Drum roll please…ta-da! And, here we are, at step 3. In the big book, step 3 states “Made a conscious decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.” I have enormous respect for Bill W. and the founders of modern recovery. But here is where the path splits off a little for me. I understand from an academic perspective why the step is written to say “…God as we understood Him.” The founders did not want something, anything to be a stumbling block to someone trying to enter the program, and if the word “God” or the concept of Him was going to be a deal-breaker, they wanted to construct an out by using this phrasing. I get it. They were trying to save lives and families from rampant addiction. People still use this wording to keep the concept of “God” at an arms-length. And if they are working their program, and are staying sober, then it is what works for them.
But if we really examine the step and its intent, what do we find?
For me, I could not turn my will and my life over to a “God as I understood Him”. Why? Because God is supposed to be infinite. Our brains, by definition, are finite. If I can understand God, He isn’t God. He might be god (little g) but he isn’t someone I can trust with my life. And he won’t be big enough to handle my willfulness.
So, what then? We come to step 3, and are faced with a decision. Do I trust God enough to hand over control to Him? Am I willing to do so? For someone like me, surrounded by addicts all my life, giving up control was like dying. Or jumping from a ledge and believing there was a soft spot to land somewhere I couldn’t see. It was one of the most difficult and painful parts of recovery. It was the death of my ego and belief that if I just manipulated the variable one last time, this would fix everyone and everything.
As a child, spouse and mother of addicts, I had more arms than an octopus when it came to trying to keep a lid on my family and surroundings. Let me tell you, that idea died a horrible, screaming, piteous death. I had to nearly come to the end of myself to be willing to surrender all to God, even knowing Him as I did. I had only allowed Him a bystander status in my chaotic, pre-recovery life.
If you don’t know God, and you just need to embrace the concept of recovery, start with the “higher power” idea and work from there. Be open and let your “higher power” speak into your life. He knows your name. If God is familiar, but mostly just a passing thought as you try to run the show, as He was in my life, take a breath. Slow down. Ask Him to take charge for a while. Turn it over. But like an old-timer told me, if you don’t let go of it when you turn it over, you’ll end up upside down. I thought that was pretty funny.
Step 3 is a willingness step. It is the key to the rest of the recovery picture. We will keep returning to this idea. Our egos are strong. They are like zombies, coming back from the dead to try and take over our brains and tell us we don’t need to turn it over to God’s care and control, and that we can do it ourselves. So back we go to our tool box to battle it out. But that’s okay, because that’s what the tools are for. To battle the pre-recovery zombie in all of us.
Much love and, on we go.