A 12-step program is a set of guiding principles outlining a course of action for recovery from addiction, compulsion, or other behavioral problems. I will share my experiences with each step as a resource for newcomers to the program. It is HIGHLY ADVISABLE that you work through the steps with a sponsor! Step 3 reads:
Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood God.
Assuming that you have come to believe in a higher power, you have come to a decision. Deciding to turn your will and life over to your higher power requires willingness and humility.
When it came time for me to make this decision, I was hearing a lot about surrender. For some reason, that word has some negative connotations for me. It conjures the word defeat, and reminds me of powerlessness. To put it simply, this whole thing about surrendering made me depressed. However, there was no going back. I wanted a better life, so I became willing to continue the suggested steps. My active alcoholism was not sustainable. The power that alcohol had over me was profound. I acknowledged this and have come to realize that I cannot successfully keep sober and recover on my own. It was necessary for me to surrender my ego, whether I liked it or not.
I told myself to stop playing God and to start living life on life’s terms. It was now time to say enough is enough. I needed to stop doing what wasn’t working and try something new. I needed to stop fighting and soften my resistance to the idea of a higher power. Being an addict seems unnatural to me. It’s like rowing against a current or sailing against the wind. There comes a time for many when they need to become honest with themselves and to accept what’s real. I became willing to let reality be the guide to my choices and actions.
My Guiding Force
I have a problem because I allowed alcohol to be my guiding force. Continually getting loaded was creating an unmanageable life. I had been ignoring the higher power, as I understand it to be. The clear choice was to allow this power be my guide instead of alcohol. The higher power, the great Energy, the laws of Nature – these things are real. I was avoiding the truth. It became time for me to accept my weakness. In this admission of humility, there is strength. I told myself these things:
It’s not about ME anymore. Stop trying to live outside the truth. Live by the rules of nature. Cause and effect is real. Drinking causes problems for you. Stop denying it. Allow the higher power to exist in your life. Allow it to help you. You have nothing to lose.
While I was thinking about the third step for the first time, I had a bit of a ‘light bulb moment’. My search for a greater understanding of my higher power had brought me to the Wikipedia page about Taoism. The authors describe the Tao as “the intuitive knowing of “life” that cannot be grasped full-heartedly as just a concept but is known nonetheless through actual living experience of one’s everyday being”.
It is my understanding that there is a higher power that can be felt through actual living experience. However, I believe that humans cannot fully understand this higher power. The authors continue, “the Tao is not a ‘name’ for a ‘thing’ but the underlying natural order of the Universe whose ultimate essence is difficult to circumscribe due to it being non conceptual yet evident’ in one’s being of aliveness”. This is an idea that I get behind. This is a higher power that I can embrace. After reading this, without consciously making a decision, I knew that I had turned my will over to this “natural order of the Universe”.
12 Wisdom Steps
This website, Sacred Connections, outlines a Taoist 12-step course of action for recovery. On its Step 3 web page, the author writes:
In the Taoist way, when we come to understand that when we force an outcome, we are going against the flow of life, and in doing so, we often encounter resistance, disappointment and often suffering. It often feels like we are pushing to no avail. When we surrender, we are letting go of the need to control everybody and everything around us.
Tao of Pooh
One book that helped me in my early recovery was the Tao of Pooh, by Benjamin Hoff. In the text, the author writes:
According to Lao-tse, the more man interfered with the natural balance produced and governed by the universal laws, the further away the harmony retreated into the distance. The more forcing, the more trouble. Whether heavy or light, wet or dry, fast or slow, everything had its own nature already within it, which could not be violated without causing difficulties. When abstract and arbitrary rules were imposed from the outside, struggle was inevitable. Only then did life become sour.
Abstract and arbitrary rules were governing my life. Life had become sour and I was tired of struggling.
Here is a text message that I sent to my sponsor when I felt that I had completed Step 3:
I think things are lining up for me right now. I think I am, or I was, forcing or pushing things – trying to control things – to no avail. Trying to create an outcome that went against the way things operate in the Universe. I was acting selfishly, going against the rules. I let alcohol be my guide. Now I see that I might find greater harmony by being honest with myself and others, by letting go of the need for control, by trusting in a power greater than me, you or any person.
I need to let go of situations, fears, worries – just relax and let it go. Allow the higher power – as I see it – to guide me. I need to be open to allow things to happen as they need to happen. Like you said, it’s simple. Maybe not easy, but simple. I will spend my whole life trying to achieve this with varying success, but I think I am ready to “surrender”. I think I will turn my life over to our higher power and I think I am comfortable with that idea!
Each day, I try to consciously relinquish control of my will and life to my higher power. If you have come to believe in a higher power, then perhaps it won’t be so difficult to allow it to guide you as well. Perhaps it’s time to allow the higher power to do what it’s supposed to do. It is clear to me that no human power can restore my sanity. I will consciously embrace the Tao and continually try to surrender my ego to the universe.