Step 3 of a 12-Step Series
When I was 27 years old, I left my first husband and the Mormon church in one fell swoop. I stopped believing in God, even though I don’t think I ever really did.
I ramped up my drinking following my divorce and became the life of every party, bought a wine bar, became a blackout drinker and thought I was making up for lost time. It would take me 17 years to quit drinking alcohol for good.
When I started working the Steps, Step 3 concerned me from the get-go. I thought it was asking for a lot.
“Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.”
I had suspended my own disbelief in God during Step 2 when I decided to be willing to believe in a Power greater than myself, resigning myself to the fact that this was the path of least resistance and necessary in order to move me through the 12 Steps.
I tried hard to figure out exactly how I could work Step 3 and be 100% honest about saying that I understood Him. The truth of the matter was I was having a hard time naming my Higher Power. Suspending my disbelief in a God was one thing, but figuring out who or what my Higher Power was, and then having to understand Him, felt like an entirely different animal.
Rigorous honesty was the catch-phrase that was keeping me tethered to the program and I just couldn’t get over the hurdle of naming my own Higher Power while simultaneously telling the truth. The act of doing so felt forced and a little fake to me. If I was going to drink all of the AA kool-aid, then I wanted to drink from an honest cup and speak up when something didn’t sit right with me. I was no longer interested in lying or saying things just to please people. Now that I had stopped drinking, I wanted to be authentic and live with integrity. I was going all-in. I struggled with finding a God of my understanding and I needed to be honest about that struggle.
Luckily, all I had to do was verbalize these feelings at meeting-level. I shared with my home group that my Higher Power couldn’t be a fence post, as some had oddly suggested because that seemed just as ludicrous to me as God being an invisible, all-knowing man in the sky. Chatting with people after the meeting who were so sure of their Higher Powers left me feeling like I was totally missing out. On what? I still wasn’t sure. All I know is that I desperately wanted to find and connect to a Higher Power, but I did not want it to be hollow or forced. I actually needed it to be genuine. Some had sweetly encouraged me to fake it until I make it and I absolutely did not want to fake anything in my life anymore, much less fake finding a Higher Power, now that I was sober. The bottom line is that no one could help me find it or name it. I had to do that work on my own.
During this process, I received a powerful email from a friend that gently laid out her belief system as it related to God. She knew I was struggling to find a Higher Power and gave her advice as an offering. Her way of explaining her connection to a Higher Power was like nothing I’d ever heard before. In a nutshell, God was not an invisible man in the sky, nor was he a fencepost, or a rock, or my husband. She offered that maybe God could be an energy, more of a feeling rather than a being.
“Relieve me of the bondage of self, that I may better do Thy will.”
God could be Love, she said.
This concept stopped me dead in my tracks and made more sense to me than anything I’d ever heard before. I turned this thought over and over in my mind for days on end.
God could be Love?
Well, if that were true, then I guess I believed in God because I most definitely believed in Love. This line of thinking was sensible and seemed hopeful. Eventually, I came to honestly say that I had a Higher Power and that Higher Power was Love.
The next time I met with my Sponsor, I told her I had made the decision to turn my will and my life over to the care of God (Love) as I understood Him. I was ready. We both kneeled on the ground of her living room floor, facing each other and read aloud the Third Step Prayer from page 63 of the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous:
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!
I sobbed openly as I read these words out loud to my Sponsor. I could feel genuine Love coursing through me and I felt a palpable rush of relief wash over me once we finished the reading. I let out a long, heavy sigh.
It didn’t feel fake.
It didn’t feel forced.
I’ve been a Seeker my entire life and yet seriously doubted that I would ever find God. The funny thing about all of this is that once I let go of the idea of what I thought God was supposed to be and was able to honestly choose a God of my own understanding, I did feel new freedom and power rush in.
The byproduct of getting sober has made me care less about what other people think. Turning my will and my life over to my Higher Power of Love might sound a little touchy-feely to some, but I honestly do not care what others think about that. I only care about not picking up another drink today.
It turns out Step 3 really just boiled down to finally trusting myself enough to believe what I want to believe and loving myself enough to let go of my old story and start writing a new one.
Tammi hasn’t had a drink since February 3, 2015. She is a former wine bar owner, lifelong seeker and recovering perfectionist. She makes art every day and credits this practice as the path to her spiritual overhaul. She documents her creative forays and monthly sobriety milestones at TammiSalas.com Her writing here will share her story as she navigates the 12 Steps of AA.
A NOTE FROM TAMMI:
Anonymity is the foundation of AA and I respect that. However, I choose torecover out loud in order to be of service to other people still suffering.