Winter 2008 Issue
Rebirth Through the 3rd Step
|Black Words on White Paper|
|Re-membering Through the Third Step|
|A Little Slice of My Story|
|If He can do that...!|
|The Third Step Terrified Me|
|Giving It Away To Grow|
|I TRULY have had a new birth through the third step.|
|It didn’t take a lot of coaxing this time for me to become willing to change.|
|The Third Step|
|Rebirth though the third step|
Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him. (Reprinted from The Big Book, Alcoholics Anonymous, pg. 59, with permission of A.A. World Services, Inc.)
I was raised Catholic and completed 12 years of parochial school. I hated the nuns and thought the priests hypocrites. It was during twelfth grade a theologian taught my religion class and my views of Christianity changed. He gave me insight into the bible and talked about the realities of the interpretations of those who had written it, and that it did not have to be taken so literally. I became, in 1961, someone who started to think for himself. I certainly didn't have it all figured out but I began to think that I could have a God of my understanding.
I was lucky coming in to AA with this elementary belief in a God of my design. Through these years of drinking I had questioned His love and even His existence. But like my favorite speaker, Clint H. says, "I have always been a seeker."
At AA meetings I am constantly reminded how lucky I am. I see suffering alcoholics coming in with little faith in anything and struggling to be like everybody else, to fit in for once in their life. For most, it's a ‘do or die’ situation because they've tried everything else. The first thing that the group conscience does, I think, is to start trying to help these lost souls see just how depraved and insane their lives really are. They are given examples of our insanity. We tell them "how it was" and "how it is now" and they start to get a glimmer of hope. This, I see as God working through AA to restore sanity. Those of us lucky enough to have had a spiritual awakening as a result of the steps are able to do God's work by example.
When Bill wrote the drafts of the 12 steps, he made reference to God, with a capital “G” no less, and he suggested that we kneel when we ask that our character defects be removed. Some suggested that he had ‘too much God in these steps.’ What a funny idea, looking back. Webster's dictionary says that faith “is a simple trust based on experience." My experience came from the lives I saw miraculously changed by these steps.
My first sponsor, who has long since moved on to a better place, had me get down on my knees when I took step 2 and also 3. He taught me that humility is the key to these steps and our sobriety. Kneeling became a simple act of submission in my program and I "came to believe;" came to believe that I could have what my sponsor had. Oh yes, he told me his story, and what a story it was. A very compassionate and wise Higher Power, through twists and turns, led me to a man who had an even more tortuous 'drunk-a-log' than did I, and the miracles that happened to this tortured person's life shown like a beacon as I watched him reach out to newcomers, as I watched him be a dad and husband, as I knelt with him in the grass before a Quarterly convention and said a sincere step three. I said in my very newcomer way, "This is kinda embarrassing." He motioned over to the crowd gathering for the convention and said, "They'll understand."
I've never been embarrassed again about such public displays of humility. It's what keeps me sober; that and a Higher Power who knew what He wanted for me when I didn't, and a sponsor who practiced the principles and passed them on. God speed, Tom, wherever you are.
"As we felt new power flow in, as we enjoyed peace of mind, as we discovered we could face life successfully, as we became conscious of His presence, we began to lose our fear of today, tomorrow or the hereafter. We were reborn." – (Reprinted from The Big Book, Alcoholics Anonymous, pg. 63, with permission of A.A. World Services, Inc.)
The first time I read those words, I was turned off by them. I had come to the program an atheist. I wanted nothing to do with being "reborn." But as with everything else in the book, I hadn't a clue of what those words meant. Reborn? Give me a break. My eyes saw "We were reborn." My brain heard, "Born-again Christian."
I may not be a Christian today, I'm not quite sure what I am, but fortunately, the program doesn't require that I be one. It only requires that I am willing to try to believe that there is something bigger than me and that I turn myself over to that Power. Incidentally, I'm no longer an atheist. I believe in God. And today that belief is quite strong. But how'd I get to that point from such a great distance? Same as any other atheist or agnostic that truly WANTED recovery in the program of Alcoholics Anonymous - I started with Steps 1, 2 and 3.
But I can't discuss Step 3 without mentioning the 2 prior steps. Step 1. It was a set-up! You tricked me! Step 1 demolished my ego. Smashed me flat. And it left me there. I KNEW I was powerless over alcohol at that point. But I couldn't manage my own life?! Great. Now what? I don't feel so good. Step 2. Geez ... that was a tough one for an atheist (actually, I would find out it wasn't that tough at all." This step had God written all over it. At least that's what my brain heard. My eyes read "A Power greater than ourselves". Once again, it's that screwed-up nerve between my eyes and my brain. My sponsor quickly pointed out my error, "Where does it say God in Step 2?" "Right THERE!" I replied pointing at the words "…Power greater than ourselves." It was at that point that my sponsor began giving me reading lessons, "Read ONLY the black words you see on the white paper." Duh. OK. He returned me to Bill's Story and Ebby’s words, "Why don't you choose your own conception of God?" And he told me all I had to do was be WILLING to give it a shot.
