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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Trouble With 3rd Step

Postby scaredsober » Wed Nov 01, 2006 5:21 pm

Higher Power

My belief process in God or religion is that of an Agnostic - a philosophical view that the truth value of certain claims - particularly theological claims regarding metaphysics or the existence of God, or deities is unkown or inherently unkowable. I am unconvinced and noncommittal about the existence of a God or deities, as well as about other matters of religion. God may exist and God may not exist, with the point being I am not convinced of God's existence. This would be known as open agnosticism, empirical agnosticism or temporal agnosticism.

However, I do have a belief in a higher power, which I view simply as a power greater than myself that is positive. When I first started attending AA meetings, being an Agnostic, my higher power became the group - the meetings and the people. The group shares what they have learned and discovered regarding alcoholism, sobriety and life in general, and I take what I need and leave behind what I do not feel is helpful to me (however, I make sure I keep a very open mind so that I do not shut out potentially positive concepts on a whim). I use many of the groups solutions as a method to solve my own problems with alcoholism and life issues. This allows for positive solutions for my problems and issues and certainly provides for a power greater than myself - the ability, through the help of the group, to quickly come up with solutions to problems I would otherwise not immediately see, or ever see.

After attending many AA meetings and maintaining my sobriety, my belief in a higher power morphed beyond just that of the group. I saw too many coincidences and too many positive things happening with myself and with others in AA to accept that the group itself was my higher power, though it does remain a hgher power in itself. I came to believe that there is a higher power out "there", a spiritual entity, but one that is beyond my understanding. This is along the lines of Agnostic spiritualism—the view that there may or may not be a God, while maintaining a general personal belief in a spirtual aspect of reality, particularly without distinct religious basis, or adherence to any established doctrine or dogma.

Thus, I have a belief in a higher power and have developed a spiritual aspect of reality (and I want to work on making my spiritual aspect of reality a more fulfilling part of my life), but since my higher power is beyond my understanding, it creates some challenges in regards to working the Twelve Steps.

I have no problem with Step 2 - "Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity". I certainly believe the higher power of the group has helped to do that, and I do believe this extends to the the greater spiritual power I believe in that is also beyond my understanding.


Step 3 has become a challenge - "Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him". Since my higher power is beyond my understanding, I am struggling with turning my will and life over to something I do not understand. I do believe in the group as a higher power, but I won't turn my will and life over to a group of people, though I believe this group can and has help me maintain sobriety while also helping me return to "sanity". My philosophical struggle is with turning my will and life to the care of a higher power in general, with the AA assumption being that my will has only gotten me in trouble with alcohol and my life has thus become unmanageable, and I cannot recover from alcoholism without turning my will and life over to a higher power.

Personally, I don't have a problem with this conceptually - especially for those who have a firm belief in a God under a Judeo-Christian pretext. If you have already put your faith in God as a Christian, you have already turned your will and your life over to God. For me, as an Agnostic, philosophical questions regarding positive self-will and personal responsibility come to mind. Additionally, if I were to turn my will and my life over to a power that is greater than me, who am I? The picture that comes to mind is that I am a leaf floating in the wind, with the wind (as an assumptive higher power) blowing me in the direction that is best for me. This, however, and in my present mind, would leave me as a shell of a human being with no sense of self. I would not be a unified being who is a source of my own conciousness as my will and life has now been handed over to a higher power - with my conciousness and the agents within myself that are responsible for my thoughts and actions not being my responsibility, but that of a higher power that supposedly knows all.

What I need to come to terms with is how I can turn my will and life over to a higher power that is beyond my understanding while also feeling that I have maintained a sense of person and self. I have many self attributes that are positives and that I am proud of. I believe I have accomplished these through my own positive self-will and determination. Not all self-will, even in an alcoholic, is bad. These are positive attributes I do not want to lose, and I need to come to grips with how turning these positive attributes over to a higher power would not cause me to lose my own positive self-will. While I have many negative attributes I am willing to turn over to the care of my higher power, I struggle with having to turn over my positive attributes that I believe are self-determined through my own good will as a rational (when sober) thinking human being.

The problem here is that is appears AA assumes "self" and "will" and "ego" are bad. That these attributes within you have run amuck in a self-will run riot. While this is true for many aspects of my life, it is certainly not true for all aspects of my life. While I am an alcoholic who has negative aspects of my self and my life that need to be worked on, I also have many positive aspects as to who I am as a human being. The perspective I get from the Big Book is that my entire life is a disaster and all has to change, while I certainly do not see this as the case.

