The following is my third entry in a series about the 12-step spiritual program of recovery.
Step 3: “Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.”
In Step 2 we came to believe (see previous blog), now we make a commitment. Continuing our reading in The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, we find Step 3 in chapter 5 (How It Works) on page 63. It takes the form of a prayer: “God, I offer myself to Thee, to build with me and to do with me as Thou wilt. Relieve me of the bondage of self that I may better do Thy will. Take away my difficulties, that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help of Thy Power, Thy Love, and Thy Way of life. May I do Thy will always.” The wording is optional as long as it expresses the idea. I find this to be a beautiful prayer and very effective when voiced with conviction.
Step 3 is the cornerstone on which everything else depends so it is vital that we understand, as best we can, what it means to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God. I struggled with this and have witnessed many others do the same. “How can I turn my will and my life over to some esoteric, invisible, concept of which I have no personal knowledge or experience. Who or what is this God thing? Does this God even like or care for me?” Many who face this step feel that God, if there is such a thing, probably hates them or, at least, cares little for them. In order to succeed at step 3 we need to connect with ‘God’ that, we feel, deeply cares for us. I will outline a definite method that has worked for many and is developed from my experience helping others with this most important step. It is not the only way and might not be the best way for some. There are many paths to a personal connection with God and we are all free, and should, find what works for each of us.
As an example, when I was working on Step 3, I needed my idea of God to be logical. Here is how I came to think about my connection to God. I observe that, in life, children are a reflection of their parents. In other words, the child carries a semblance of their parents within. People see this too by their use of the terms ‘family resemblance, and ‘genetic inheritance’. I see this in all of life, like begets like, people beget baby people, cows beget baby cows, oak trees beget baby oak trees. I also notice that, in creation, like individuals exist within groups in an ever expanding hierarchy of parent – child relationships. A human is a child of humanity, humanity is a child of all of life, and life is a child of the universe (all of creation). I see this parent – child relationship in everything. This is how I came to know that I have a direct connection to God! I am a child of my parents, which are children of humanity, which is a child of life, which is a child of creation, which is a child of God. So, by logical deduction, I could believe that I am a child of God! Most importantly, I must be a reflection of God, and have a semblance of God within me. This was my starting point for step 3.
To do Step 3, we need more than a “God of our own understanding”. We need a deeply personal relationship with God. We cannot use someone else’s definition of God if we want it to be personal like it needs to be. So, here’s how we can make our relationship with God a personal one.
First, if you could choose how you would want God to see, think, and feel about you, what would that be? Better yet, how would you want God to see, think, and feel about your own child? Start with how you feel about your own child. How much do you love your child? Do you love them even though they have made mistakes in life? What is your will for your own child? Do you want them to prosper in all aspects of their lives, want them to have joy and happiness? Write all this down. Just let it be hypothetical for now but write down what you would want in God if you could choose. When I did this, I discovered that, God as I understood God, is a God that loves me unconditionally and who’s will for me is to prosper in every aspect of my life. Just like my will is for my own children! This became what I call my “Truth Statement” about God. Another powerful concept that helped me with my struggles with Step 3 was that “I am not God” and so will never totally and completely understand all of God. This helped me to let go of needing to ‘totally understand’ why bad things happen in this world in order to believe.
Once you know about God of your own understanding you are at a decision point. You must decide if you are willing to turn your will and your life over to the care of “God as you now understand God”. If you prefer, are you ready to fire your ‘Bad Advisor’ (see step 2 blog) and hire a new advisor that you call God (or whatever name you prefer)? When quiet, gently say your “Truth Statement” about your relationship with God and then say the 3rd step prayer recited at the beginning of this blog, or something of similar concept.
To build trust in God start asking God to help you in your daily life. When you wake each morning, ask God what you need to do to stay addiction free today. Write down the answers you receive and do them. Before bedtime each night, notice what happened that day when you followed the instructions you wrote down that morning. Say ‘Thank You’ from the depths of your heart!
How do I know if I did step 3?
It is all about deciding, deep within your heart, to turn your life over to God (as you understand God). You are willing to start asking God for direction in your life and nurture and grow your relationship with God. It is ok to have doubts, to be scared, to not know how, exactly. But once you decide, it will be established for you, and light will be shown on the way.
How should I feel after doing step 3?
Some may have a powerful experience while others may feel trepidation. I remember feeling a deep sense of peace and security. Much depends on how deeply you believe and trust as well as the conviction you have around your decision to let ‘God’ take over. But, no matter how you feel, nurture and grow your new relationship and be amazed at how the impossible becomes possible.
Next we will do Step 4.
David Saffold is a Professional Life Coach and student at the Estuary. He has been helping people use the 12 step spiritual program to recover from alcohol and drug addiction for over 25 years.