Was I willing? Well, yeah, I just got smashed flat by Step 1, gotta' go somewhere from here, right? Yes, I'll try. He said that was good enough. Step 3. By this point, I was definitely not feeling so good. I'd vowed not to drink my "medicine" any more; I'd just said I was willing to try to do something (come to believe) that only weeks before would have set me on a tirade (I loved to argue God, or more accurately in those days, the lack thereof); and I'd just read and accepted that I was insane (I kept trying to tell everyone that!). Little did I know I was about to do something that would go so completely against my grain, but would begin life-altering changes in me. The thought of getting on my knees in a closed room, holding another man's hand and saying a prayer just had never entered my mind in the past. But as I say, I had to go somewhere. I was crushed.
"We thought well before taking this step making sure we were ready…"(ibid) I don't know about WELL, but I thought very DEEPLY about this step. I was in the habit of prayer by this point (thanks again to my sponsor), so I prayed that the step would work. I talked long and hard with God I still wasn't sure he was there or if so, that he cared about me. But I didn't want to be insane anymore and I was REAL tired of the depression. So as promised, I was giving it a shot. So my sponsor and I went into the back room of a club for alcoholics. We shut the doors, got on our knees, held hands and after introducing me to God, he suggested I read the 3rd Step Prayer or say it in my own words. I didn't have my own words; I was new to this, so I read the black words on the white page. But I read them from my heart. And I meant them.
When I was done, something unexpected happened. I felt an immediate warming in my hands that moved up my arms and into my chest and I KNEW, almost HEARD the words in my head, "You're going to be OK." (Chokes me up just writing about it again now.) And I began crying. Crying out loud, tears running down my face. And I couldn't get up for a good 2 minutes or so. I just kept sobbing. But they were tears of relief and joy.
You see, God had touched me. He touched my heart and he comforted me. I didn't see him. He didn't speak to me. But he rushed in and filled that horrible, black void left by Step 1. And all I had to do was ask. And as I cried, I felt the most sane I had ever felt in my life. I often hear that the program of action begins with the 4th Step and granted, that's what it says in the book. But I disagree to this day. The 3rd Step, done the way I was told to do it by reading the black words on the white paper, included THREE ACTION WORDS (verbs) of immense importance to me in working this step - 3. MADE a decision to TURN our will and our lives over to the care of God as we UNDERSTOOD Him." I MADE the decision and I TURNED my life over to Him and I tried my best, if not to fully UNDERSTAND Him, to at least have enough faith to believe that He was there, listening. Had I simply read the words and not performed the action required of Deciding, Turning and Understanding, I'm pretty sure I'd not be writing this article today and would likely be dead. And though I didn't think it would, the 3rd Step worked just fine. All 12 of them worked and continue to work to this day. More good, black words on white paper - "It is by dying that one awakens to eternal life."
Thirteen years ago on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, 1994, I made a decision to re-member with my Higher Power. I am carefully using this hyphenated form of the word "remember." The word literally means, "to become mindful again." I also see it as a word that paved the way for God to become a part of my life again. It was a word that reminds me that I have rejoined with the God of my youth or as I put it, I have re-membered with God.
I woke up on that Saturday and made what was in reality my true first step. Walking down the hallway of my house at 7:00 a.m. I said out loud, "I can't quit," and decided to take my first before-noon drink of liquor. (Actually, there were some expletives involved.)
Before I could get to that drink, the phone rang. It was my temporary sponsor asking me to go to an 8:00 a.m. meeting at a club for alcoholics in Louisville. I decided to go. I knew that I would have plenty of time later to drink. I had the weekend before me. Besides, my racing mind thought, this will probably be the last meeting I ever attend. I knew I had lost the battle with alcohol. I was powerless over this cunning, baffling, powerful foe. It was just a matter of time before I lost everything: car, home, job, family.
To put it succinctly, so much intervened between me and that first drink during those 24 hours. I received almost a dozen messages on my answering machine. I began returning calls at about 6:00 p.m. It seems there had been a concerted effort by AA members to do some twelfth step work on me. I connected with my last caller at 11:00 p.m. This wonderful woman stayed on the phone with me until 5:00 a.m. Sunday.
At 2:00 a.m. Sunday I realized that I had been almost 24 hours without a drink. One day. The basic suggestion of AA. I still had that awful phenomenon of craving for alcohol. The times I had quit before had always left me with that powerful craving. I began to pray, “God, if you will just take away this physical craving, I’ll do the work.” This, I later realized, was my Third Step. It is the only time in sobriety I have bargained with God. He delivered, and, one day at a time, I have as well. I haven’t had a drink since.
