Step 3-“Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood God”
“I am an addict!” No harder words are ever spoken than those uttered by one who attends h/her first 12 step meeting. Accepting the limitation of addiction and identifying secretive destructive behavior is agonizingly painful and full of discomfort in the beginning stage of recovery. It demands the rigorous honesty cultivated in Step 1. It calls for the humility of Step 2 to ask for help from a higher power.
Step 3 is a Catch 22 dilemma. Figuring it out can be like trying to nail jelly to a tree. This step in the recovery foundation bids for irony and metaphor. It leans into the concept of to win you must lose. Winning sobriety means to surrender all forms of dishonesty, minimization and displacement of responsibility. It means to be in control you must let go. Let go of control of what people think, secrets kept and serial addictive behaviors repeated. It means to totally surrender to a Higher Power in the midst of fear, uncertainty and ambiguity.
It reminds of the story of the tourist visiting the Grand Canyon while leaning over the railing to see the bottom of the canyon, lost his balance and fell-grabbing a lone branch sticking out of the side of the canyon, holding on for dear life. He looks down to a 300 foot drop and cries out “God help me!” to which he hears a deep voice that says “Ok, let go!” He waits a few seconds and then calls out “Is there anyone else up there!” Step 3 challenges the addict to release h/her grip and let go to the promise of program and Higher Power. It is not a one-time surrender but a daily release moment by moment. The requirement is to do what seems innately against addict nature-give up control in order gain peace and to resurrect control again.
In order to know God, Step 3 proposes that you embrace what you don’t know. Through Step 3 we work with and accept the uncertainties of life. We surrender to the reality that there are no absolute certainties, assurances in life and we abandon all demands for perfection. We embrace the spiritual paradox that “when I am weak then am I strong.”
We are challenged to detach from things and possessions. Attachment to positions, power and places has become a problem that stunts spirituality because at some point they own us. Adding to your collection and hoard of things crowds out the spiritual.
Rather, we embrace our failures and our success, our dark side as well as our light and we gain autonomy by not insisting on our own rights. We learn to pay attention to what we hold on to and soberly accept what has happened. Somehow we allow our Higher Power to transform the Catch 22 of addiction from lose-lose to win-win profoundly letting go and accepting what we cannot control.
Ken Wells is a PCS staff therapist, lecturer, and author of The Clarification Packet. He facilitates Men’s Leadership Weekends held throughout the year. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org for additional information.
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