For me, I have to come to terms with all this in order to accept the 3rd Step. Otherwise, I don't believe I can truthfully accept the 3rd Step. Any thoughts would be appreciated.

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Postby anniemac » Wed Nov 01, 2006 6:34 pm

Hello Scaredsober, and welcome!!

I absolutely loved reading your post....I related so much! Although you sound much more intellectual than I, I basically felt that way too when I was beginning to work this Program. 'Cept I didn't even bother with agnosticism; I considered myself an athiest.

I don't know if I can specifically address you in a way that will solve your Step 3 issue; but I will share my journey with you.

I also began with the group as my HP. That didn't last long, though, when I was told to pray each day. How could I pray to a group of drunks? I then used Good Orderly Direction - the flow of life, if you will. I still wasn't sure how that could answer or even hear prayers, but I prayed anyway, "just in case".

At some point someone asked me if I made the grass grow. I said of course not, that's nature and science at work. Ah-ha, I was asked, are they not powers greater than me? That was the beginning of my exploration of my interpretation of a HP. I use the word God because it's a lot shorter than Higher Power...however, I do not at all mean that I believe in an old man in the sky wearing white robes, standing at pearly gates.

My path has taken me through Quantum Physics and Buddhism, some New Age theories and some Philosophy. Where I have ended up is:

I believe in a source energy that is the essence of all things. Atoms and molecules are made up, at their core, of energy. Everything is energy. A table is made of energy. That energy emmanates from some source - whatever source that is, I call it Source Energy, and that is the power greater than me. It created all things, and it IS all things. It is not a separate entity that lords over me. I am it and it is me and it is everything and everything is it.

Within me I have my humanistic ego - driven by fear, selfishness, purely human desires that run amok. Also within me I have the grace of this Source Energy, this "God"-consciousness. Another word would be "higher self". When I pay attention to my higher self vs. my ego, I am aligned with the Energy of the Universe. When I pray, really I am sending out positive affirmations to the Universe. Are prayers answered, per se? Again, I don't believe that there is an entity that receives, reviews and grants prayers. But I do believe in syncronicity and harmony within the Universe and when positive energies allign, things flow well and beneficially. Semantics? Probably. But I need to trick my ego-driven self by using different explanations that are more palatable to my judgmental self.

For me, Step 3 is letting go of my expectations and my desire to run the show, and working through meditation to become more attuned to the Univeral Energy. I am still most definitely responsible for the footwork, I am not a leaf blowing aimlessly in the wind; however, I put in the effort based upon my perception of what is best for all involved (God's will), and let go of the outcome, trusting (yes, blind faith), that all will work out as it is supposed to...because truly I don't know what lesson the Universe has in store for me and sometimes lessons come in painful packages. When I am in harmony with Source Energy, I do not try to manipulate the outcome.

Your post was very eloquent; hope this one is comprehensible!!

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Higher Power

Postby Dallas » Wed Nov 01, 2006 6:46 pm

Scaredsober wrote:What I need to come to terms with is how I can turn my will and life over to a higher power that is beyond my understanding while also feeling that I have maintained a sense of person and self.

Thanks for sharing. And, thanks for sharing your understanding of of Higher Power, or God, as you understand it.

What more can be asked of you?

You believe in something.... that's bigger than you are, you understand what you understand, you're openminded and willing to change your mind if sufficient evidence ever presents itself to you.

From reading your sharing, it appears that the only problem I could see, would be your concern about what you might think that A.A. or someone else might want to believe. It's not up to anyone other than you what you believe.

I've seen the demonstration of this saying, over and over, many times in A.A. "A.A. will work for those who believe in God, and it will work for those who do not believe in God... it just doesn't work for those who believe that they are God." :lol: Since you don't believe you are God, I'm sure that it will work for you, also.

I recently read two Grapevine articles that were written by my A.A. Sponsor... the first article was written in 1952 and the second article was written in 1967.

The first article remarked about his strong belief in the A.A. principles.

He returned to drinking, and then got sober again October 31, 1958 (Halloween baby!).

In 1967, he was nine years sober, and came across the article that he wrote in 1952.

He mentioned that "his beliefs did not change." He still believed the same thing that he believed in 1952, when he wrote the first article.

He went on to say that what changed for him, was that he gained an understanding of the principles ... and that the understanding of the principles came later... as a result of his taking actions based upon the principles.

Thus... he is very strong on "it's not about what you believe or dis-believe... it's about the actions that you take."

I understand fully what he means.... my story is very similar to my sponsor's story... and I also relate and identify with many of the same things that you wrote about yourself above.