I didn’t lose my car. I kept my house. I got another job shortly thereafter. My family (two daughters) and I are closer than ever. Since that real Thanksgiving, I have visited over 30 countries and 35 states through the two jobs I have held in sobriety. I have since retired. The main thing is that I have remembered with society. I have remembered with my family. And I have remembered with the God of my understanding, who was also the God of my youth. After all, the third step is about re-membering with a Higher Power who never abandoned us at all. S/He was always there, in the words of Sir Francis Thompson, as “The Hound of Heaven” forever nipping at our heels reminding us that S/He will never desert us. The third step rejoins us to that promise.
A sandstorm swirls outside the window again, blocking the scorching Kuwaiti sun. I sit in my chair by the window, as I do every afternoon, reading and drinking gooseberry wine from a large tumbler. The walls are lined with massive cases of books, floor to twelve-foot ceiling.
Hundreds and hundreds of books, all brought to the Middle Eastern desert by ladies of the American Women's League of Kuwait, a continual trickle since the League’s inception in 1963. At my first AWL meeting, I assumed responsibility for housing the League’s library. Since then, I drink, and read.
Far away from myself, reading the novel To Kill a Mockingbird, I’ve played with Scout and Jem and Dill in Maycomb, Alabama. I didn’t like them looking for Boo Radley, the town boogeyman. No! Will Atticus save me? Defend me? Protect me from my boogeymen?
I listen for the sound of my husband’s car. Looking out now and then, I see only the tall walls surrounding our villa and the dusty tan sky above. A burning sensation travels down over my swollen, pregnant belly as I swallow, drowning and intensifying my fear. I exert myself to stand up and waddle to the rows of books. I return To Kill a Mockingbird and randomly take my next read from the shelf. Settling in my chair, I open Love Story. I read, finding refuge with Oliver and Jennifer on campus in wintry New England.
Two years ago, my world was turned inside out. I was traumatized, full of terror, bewilderment, frustration, and despair. Alcohol seemed to make my days livable. I couldn’t breathe without it. Then, within weeks, I crossed some invisible line. From that point on, no matter how hard I tried and vowed to do things differently tomorrow, I could not quit drinking. I had been trying to stop since I started.
Meeting up with Allan last year seemed a Godsend. While home on holiday from his work in the Middle East, Allan looked me up. He was the same steady adoring guy that he was in high school, and though I was obviously shaken up I still had that girlish energy and wildness that had always attracted him. We shared special memories, like riding the school bus together, dancing at Prom, competing in high school Forensics tournaments, and parking in the secluded spot on Almond Road, kissing and more.
He had gone away to college, getting his undergraduate degree in Geology. I stayed behind in Libertyville, a village between Chicago and Milwaukee, falling through the Midwest hippie cracks in the early 70’s. Ever since then, whenever one form of intoxication or bizarre behavior caused me problems, I was always able to switch to another. This drinking thing had grabbed a hold of me though and wouldn’t let go.
I was sure that my marriage to Allan and subsequent move to Kuwait where he worked would be the solution. I thought living in the abstinence-based society where alcohol is banned would be my way out, but cheerful expatriate wives were anxious to share their beer-brewing and wine-making recipes and techniques. Allan was eager for me to begin this wifely duty, making sure the designated ‘beer and wine room’ in our large villa was always fully stocked.
I was given a hydrometer, and it was easy to assemble everything else needed to begin. Fifty-six liter garbage cans served as fermenting buckets and were in almost constant use. Dozens and dozens of cases of one-and-one-half liter bottles with hinged ceramic tops, all filled with wine and beer, are stacked in tall rows.
The wine is very potent, over twice the alcohol content of the beer, and it takes less time to be ready to drink. Kuwaiti moonshine, “Flash,” is available here as well. One of the American Women’s Leaguers left a gallon of it on her Formica table last week. The Flash ate through the plastic gallon jug and dissolved the Formica. I stay away from it. I have enough trouble just drinking wine. Allan can have the beer. I’ll stick to my wine. At first I mixed it half-and-half with 7-Up, and then switched to mixing it with apple juice because it would, I think, be more “healthy.” I guzzle. I can’t stop, but I try to slow this cunning, baffling, powerful locomotive that is tearing through my life.
The maid walks through the room. She doesn’t even look over at me. Milgrina, her husband Manino and their extended family live in the servant’s quarters adjoining the villa. They do everything for me, except for most of the cooking. I like to cook. It is what I do, besides read and drink. I drink and cook. I don’t eat much. By the time the meal is ready, my appetite is drowned. I fall into bed, unconscious to dreams, waking every morning with a punishing hangover.
