How does someone who doesn’t believe in God embrace steps one, two, & three of a 12-step program? Let me clarify the statement about not believing in God as it relates to my own experience. I do believe in a higher power and an existence that there are unexplainable existing forces that bring us humans together. What I do not believe in is the notion of ‘God’ in its religious context. Therefore, it is hard for me sometime to say the word ‘God;’ AND the word God is used throughout the big book of Alcoholics Anonymous. My understanding of the literature became much simpler when I read the words in Bill’s Story “Why don’t you choose your own conception of God?” In addition, the Chapter “We Agnostics” makes it really clear that to live life on a spiritual basis is greatly considered the better alternative to an alcoholic death. So how do we who are spiritually corrupt find spiritual attachment through the 12-steps?
In Step 1, We admitted we were powerless over alcohol-that our lives had become unmanageable. This is a sad time for the alcoholic. It was for me. I felt very vulnerable. I felt empty. I was ending a relationship that was toxic to me and it also broke my heart. I was so tired. The admission that my relationship with alcohol was uncontrollable and that my defeat felt like a failure at this point did also come with a sense of relief. To understand that I was powerless and hopeless started to give me actual new hope for the future. It just couldn’t get worse.
In Step 2, we Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity. This to me was the question I had for myself which was “what now?” If I didn’t have alcohol to relieve me of my life then what could I depend on? I literally was using alcohol to live. Now I had to live without it. I had to socialize without alcohol. My head was a giant blur. I couldn’t concentrate on anything but alcohol. When would I get it? When would I drink again? That is the insanity I was to be relieved of. That vicious cycle of wanting and craving and being sick. I had to believe that there was more to life than this substance that created an illusion of comfort. Temporary comfort at best. So with my sponsor I was able to identify that my belief in humanity and the comfort I received in the rooms of AA; knowing I wasn’t alone truly helped me get through the day to day challenges and also the entire 12-steps.
The big book of Alcoholics Anonymous is well crafted. It takes 64 pages to get to the 3rd step prayer. Step 1 & Step 2 are so important to understand that before we can get to Step 3 we need to learn about Alcoholism through the eyes of our founders’, doctor’s opinion and accepting guidance through others and our higher power. Those first 2 steps give us a foundation to stand on as we prepare say our 3rd Step prayer and move onto our resentments, assess our character defects and make amends.
Step 3 we Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood him. Step 3 is beautiful and there is a prayer that goes with it. I continue to put it to memory because it provides the context in which to hand over essentially “the reasons” I drank to the higher power of my choosing so that I can live. Everyone is different but this is how I break it down.
God, I offer myself to Thee-to build with me and to do with me as Thou wilt. In my opinion, this is the basis of surrendering that I can no longer depend on alcohol or any other substance to control my life. I ask the universe to watch out for me. I let it guide me. One of my new favorite sayings I received from a friend is “ride the wave.” I also ask to remove my fear and to allow love in. There are many ways to look at this. It doesn’t have to be formal.
Relieve me of the bondage of self, so that I may better do thy will. This line allows me to recall that my selfish ego can take over at any time and that I need to be mindful. It reminds me that if my ego gets in my way; everything eventually gets in my way. I can get in my own way! I am no good to anyone else when I am in my alcoholism and I am no good sober if I am not reflecting on my behaviors and maintaining healthy spiritual practices.
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! This concludes this simple prayer. If I continue to dwell on my faults, my life challenges and create chaos out of things I cannot control then I am no longer connected to my spirit. As I learn more about how to be at peace with the moment as it lives inside of me it gets easier to remove the difficulties. Some of my difficulties could be simple little irritants throughout the day or bigger ones that can’t be resolved overnight. With every anxious moment, resentment or challenge; remembering that all I have to do is ask my higher power, spirit or universe to take them from me for the moment allows me time to breathe. It gives me pause to work on them positively rather than reactively in a negative way.
In conclusion, every 12-Step step has its purpose and it takes time and patience to work on each and every one of them. They all hold value that will reverberate long past the conclusion of the work. Individually, the steps hold you up and provide the journey to be told as you provide guidance to others. For this alcoholic, I cannot do any of them right without my spirit guiding me.