Over the years of my life... I have had many understandings and mis-understandings about my concept of God. Probably, in the future... I don't rule out that I may have more mis-understandings or understandings. It's no longer a problem for me to change my mind, in one direction or the other.

The problem for me... is if I change my actions.... not if I change my beliefs.

My sponsor sometimes says things to me, that it takes me a while to understand. For example: "If the horse is blind... load the wagon anyway."

The meaning that I get from that, is... doesn't matter if I can "see" something, "hear" something, "feel" something, "believe" something, or "understand" something.... move right along to taking the next right action.

I don't want my message to get too lengthy... so I'll sum it up with:

When I took my 3rd Step, I prayed to whatever Power there was, if there was a Power there... and even if there wasn't a Power... it really wasn't any of my business. I didn't "have to believe in anything"... I just had to make a decision to turn my will and life over to the care of whatever was there." And, then, launch right into my 4th Step.... and get that over and done with so that I could move on through the 12 Steps.

As I often say... the 12 Steps are NOT difficult to take. They are very simple and easy. The most difficult thing about any of the 12 Steps... is thinking about them.

My suggestion would be: Stop thinking about it and just do it anyway.... regardless of what you believe or do not believe.

Haven't you ever taken an action on something that you believed in, and later discovered that you were wrong in your belief? Most all of us have. (I do it often when I reach into my wallet!) ... and it probably started for me, back when I was waiting for Santa Claus, or... taking a test in school, believing that I wrote the right answer... and later discovered the answer was wrong.

Waiting for Santa Clause didn't hurt me. Taking the test didn't hurt me. Being wrong in my answer didn't hurt me. But, I waited... and I took the test anyway... and I lived long enough to be writing this!!! :wink:

What you wrote sounds pretty normal to me. I certainly wouldn't have any argument with it. (And, I'm a thinker, too!) :wink: And, it sounds like you've come to terms with yourself.

Best regards to you, and get on with the 4th!


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Postby Dallas » Wed Nov 01, 2006 6:51 pm

Hey Anne! You were writing your post when I wrote mine! If I could have read yours first... I would have been silent! :lol: I just loved what you wrote! Awesome. Thank you for sharing it!

And, to both you, Anne, and Scaredsober... your messages were both eloquent! And, you both brought it to my attention... why I love this site so much! I just love the sharing that all of you folks share!


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Postby anniemac » Wed Nov 01, 2006 7:02 pm

Hey Dallas ~ I love your post too!

I got so hung up on needing to understand....then finally I realized that I will never understand. I heard it said that any conception of God that I may have, is wrong....because one can not conceive of the full power and glory of a power that great.

I also heard this at a meeting: a newcomer was sharing that he was having trouble turning his will and his life over to God, because he had fear as to what God would "require" of him - what God's will for him would be. The speaker said "you can create whatever conception of God that you want...why would you have a God that would ask you to do something you don't like? Get another God!!!"


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Postby Rusty Zipper » Wed Nov 08, 2006 1:40 am

SS, nice ta meet ya... and dont be scared...

as alky's we like to be in control... well, i learned some time ago, my control really was not such a good idea! :shock: it blew, got me to the suicide point..

broke, dying, and emotionless... now, i made a desission to turn it all over, around, up and down, sideways, and any other way it can be done...