The baby rolls. My abdomen surges in a wave. I read. I drink. I read, "Love means not ever having to say you're sorry." Allan and I have our own love story. Deny. Deny. Deny. That’s my MO. I deny everything, just to make sure I’m covered. Only if necessary and for good measure, I apologize. Then I do whatever it takes to make Allan happy. Our relationship is working well.
The sounds of Allan’s car driving up and coming to a stop snap me back from Jennifer’s hospital bed, where she is dying in Oliver’s arms. I feel I am dying too. I wonder if Allan knows I’m fading fast. I down my drink, lay aside Love Story, and grab the bottles from the floor. The car door slams. I move hurriedly to the kitchen and hide the bottles and glass in a low cupboard. I take several quick bites from an apple. I think this makes my breath normal. I work very hard to appear normal.
Although they are capable of speaking fluent English, the doctors are talking rapidly in Arabic, interjecting every now and then a, “Mrs., not to worry.” But I am very worried, terrified actually, have been for years, particularly these past nine months.
I lie on my back while they move an ultrasound scan-head around my mountainous belly. I catch the word “cranium.” Head. Definitely something about the head. I agonize. “Mrs., we have to get the baby now. It is breech. We must induce the labor, get this baby out now. Not to worry.”
“My husband, please get my husband!” “No, your husband will wait. Best he wait.” “I don’t want any drugs! Please take care of my baby!”
I am put in a First Class room at Al Salem Maternity Hospital. A pitocin drip is started to stimulate contractions of my uterus. A rare desert thunderstorm erupts outside. Crashes of thunder and bolts of lightning explode. An occasional cat moseys into the room. The artificially induced contractions are harsh and erratic. Excruciating hours pass.
Sunlight pours in through the rain-washed window. I am wheeled to the surgical area. My body is out of control; my soul lost in the abyss. The baby enters the world feet first, little legs and arms flailing against my thighs. Time passes. The flailing subsides, and then stops altogether. Much later, delivery of my daughter is complete. Hydrocephalus. Cleft lip and palate. Dead on arrival.
I am wheeled back to my room. Allan walks in. We don’t speak. “I want to go home. Get me out of here now.”
The next afternoon, I am at home, in bed. Milgrina waits on me. Allan has gone back to the hospital to handle necessary paperwork. I get out of bed only to go to the bathroom or get a tumbler of wine. Not enough wine to make the hurt go away. My body is racked with pain. The awful ache of aloneness consumes me. My heart is broken. I am overcome with guilt and fear. Torn apart and ripped to pieces, I miss my baby. I will wait three months, get pregnant again, and have a healthy baby, I vow. I am determined.
Allan enters the room, his face ashen. He sits on the side of the bed. “Linda, I have something to tell you. I have her with me, the baby.” What? I am shocked and confused.
“We have to bury her ourselves. I had to bring her home. She is wrapped in a sheet. I have her on dry ice in one of your empty wine buckets.”
“What are you doing!”
“We have to bury her ourselves. I found a little wooden box and some brass tacks, to make a cross on the box.” He starts to cry. “The box will be lined with satin.” Tears run down his cheeks. He struggles to speak, “but I can’t find any satin.”
My heart breaks for him. “It’s okay, Allan. It’s all right.” I vow to make things right.
I sit in my chair by the window, as I do every afternoon, reading and drinking gooseberry wine from a large tumbler. I listen for the sound of my husband’s car. Looking out now and then, I see only the tall walls surrounding our villa and the pale blue sky above. A burning sensation travels down over my swollen, pregnant belly as I swallow, drowning and intensifying my fear. I exert myself to stand up and waddle to the rows of books, randomly pulling my next read from the shelf. One more attempt - and one more failure. Can you understand?
After four years in Kuwait, I return home to the United States. I am desperate for help, willing to do anything to stop drinking.
I recall the stories my parents told me when I was growing up, about my grandfather. He couldn’t stop drinking. In 1949, several men from Alcoholics Anonymous had come to his house in Alabama. From that day, he never drank again. His life and that of my grandmother’s revolved around A.A. until he died in 1974.
Alcoholics Anonymous is listed the phonebook. I dial and shakily say, ”I need to go to A.A. What do I do?”
That spring night, a Friday in 1986, I walk alone into my first meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous. I am very afraid. "Help me, help me, help me," runs through my mind. Spiritually bankrupt, my prayer is answered. I have not had a drink since that evening. Life is good, incredibly so. Thank you, sweet Alcoholics Anonymous.
