fascinating thing just happened. I haven't had any cyelxa for 5 weeks. He nearly jumps out of his chair. He starts scolding me and says of all times to try and stop taking anti-depresants why on earth would you wait until the holidays? I told him I ran out of money. He said don't ever let that happen - just call me and we'll work something out. Then he starts writing the prescription.

I said, doc, I'm really not depressed. I haven't had a pill in 5 weeks. I don't think taking them again is going to make any difference. He looks at me puzzled, and pauses, then he asks me a few "screening" type of questions. He goes "hummphh. Maybe you're not depressed anymore?" Then he said if I start getting the symptoms again, don't hesitate to call him, and he'd work with me if I didn't have the money. So I walked out of his office about 6 years ago, and I never needed the anti-depressants again.

I went back after a few months for the other issues, then he of course asked me about my depression. I told him it never returned. He just looked completely amazed and said "hmmph" again. Somehow we got to talking and he asked me what I was doing. I told him that I was going to meetings and having fun in AA. Well that lit up his face. See I never told him I was in the fellowship. He knew I was alcoholic and all, but somehow we avoided talking about the program until that day. Well now here comes the questions.

How many meetings do you go to?
Five or Six.

Do you have a home group?
Yes and I tell him I have a sponsor too

He shakes his head and says "That explains it!"

I looked at him puzzled.

"You're not depressed anymore because you're in AA. And you're working the steps aren't you?"

Well yes that's what we're supposed to do. He just smiles and still is shaking his head.

As it turns out, my shrink does duty at local rehabs and detox centers. He specializes in recovery - talk about serendiptiy! He knows all about the program and the steps. I created a real puzzle for him when I went off those anti-depressants. He couldn't figure it out. But when I told him about AA and my involvement, he was tickled pink. Ever since that time, him and I talk on completely different terms, and I have grown a deep respect for him because he is so dedicated to the program and steps. He truly is a blessing to have as a doctor, and we both look forward to visits. I still have to get a prescription for my attentiveness problem so I still see him regular.

So for me, Dallas, what you said is exactly the truth. The program and the steps rocketed me into that 4th dimension and things have got better every day ever since. But I tell you what. That little episode really clued me in as to how much Power is in the steps, and how I will always need this program and meetings. And buddy let me tell you what - that shrink will know in a New York minute if I start heading away from AA.

Now I wouldn't recommend to anyone who is clinically depressed on medication to do things the way I did them. But I tell you what. I know in my heart of hearts exactly what clincial depression is, how it feels, and how it almost let me take my own life. It's a very serious medical condition that should not be taken lightly, and if you think you need help, well there's a lot of folks that can help that you should visit.

But the big thing is, if you're here and are an alcoholic, the program and steps is the thing that can and will rocket you into the 4th dimension. You see, I know what clinical depression feels like, and then take an anti-depressant and how that feels in uplifting your mood - and it did help. But what it feels like today by working a program and living the steps is something I GUARANTEE you won't get from anti-depressants alone. For me, medication made life "bearable" and "liveable", but what the program and fellowship gives me is a "new joy and a new happiness" like I've never expereinced before.

And what a miracle - the program and fellowship worked so well with me that it actually did lift the illness of clinical depression. If you don't belive me, talk to my shrink! I don't know if it will work that way with anyone else, but maybe that can give some of you hope that are taking medication. Just give it a try and ratchet-up your program - that is if you want to know what real joy and happiness means instead of just "surviving".

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