step3 for me, my will and life in my long end was turned over to the care, or should say the bondage of self, alcohol,and drugs. as you know, i beleive i came in the rooms on step2. so in a way, i already had the key. in fact, i had the key all my life, just couldnt find it. the key has many names. willingness, faith, trust, belief, freely giveing, honesty forgiving, and love!... these are all the things that the God of my understanding, requires me to have, in order to be in The Powers care. yes, this is action. daily action. Bill calls it continued! as i trudge down my journey to my end. accepting life on lifes terms, not mine, affords me the inner piece that allows me to not want to use again. fears, anger, resentments, have no usefull place in my life. they can creep in, once and awhile. but i now can turn them over. and turn them over into something positive, if i seek it. remember the law! for every action, there is a equal reaction. negative into positive is my goal. kind of strange, but my dependence of drugs, and alkyhol, have now led me to a independence of it. my decissions before, of life, and inner self, were made by addiction. not a Power Greater Than. i know how staying sober opens all the true inner self, that i was born with. and i like what i see. the creativity, the love, the belief of something other than me. another very important thing i have discovered. the effort it took to be "me based" was very exausting, my brain was like a whirling dervish, constantly going round, and around, this way, and that, sideways, up, and down! POP!!! goes the weasels!!!... im exausted just writing about it! wooooosh, let go of that laughing whoever's reading this, lol!..., i did go thru the mind change that the BB requires for not drinking forever, big, big, stuff. the answers to all the ???'s are there. if we realy search, and seek. yup, action yet again. for me, all the selfs have to go. self-pity, self- rightousness, self pride, and all the rest. when i pray in the morning, i simply pray for the relief from the bondage of self. i am gratefull that i can start a new day sober, and at night, i pray with gratitude that i made it one more day sober! being right, or wrong, i want to be sober. if need to be a doormat, so be it. humility! all my life, the missuse of willpower was realy my problem i see now.. it was always my way, or the highway. now, i try to line my will up with The Powers. that means to me. doing the next right thing on a daly basis, action again. imagine that! and doing a pretty good job so far. i like that inner piece, my Pink Cloud. it's only when my "Band of Gypsy's" my addiction, trys to stop me, is there trouble. they are tring everything in the book to get me to use again. so far, addiction isn't in the drivers seat. the Power, and I are! ### its a big #### i try to keep addiction way back on that bus full of Bozo's! so when life, or myself get in the way, i no longer reach for the quick fix, run, hide, crawl into bed, pull the covers up around me and stay in the fetal possition! do not lay on the couch, turn on Oprah, and start eating Bon-Bon's! i get up, out, talk, pray, whatever it takes to keep turning my life over. I cannot forget, going thru the rest of the steps, does make it a bit easier, and helps to make more sence out of this life and inner self and all. God, grant me the serenity to accept the things i cannot change ### i have to go to work today! Phoey! #### the Courage to change the things i can ### my attitude of myself, and whatever comes my way today #### and the Wisdom to know the difference! ### im here, and now, shareing my experance, strenght, and hope to you. thanks to all the friends of Bill W, and The Powers That Be!

...... xxoxoxo to you all ................. good wishes, and if ya can, give a little love! .... Rusty

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Postby Spiritman » Wed Nov 08, 2006 9:25 pm

I can tap my fingers for days about my evolutionary perception and acceptance of my Higher Power.
I can think of a bunch of great things to say.

Have you read the Christian Agnostic by Leslie D. Weatherhead (1966 published by Hodder and Stoughton)?

"The word "agnostic" in the title is not to be taken to mean one who denies the existence of all phenomena save the material. The Christian agnostic is one who tries to meet the challenges of life in a Christian spirit, but who does not feel that the great truths about God, Church and man, about Providence, evil, sin, about survival, heaven and hell, can be neatly enclosed in the verbiage of orthodoxy." But a lovely comment about the book.

I mention the bok because you wrote like a real reader, that meands to me that the Christain Agnostic is abook that will speak to you, and you will speak to it... you will share with each other. You will learn form each other.

Me, I used to spend so much time reading, talking, listening and learning about my Higher Power and Recovery that I forgot to actualize it, failed to expeience it, failed to acknowledge what I did know...

There are no universal answers to the questions of life, especially in the Higher Power universe, at least not for me.

Peace, Love, Recovery and Serenity,

The Spiritman

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Step 3

Postby musicmode » Thu Nov 09, 2006 4:11 pm

My name is Anne 8) , I'm an alcoholic,

Y'know...there's someone else of us who had some difficulty w/ the "God" concept...his name was Bill W. He talks about this throughout pg's 11-onward. On pg 12, it's written that his friend suggested: Why don't you choose your own conception of God? It goes on to say: It was only a matter of being willing to believe in a Power greater than myself. Nothing more was required of me to make my beginning.

When it comes to the part of the 3rd step prayer, relieve me of the bondage of self, what I've done is I've added: relieve me of all the negative forms of self. It was suggested to me early on, & this was somethin' I's told about us alkies...we're analytical. Ray--at that time had 17 years sobriety, said that when we begin to analyze it, that in itself can get us caught up ### him, anyway-when he said #### and keep that hamster wheel squeakin' in our heads. It's our 'true' self, RZ talked of that inner self that we were born to be--not that ravin' lunatic ###'s me :twisted: ...#### that alcohol/addiction turned us into, is truly what we ought to want to be rid of, & that 'self' we were born to be is what/who we need to get back to and trust that reachin' for a fix ain't a part-a that self...--'back to basics'. We can't do it ourselves, otherwise we wouldn't need such a thing as AA. By handin' our will & our lives over--God 'as I understand Him' ain't gonna take what He knows serves us well...all He wants is to rid us of the rotten apples. Gettin' all wrapped up feeds the paranoia ### ####, gets me off course, gets me lost & scramblin' & irritable, & erratic--which can lead me back to pickin' up. Tim T.: "don't analyze it--just trust it...just do it--you'll be glad ya did. Steven T.: "hold your face up to the light, even if you don't see it, cuz it's there--just believe it." :wink:

Keep it simple,
Anne M. 8)[/i]

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Postby flyfisherman » Mon Dec 31, 2007 2:02 pm

I think and read a lot about these issues. In the rooms, I've often heard people warn against "intellectualizing" the issue of God or Higher Power, but I refuse to abstain from thinking about the topic. Ultimately, however, I realized that those complex ideas are not helpful anyway in my recovery. In the end, what has mattered to me in recovery is that there are many powers in my life that are higher than anything contained in my selfhood. The chief among those higher powers is my relationship with my wife.

Since we come to AA (or any other form of recovery) almost always after recognizing the consequences of our drinking and the pain it causes other people, I think you have put a lot of emphasis in recovery on empathy. After putting myself in my wife's shoes with regard to my drinking, I came to realize that what she and I have is a force that is certainly more powerful than me alone. And how close I am to that force is directly affected by drinking. While I might have complex thoughts on God or other theological matters, the academic notions will not keep me from drinking like the thought of my wife and I being happy together.

My higher power is, therefore, the unique force that results from the love that my wife and I share. It is practical in that it is very easy to see the effects of drinking on my relationship with my higher power. Some people can see that drinking takes them away from God in a religious sense, and for them, that is a good higher power to keep in mind during recovery. For those of us who cannot accept God in a traditional religious sense, I firmly believe there are a number of higher powers in our life that are practical and identifiable in everyday life.

So empathize with others with whom you share a powerful bond, and notice how drinking would take you further from those people. Just thought I'd share that as my first post on this site.

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Postby dahlgren » Mon Dec 31, 2007 3:21 pm

Welcome flyfisherman glad you're here, I'm Mike, I'm an alcoholic and

I really appreciate your sharing and after thinking about it a bit feel compelled to comment. I'm a very big believer in the philosophy that was instilled in me by a sponser of mine, "make a program for yourself, that works for you and that you can live with, within the program". It sounds like you have found what works well for you, I'd like to comment on a couple of things you wrote as I have grown to understand over the years.

After putting myself in my wife's shoes with regard to my drinking, I came to realize that what she and I have is a force that is certainly more powerful than me alone.

For me this comes dangerously close to giving up drinking for someone or something other than myself. I was told early on if I expected to get this program and not struggle with the principles of the program then I better be here for me and no one or anything else. For me, working the program can lead to better relationships with any number of other people, including my wife, but that is a pleasant by product of working the program for me. Again when I say working the program, it's a program I've made that works for me within the program.

Some people can see that drinking takes them away from God in a religious sense, and for them, that is a good higher power to keep in mind during recovery.

For me it's important that whenever I speak to someone new coming in to the program that I emphasize that we are NOT a religious program. I struggled with this a great deal when I first came into the program and almost allowed it to keep me out there still using. When I first came in I had a tremendous hate toward religion, hence God or Higher Power or whatever you choose to name IT. You see I was at a point where there was no differentiation between the two, they were one and the same to me. If I wanted what they had then in my sick and twisted mind I had to take this religion crap along with it. Sorry, no deal my friend I'm happy as I am. That couldn't have been further from the truth.

Today I am comfortable calling my Higher Power God so I will refer to Him as such in this short tale.

After struggling for several months with the whole God thing early on in my sobriety there was an old timer that had sat in many meetings with me. He had listened to my same old rant night after night, "I don't get this God thing, I can't accept it". Finally, thankfully one night after my usual rant he said something to me that put me in a position to finally accept and surrender. He said, "You know I've listened to you struggle meeting after meeting with this and have come to believe that you may have the same problem I did when I came in 30 years ago". He shared this with me, "You might want to consider this, religion is created by man, spirituality is granted by God". Well my friend, it was like someone flipped on a light switch in my head, finally something I might possibly be able to accept.

That has been over 25 years ago now and I am still loathe to give a newcomer any type of concept that this is a religious program, I'm as far away from religion as I've ever been but don't have the hatred for it I once did. Today I believe, to each their own and what works for you is what works for you. I'd just hate for someone new coming in to walk back out because they felt as I did when I got here.

I hope you'll keep coming back here flyfisherman and I too wish you a very happy New Year along with peace and contentment each day, one day at a time.

In love and recovery,

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