The home that I was brought up in was family of mixed religions. Mom was a Roman Catholic, Dad was an American Baptist and my maternal Grandfather was a Methodist. Her family was from the Portland area of Louisville and Dad's family was from an exclusively Baptist community of Fairbanks, a very rural farming hamlet in west central Indiana, about 30 miles more or less south of Terre Haute. I endured all the Roman Catholic traditions of the Saints, Incense and religious holidays and attended Dad's church in Franklin, Indiana on more than one occasion, but never set foot inside of a Methodist church until I was involved in Young Life activities in college. I never really knew how to worship God, let alone understood him. Therefore, I grew up knowing God as nothing further than a ritual. It never sank in concretely that He was a loving Supreme Being who cared very much about us as His children, whether we did right or screwed up horribly. Especially since the other god we beheld in our household and Mom’s family was Falls City beer and the other bottles of booze as well.
I didn't come to really understand Him until I became involved in a church in Indianapolis and even that was a very long understanding process.
I knew that from birth on, miracle after miracle occurred in my life, still I never really felt any major connection with God, except for what was shown on TV, like The Ten Commandments and so forth. These miracles included being arrested for Public Indecency in 1977 and having all the charges dropped, having accomplished many feats considered unthinkable for a disabled person and so on. Yet, despite all, my drinking continued, even on the weekends, on and off campus at Franklin College where I was a student. It got especially bad in my junior year when I consumed reefers, beer and 1/5 of Mad Dog 20/20. Things calmed down for awhile and I thought things were turning themselves around and I felt I was making that happen. If God was “pitching in,” I was oblivious to it.
All of this changed in 1996. On April 10, 1996, I was en route to my job as an Associate Healthcare Provider at a group home for, ironically, Substance Abusers and Chronically Mentally Ill. Although I had previously worked on the Addictions unit in a hospital in Indianapolis, nothing was fazing me still. In any case, I was already recuperating from a horrific cold and had been having problems with both my minister and my partner.
As I got just on the edge of Danville, I blacked out. I was behind the wheel and found somehow I had stopped at an intersection 2 blocks from work with my left foot on the brake and right foot on the gas. The radio was still on and so was the turn signal. After the car behind me honked, I ventured forward. There was no damage anywhere. When I got to work, I found out I had to drive to another community to help a guest get her stuff from her family home for an overnight stay.
When I got back to the group home and dinner was over and clean-up chores were done, I called my partner at the time and told him to remind me to call the doctor when I got up in the morning. He asked why. I told him I think I had a seizure en route to work. He picked me up and drove me home at the end of my shift.
We applied for SSD shortly thereafter. The following July, he and I split up. The following August, after we were both cruising the personals in the paper, I found myself being directed to an ad for someone in Columbus, Indiana. We spent the weekend with the man who posted that ad, and his friends who were stoned on pot and Jack Daniels. Our host was taking Neurontin (an anti-inflammatory/anti-convulsant, on top of it all. Though I didn't consume any of the other two, it was as though God had a reason for me to be there and it was for me to be the outsider looking in. My host showed me what could happen if I did foolishly decide to mix it all together. My ex and I fought tooth and nail the entire 50 miles en route home.
I got sober, and over the next 12 years I learned about the third step. I learned that God was my Protector. But I also learned that He puts people together for a reason although we may never know that reason except through our own personal experiences. The person I am seeing now is also an addict, alcoholic and schizo-affective, but for someone who is mentally ill, I still feel in many ways he makes more sense than a lot of people I’ve met.
They say that you can't teach an old dog new tricks. Well, for this old dog, so to speak, I feel that what we learn from each other in this Third Step, we teach each other too. And I am forever grateful for knowing that God is there as not only my Guide and my Protector but also my friend.
I just knew I was ready to start my 4th step before I ever acquired a sponsor, actually. I was physically sober about 2 or 3 weeks when I blurted out in a meeting one day, “So, what do I need to do to get this mystical 4th step started?” Two guys turned and looked at me simultaneously and replied, “Get a sponsor and do the first 3 steps with her.” Obviously, they didn’t know who they were dealing with. I’d always been self-motivated and had mental fortitude that most of these AA’s didn’t possess, if they needed a sponsor to do this thing. But after the meeting I talked to the two guys who’d answered my question, and there happened to be a lady sitting there who agreed to sponsor me, so I thought I’d humor them all and ‘go along with the program.’
My sponsor and I started getting together every Tuesday night before her home group meeting and reading from the Big Book, line by line, word for word. I faked a lot of enthusiasm during this time since (I thought) I’d already done the first three steps (in my head at night after the meetings). I didn’t go to treatment and worked every day on a few hours sleep, pretty much just shaking, smoking cigarettes and reading the same page over and over in the Big Book, night after night. Like I said, I thought I’d already done the first three steps. I mean, how hard could that be? Even the old guys said in the meetings that the first three steps are just conclusions we have to come to accept in our hearts. The action part of the program really doesn’t start until the 4th step.
