Step 3: "Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God, as we understood Him"
When I was new in A.A., just thinking about Step 3 terrified me. My fear of Step 3 could have been a major reason that Step 1 and Step 2 were so difficult for me. However, when I took a second look at Step 3, and read "turn my will and my life over" instead of "our will and our lives"....... It not only terrified me into ultra-shock, I knew that I was going to be facing an impossible challenge for me. It was beyond my human ability to do it.
The first half of Step 1 meant that I would have to admit complete defeat... over alcohol. That was difficult..... But eventually the bottle beat me into submission. It meant that on my own, even with all my best resources, self-confidence, self-will, self-reliance, self-knowledge, self-discipline, self-control, all of my plans, ideas, methods and techniques that I had developed, and all the knowledge that I had discovered about alcoholism.... I was thoroughly doomed..... to die an alcoholic death. I had to admit that it was a Problem Greater than myself. I couldn't fix it. And, no other human being could fix it for me. I was absolutely, thoroughly defeated.
As I look back now, I can see that if I had not discovered that I was thoroughly defeated, I couldn't have gone any further into recovery. This is what our Big Book talks about in Chapter 3, More About Alcoholism, on page 30. I just wouldn't have been able to develop the willingness that it was going to take to continue the recovery process. If I had not been totally convinced in my innermost self, that there was any other way to survive...... I would have kept looking for the other way. (Other than the 12 Steps, and a Power Greater than myself).
I believe that this is what it means to "hit our bottom." If we are fortunate enough to "hit our bottom", (before dying an alcoholic death), hitting bottom means that "we stop digging." We stop lowering our living standards to meet our life's pitiful and incomprehensible circumstances. We become sick and tired of being sick and tired, and we become willing to try something different. And, until we're convinced that we've tried everything other than the 12 Steps and a Power Greater than ourselves.... we'll keep trying everything else.
For me, I had reached what our book talks about in Chapter 11, as being the "jumping off place." The realization that with or without alcohol I'm going to live and die a miserable death. I can't live with it and I can't live without it.
I had tried all my life to be happy, to know peace, to feel loved, to love, to be wanted, to feel unique but at the same time to feel that I was apart of, rather than separate from. To feel secure, to live without fear, to be recognized and have the recognition of my fellows. To know and enjoy success. To feel like I had something worthwhile, worth having.
I wanted those things long before I ever took my first drink. And, I tried very hard to obtain that sense of well-being that comes from the things that I thought would make me feel that I was having the things that I wanted.
Later, after I discovered what alcohol could do for me... that it could temporarily give me the "sense of ease and comfort" that it talks about in the Dr.'s Opinion, and alter my perception so that I could "feel that everything was alright..... or soon would be alright". I still didn't have what I wanted, but the alcohol helped me have the illusion that I either had it, or that I would soon get it. When I would wake up the next morning sober... and realize that nothing had changed... I would have the delusion that alcohol could fix it. And, even if it couldn't fix it... it could ease the pain and loneliness that I felt. It could help me drown out the feelings of guilt, remorse, resentment, anger, and fear, that was being generated as a result of my drinking behavior, and the fact that in all the "best management of my life" that I had previously exhibited, I still did not have what I wanted. Sure, I acquired material things, money, possessions, families, positions, and all the physical stuff that I thought would give me the feeling of "having arrived" or having achieved my goals.... but it still didn't fix the problem of how I felt inside... and it didn't give me the feelings of what I thought I wanted to feel.
Of course, this would mean that with or without alcohol, "I hadn't done such a great job of managing my life." Because, I still didn't have what I wanted. And, when I was sober enough to take an honest look at the results in my life... as a result of my "management plan for living"... it was obvious that something or someone else could have done a much better job than I was doing. I was really creating a mess of things, to say the least!!!
With that in mind... it wasn't hard to then conclude that "my life had become unmanageable" and that I just didn't have the ability to manage any differently. Nor, would I ever be able to manage it on my own, any better than I had managed it before I became willing to let something else manage my life... as a result of taking the 12 Steps. That is what it meant to me, to take the other half of Step 1, to admit that my life had become unmanageable, and on my own, I was not going to be able to do anything about it, nor would I ever be able to manage it any better than I had already tried to manage it. Another defeat. I balked at admitting complete defeat, until I was sober enough to see the true results in my life...... and the results in my life were all a "result of me."
Hmmmmm. Could there be a solution? When I came to A.A., I could see that many others had found a solution. Why couldn't I find it? Because, until I was willing to admit complete defeat... I would keep going back to my own old ideas, my old plans, methods and techniques to get what I wanted out of life. The same old ideas, plans, methods and techniques that didn't work.
Wait a minute!!! Your solution is God? That sucks. I don't like any type of authority. I rebel against any type of authority. God sounds like an authority to me!!! I'll have nothing to do with that!!! I don't want some God, or some principle, telling me what to do and what not to do... I want to be independent. Self-reliant. Self-willed. And, above all else, self-seeking. I want to satisfy me.... not satisfy you, or anyone else, especially a God!!! God might want me to do some stuff that I don't want to do. He might embarrass me. He might want me to stop doing some of the stuff that I really like to do.... stuff that brings me a lot of pleasure and soothes my pitiful and painful meager existence!!! Nope. You just keep this God stuff. I'll die an alcoholic death, thank you!!!