Anyway, after about 3 months of reading and talking and ‘establishing a firm spiritual foundation,’ I got kind of tired of not getting this searching and fearless moral inventory show on the road! I think my sponsor was just messing with me, stalling and just messing with me. On that particular Wednesday night, she said to me once again, “You’re not there yet,” referring to my lack of readiness to turn my will and life over to the care of God. So I went home, madder than hell at her for not realizing my spiritual growth.
When I returned home the phone rang and it was my daughter’s father who had primary custody at the time. I really hated him, to the point of plotting his murder on a regular basis. Since coming to AA, I had made a concerted effort to treat him like a child of God and was doing a fair job of not treating him badly, which was my usual.
The call was supposed to be a time to set up the time and place to meet and drop our daughter off to spend the weekend with me. I only got to see her every three weeks at that time. Then he dropped the bomb that he couldn’t get away that weekend and I’d just have to wait until my next scheduled visit. (6 weeks from our last visit!) When the full impact of what he said hit me, I went off, like in the old drinking days, and cussed him and brought up everything he’d ever done to me or my child from day one of our relationship. I’m not sure who did the hanging-up, but it was a loud disconnection, to say the least. I really needed a drink at that moment, more so than thus far in my short time in sobriety.
Luckily, I had been saying the 3rd Step prayer every morning and night for several weeks and it was all I could think of to come between me and the car keys at the time. The drive-up window of the liquor store was still open for another 15 minutes. So, I got on my knees and said that prayer one more time, ending with, “Please God, take this hate out of my heart! I cannot live with it anymore and stay sober.”
I said a prayer for my ex and for me and for our child that somehow God would get us through this. When I got up from the side of my bed, that hate I had harbored and nurtured for at least 3 years was gone--just gone and it hasn’t returned to this day. I still get upset with him and disagree, but that hate has not come into my thoughts, much less my heart ever since I asked God to take it away.
That was when the 3rd step came alive and engulfed my soul, so that I can believe that He can restore me to sanity on a daily basis. I figure if He can do that, He can do anything and I mean ANYTHING! Guess what? He has done the same kind of spectacular things on a regular basis ever since and it never surprises me, but it never ceases to amaze me either. That same man who I hated with every fiber of my being, the one I plotted to murder, he and his soon-to-be wife attended my wedding about 18 months after that night when I took the 3rd step on the floor by my bed. That same man accepted my amends and hugged me at our daughter’s high school graduation. See, if He can do that for me, He can do it for each and every one of us drunks!!
My name is Gwen and I am an alcoholic in every sense of the word. The third step terrified me. Who me, turn my will and my life over to whom? How could I possibly do that? I was angry with God. How could I ask Him to take my will and life and do whatever. My life was over. I was sick and tired of hurting. And I said I’d go to any lengths to stay sober didn’t I?
This is what I said to God, “God I know that you know I am mad at you for taking my mother away.” I struggled with this step for a while. I was told by my sponsor, it was a decision on my part and faith was all that was required. So I decided to test God, if He would help me tell my biggest, darkest secret to someone, I would give Him a shot.
I asked. He did. I was afraid but did it anyway because more than anything in the world I wanted this thing called sobriety. Later it dawned on me God hadn’t demanded that I do something that He would not help me with. I’ve not looked back since. Being who I am I have to put my hands in the situation before I ask God for help. I trust my Higher Power today. The one thing I do know about my Higher Power is that He thinks He is a comedian. Thanks for letting me share.
It’s very interesting that this subject came to me by way of the internet. It all happened by way of being on a Twelve Step Call.
I had been chatting online with a potential A.A. that was 120 miles away for months and even felt comfortable to share my personal story due to the openness in our conversations. We would share openly what life was like and how fun it was plus how unmanageable it was even with the special twists that only an A.A. can identify with.
Well, there came a period of time when I got disconnected on the web from this person. Then the person contacted me again indicating a lower bottom than before; that this person was detoxing with no air conditioner while the partner was out of state, and did I think A.A. could help?
I called a dear friend more appropriate than I to go pay a visit to this potential AA, and ya know what my twelve step partner did in the parking lot before we knocked on the door? The Third Step Prayer. I was asked to voice the prayer in unison yet opted to stay shy, reserved and silent; most of all in observation of the worth of the Third Step Prayer instead of a Twelfth Step Prayer. The Twelve Step call went as God wanted, my partner getting real honest on the level of the suffering one, with me being back up to keep my friend honest, open and willing through the tuff moments of discussion. We ended the visit with phone numbers exchanged and expressed a willingness to go to a meeting that evening.
My Twelve Step partner called me for the next few nights in amazement of what had really happened. I thought it was a regular Twelve Step visit. My T.S. partner also told me that I put myself out there (with suffering people), and I responded “HP is in charge taking care of me.” Yet later found I had been given something I was unknowingly missing. By becoming willing to give away what had been so freely been passed on to me, AA’s Program solution to the obsession to drink, a bigger consciousness had been passed on this time. An opening had happened inside me. It is said that this program is one of attraction, and we clean up pretty darn well. That had a lot to do with the attraction and most of all the actions of my Twelve Step Partner. The decision was not a decision at all; it was the next step to becoming a responsible Alcoholics Anonymous Member. On this basis I find life so much easier to live. Given a choice my brain spends lots of time on dancing around the wrong choice instead of keeping it simple and going with what is for us all to do, God’s Will.
After being semi-retired for 7 years, I found myself responding during a job interview to the question: “What gets you up at the start of the day?” To say “being sober” was too much for me, so I pointed UP. The interviewer said “Faith.” And I agreed. THIS is a profound change for this Alkie that had expelled any thought of God.
We can do easier, what I try to do alone.
Bruce W.D. ‘The Goose’
Using the available tools, in the order they have been formed is amazing.
I had been in a recovery facility before and did not utilize the tools. This time I came in tired, wanting a life and realizing that I had missed something. Before starting on the steps I came to the conclusion that I would consider myself a blank page. I didn’t know anybody or anything. I was sincerely starting over. At that point, the edge of my letting go, miraculous things began to happen. I prayed for an acknowledgement of my higher power’s presence and got it.
I was in a homeless shelter that depended on donations and didn’t always have the best food. I wanted eggs for breakfast and the monitor there laughed at me, but we had a donation of eggs the previous night and there was the first nudge of my prayer being answered. At lunch I made a comment about salad, with a similar response from the staff, yet we had salad that day. At supper time I told a sister in sobriety that turkey was my favorite meat and there it was on the steam table. Then, my daughter came in with a message from my Mom and a gift--the person who had given me life made the first mark on my blank page. It was an overwhelming feeling of finally doing the right thing. I was in the right place to start living. I never asked for my life back, due to the fact that I had never had a life. I started using substances when I was 13 years old, had dibbled and dabbed before that.
I WAS 49 WHEN I FINALLY CAME TO MY SENSES. I have been born again. The spiritual part of the program is taken for granted a lot of the time, but the third step has illuminated me. It brought me out of the darkness into the marvelous light. Not only can I see the light at the end of the tunnel, but I have a light around me to lead me through (the ones who came before me). I still have to pay attention to where I walk for there are always going to be obstacles on the path. Step three is a freedom step. It’s the step that releases us. Step three is the breaking point, where finally I know that it’s not what I can do or how can I fix this, it’s the step that builds faith and confidence in living-REBIRTH. It’s also the step that makes me realize I’m not alone, I’m not the creator and it’s okay to rely on God and my ancestors in sobriety.
Ellen S., Kentucky
It didn’t take a lot of coaxing this time for me to become willing to change. I’d been in recovery before and I’d tried my way time and time again, with the end result being self-destruction. I had been raised in a church, but didn’t believe that was the answer for me. Yet, when I got to the homeless shelter it seemed like there was something or someone haunting me.
As I began to come to my senses I realized that the spirit was trying to reopen a closed door of my life. It took me back to when I was a child and played back some old tapes of my past. As I started reading in the big book and going to recovery classes, things got clearer and clearer as to what I needed to do. I needed to let go and let God. It left me to acknowledge that there is no other way. I’d tried everything else. I used drugs, alcohol and people, but none of those filled the emptiness within. I am an educated person and I had often looked to that for relief from my agonies, but I could never figure out or calculate a formula to remedy my ailments. Once I made the decision to turn my will over to God, whom I’ll never understand, things started to fall into place and I began to see for the first time how I am supposed to treat myself and fellow mankind. Through this process of taking instructions from A. A. I have a whole new concept for everything.
When I finally did let go and started to listen to those who have walked before me, my life changed like I would have never believed was possible. My attitude of love and sharing is miraculous. I was always self-centered, now I love to help others. I look forward to going to meetings, which I originally thought was some kind of cult for mind washing. Evidently something has changed on the outside of me too, because now people actually invite me to come around, whereas before nobody wanted me in their presence, unless it was for the wrong thing (which I was good at doing).
Today I wake up lifting praise to my higher power, God, without whom I could do nothing. The third step is the doorway to a life that I thought was for others, but has been graciously granted to me. Step three is the key to a new being within the shell of a once lost spirit. The third step can give peace and release agony in all dimensions of sobriety. Try it, don’t just read it and work it on paper, actually try it in your encounters of issues through this journey called life. Step three opens up a treasure box of rewards, use it, share it and be grateful for it.