Wait a minute.... did I really say that? Yep. I said that. Uh-oh. Here comes a ton more of that painful crap in my life... and the booze just isn't fixing it. Crap!!! That hurts like hell!!! God? Where are you? Can you help me? Will you help me... even if I don't change? Will you help me if I don't do what you want me to do? Will you help me if I keep doing what you don't want me to do? Geezzzz...... isn't there any other way out?
Come on God... I'm a real nice guy... I just can't seem to make myself believe in you, because if I believe in you it scares the holy-crap out of me!!!! You might be mean to me!!! Sucks. Doesn't it?
That's where my lifesaver came to the rescue. It was my A.A. sponsor. He told me that perhaps the reason I had a problem with God was that I was all screwed up in my thoughts and ideas about what God is and what God does and doesn't do.
He said, "Dallas, why don't you take a sheet of paper and write down what your idea of the perfect God would be like..." I said "Couldn't that be a little sacrilegious or something?" He said, "Maybe. But it might also be sacrilegious to have the old thoughts about God that you already have. What do you have to lose?" Grudgingly, I agreed to do it. It took me a while to do the writing, and over the years my conception of God has changed from what it was that I wrote down then. But here were the basics that I started with.
1. God would be a good God. He wouldn't do anything bad or mean to me or anyone else.
2. God would help me.
3. God would not ask me to do anything that wasn't good for me.
That's about all that I could come up with.
When I met with my A.A. Sponsor to go over what I had written down we discussed my conception of the perfect God. He said, "Hmmmmm. That's interesting. Sounds kind of like the same God that I have. Are you sure you don't know Him?" I said "Yeah. I don't know Him if He's that way." He said, "Well why don't you just act as if God were like what you wrote down. Can you do that?" I said, "No. I don't think so." He said "Why not?" I said, "Because then I might have to change or something and I can't do that. I've tried changing before." He said "I didn't ask you to change." I said, "Yes you did. You said to act as if God were a good God." (Geez, the stuff Sponsors have to put up with!)
He said, "Do you want to die an alcoholic death?" And, I said "No." He said, "Then you're going to have to do something differently." I said, "I don't believe that God cares about me." He said, "Do you think A.A. cares about you?" I said, "Yeah. You guys say you care about me. You keep telling me to come back. And, you haven't thrown me out yet...." He tried to get me to become willing to turn my will and life over to the care of God as I newly understood Him... but I just couldn't do that. So, he said, "Do you think you could make a decision to turn your will and your life over to the care of A.A. for a while, and see what happens? If your life gets better, you might keep doing it. And, if your life sucks more than it does now... you can always take back your pain and misery and do it how ever you want to do it." So, I became willing to become willing to become willing to try it.
My understanding of Step 3 today is much different than it was when I first took Step 3. And, my conception of God is much different than when I started in A.A. The basics of my conception of God are still the same as it was when I wrote the simple things on the paper, God is good, God cares about me, God wants to help me, and God would never do anything mean or bad to me or anyone else.
What I learned from my experience was, that I was making a decision to turn my will, which is my thoughts, and my life, which is my actions, over to the care of the A.A. program of recovery, the 12 Steps, and whatever God that I thought that there was.
What I believe today, is that God cared about me enough to direct me to A.A. and to my A.A. Sponsor who could help me through the 12 Steps. After I took the 12 Steps, and continued to practice them in all my affairs, and to do the daily growth Steps, my life rapidly began to change. Others began to see the difference much sooner than I saw it.
Today, my life is better than anything that I could have ever imagined or designed for myself. All the things that I had always wanted for my life have become a reality for me.
Today I am happy, I know peace, I feel loved, I love, I know what it's like to be wanted, to feel unique and at the same time to know that I was apart of, rather than separate from. I feel secure. I don't live with fear. I get recognition of my fellows. I know and enjoy success. I feel like I have something worthwhile, worth having. I have a new attitude and outlook on life. When I have problems come up in my life, I have serenity that matches every situation and circumstance. I have the most beautiful dog in the world (it's God's dog... I just get to take care of her for him). I have the best A.A. Sponsor in the world... I am very blessed and fortunate. Life is easy. I don't struggle. I relax and take it easy. I get inspirational thoughts and intuitive answers and guidance when I face indecision. Life's a beach!!!! And, I'm on it!!!
It didn't happen overnight. There were lots and lots and lots of more actions to take to get where I am. And, there are daily actions that I take so that I can keep reaching for higher ground. The good news is... that you can get there also, and you can go even further than I have already gone.... if you take the same action. And, the best news is that the actions are written down in the Big Book, and they give you precise instructions on how to take them. "Rarely have we seen a person fail.... who has thoroughly followed our path." --- "May you join us now!"
-- Dallas B.
NOTE: The above information is not Official A.A. Literature and should not be interpreted to be an official view, suggestion, opinion, etcetera, of Alcoholics Anonymous. The information is from an A.A. 12 Step Study Workshop, conducted by Dallas B. We hope to make more of the handouts available on this website. Check back for updates. If you have questions, contact Dallas B.
What has been your experience with Step 3? Please share it with us in the Step 3 Topic in the 12 Step Forums, at Step12.com!