My first tries at the third step were not too successful. I could make a decision for the moment to turn my will and life over to the care of God as I understood him. It didn’t have any lasting effect. (Much like my New Year’s resolutions.) It may be like the riddle: If three frogs are sitting on a log over a creek, and one makes a decision to jump, how many are left on the log? The answer is three. The frog only made a decision. He didn’t jump.
The fourth through the eleventh steps gave me the willingness to actually ‘jump.’
In the beginning, perhaps we should not be so hard on ourselves when we turn our will over and then take it back. It’s hard for me to give up that keenly developed will that got me into the program to begin with.
Yes, my will runs my life until I act on the willingness to turn it over. All my defects of character remain firmly in place. Though I have stopped drinking, my defects of character remain firmly in charge, excused through a thousand excuses.
It took me eight years to get through the rest of the steps. Not a very serene eight years.
My hat is off to those of you who have “arrived” through the third step alone. It will be interesting to see. How did you do that???
Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood him. (Reprinted from The Big Book, Alcoholics Anonymous, pg. 59, with permission of A.A. World Services, Inc.)
Being convinced that we were at step 3, just what do we mean by that and what do we do?
The first requirement is that we be convinced that any life ran on self-will can hardly be a success. On that basis we are almost always in collision with something or somebody, even though our motives are good. Most people try to live by self-propulsion. Each person is like an actor who wants to run the whole show; is forever trying to arrange the lights, the ballet, the scenery and the rest of the players in his own way. If his arrangements would only stay put, if only people would do as he wished, the show would be great. Everybody, including himself, would be pleased. Life would be wonderful. In trying to make these arrangements our actor may sometimes be quite virtuous. He may be kind, considerate, patient, generous; even modest and self-sacrificing. On the other hand, he may be mean, egotistical, selfish and dishonest. But, as with most humans, he is more likely to have varied traits. (Reprinted from The Big Book, Alcoholics Anonymous, pg. 60-61, with permission of A.A. World Services, Inc.)
Step 3 prayer: God, I offer myself to thee to build with me and 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 bare witness to those I would help of Thy Power, Thy Love, Thy way of life. May I do Thy will always. Amen. (Reprinted from The Big Book, Alcoholics Anonymous, pg. 63, with permission of A.A. World Services, Inc.)
Practicing step 3 is like the opening of a door which to all appearances is still closed and locked. All we need is a key, and it is called willingness. Once unlocked by willingness, the door opens almost of itself, and looking through it, we shall see a pathway beside it with an inscription. It reads: "This is the faith that works." In the first 2 steps we were engaged in reflection. We saw that we were powerless over alcohol, but we also perceived that faith of some kind, if only in A. A. itself, is possible to anyone. These conclusions did not require action; they required only acceptance. (Reprinted from Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, pg. 34, with permission of A.A. World Services, Inc.)
"What a relief to let God take the care and will of everything for me. I don't have to fight for control anymore thank God for this program"
“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!” (Reprinted from The Big Book, Alcoholics Anonymous, pg. 63, with permission of A.A. World Services, Inc.)
At about 6 months (May of 1989) I was going to meet some high school friends for lunch. It had been 16 years since I had seen or had a conversation with these women. At this short time in AA, self-will run riot controlled my life. Being full of fear about this lunch date, I called my sponsor. She suggested for me to pray for God’s will to be done at the luncheon. When I knelt down beside my bed that morning, I felt God’s presence in my bedroom while praying. As I brought my head up from a bowing position, the sunlight coming through the window was a bright golden glow around my bed. The Spiritual awakening impacted my decision to turn my life over to the care of God. I had never felt such a calming effect before. From that morning forward I had a God of my understanding from I never felt before in my heart and Soul.
After a year sobriety my sponsor suggested I get into a women’s step group. When the group began writing about the third step, I realized a psychic change began to occur for me. We as a group knelt down together to pray the third step prayer. I once again felt God’s presence in my heart and soul. Nine months later our group finished the 12 steps. From doing intensive writing on the twelve steps, I felt like I had risen out of the pit of Hell and was reborn into a new person. I continued to say the third step prayer in the morning along with my meditation books.
However, throughout my later years of sobriety, I did not continue to practice saying the third step prayer. Somewhere along my years of sobriety, the third step prayer got put aside. Saying “Thy will be done” was the easier quicker was to pray. Guess what? Two years ago God saw fit through my husband’s sponsor, who gave him the third step prayer card. My husband and I say the third step prayer every morning together before reading our meditation books. For me, this prayer surrenders my life to God every morning.
My name is Jill D.
I am a alcoholic
From Rough River, Ky.