Step 3 is simple, but addicts and alcoholics insist on complicating it. We make a decision, it’s that easy. The decision is to acknowledge that there is a power greater than us at work in our lives. Making the decision is an act of surrender (thy will, not mine be done.) By making this choice to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understand God, we agree to move forward in life by taking right actions and to leave the results to the powers that are busy organizing it all for us. We agree to embrace our dreams, our hopes, our desires…because the longer we stay physically sober, the more we can trust that those things are god-inspired. When the results aren’t what we want them to be, we may have a lot of feelings about it, but (and I find myself saying this over and over again in various situations lately,) our feelings are irrelevant. They don’t change the decision we already made. It is what it is, regardless of how we feel about it.
I didn’t get into graduate school…AGAIN! When I applied back in November, I made an agreement with my higher power that I would remain in acceptace of God’s will for my life. There’s nothing I hate more than when my will and God’s will for me turn out not to be aligned. Yet I am absolutely certain (after some 4,000 days of continual sobriety) that God’s will is ultimately better for me than mine. Just because I think it would have made me happy to juggle graduate school while starting a non-profit, raising a family, being a wife, working the program and attending to all of my other 10,000 responsibilities, I am aware in a vague foggy place that I might be crazy! I don’t always know what’s best for me…and I really really hate that sometimes, but it’s been true for me over and over since the day I stepped into this program.
Again and again I go back to Steve Jobs saying, we can’t connect the dots looking forward. I love that. We just don’t know, and it’s silly to waste any time at all crying over spilled milk, as the saying goes. But just because it’s silly, doesn’t mean that we may not still do it, after all, I’m just human! It’s totally ok to be a little irked with God sometimes. At our core we are human beings learning how to be humans being. We have been rescued from the terminal sentence of death and insanity in order to stay sober and help other alcoholics. As it turns out, I’m suddenly sponsoring a ton of people…people who just dropped into my life in various stages of Step 3 dilemmas. What is the answer for us all? It can always (and only) be found in the present moment.
In this moment all is well. This will not be the year that I find a professional home in a graduate program. Maybe next year, if I decide to apply again. Or maybe by this time next year, life will be unfolding in such a way that I realize graduate school was not the path for me (stay tuned!) Either way, I can only be present in today. It’s the only place anything can happen. I can be sit with my feelings (disappointed, a little depressed, a little in fear, a little pissed at God) but I have to stay in my reality. There’s a lot to do here. That’s the point for me of a sober life. I didn’t get sober to eek out an ordinary existence until I finally keel over dead of boredom.
I am trying (hello God, are you paying attention?) to build a life I’m excited to live in. That was never a part of my using story. When I was using, I was trying not to get arrested. I was trying to have enough of whatever substance it was to keep me numb 24 hours a day. I was trying to avoid the sense of impending doom that hung over me as I crawled out of my closet and into A.A. I was really busy! When I got sober, I suddenly had a lot more time on my hands. And what old timers taught me, was that it is my responsibility to use that time to be on the planet enjoying my life, contributing to the world around me, searching fearlessly for where I can be of service, and living life to the fullest. As it turns out, I’m really good at that! Pushing the envelope is my specialty. I think most alcoholics are like this. It’s certainly one (negative) manifestation of what we do when we try to drink and use ourselves to death. But there are many many ways of using this ambition for good…and they all start with Step 3, aligning ourselves with God’s will for us. When we “sincerely take this position” all kinds of incredible things happen.
Yes, it (sometimes) means falling in line with a plan other than yours. So even though today looks a little bleak knowing that no graduate program lies in my immediate future, I surrender, humbly, to that fact. Life on life’s terms. Period. And even though I will probably grumble my entire way through working on the website for my non-profit today, I will finish this blog post and do it. Because that’s what’s next on my list. And those are the doors that are opening for me right now
dammit dammit dammit dammit fuck. And I can feel anything I want to feel about it all. I don’t have to like it. But my feelings, at the end of the day, are meaningless. And when I’m ready to move on and feel something else, I will. Feelings are magical indicators of where we need to do a little spiritual work (ego, control, fear of financial insecurity, grandiosity, lack of humility…oh, sorry, those are mine!)
If you think you can do a better job, then go ahead and sit on Step 3 for a while longer. Contrary to popular opinion, A.A. is not some cult that insists on brainwashing the independence out of you. You get to act however you want (just don’t drink!) But my guess is that if you consider the mess you have made of your own life (and one thing we know about newcomers is that they have just had the WORST year of their life–otherwise, they wouldn’t be sitting in A.A.) you will find Step 3 easy to swallow. By the time I got here (and many times since) I was so done that I gladly let it go. It really is the easier softer way. I used to envision surrender as kind of flopping arouund on the floor until I collapsed like a dying fish out of water (that’s kind of what it looked like as I was detoxing from drugs and alcohol.) But surrender these days looks more like stepping off a cliff. It’s stepping out into…I don’t know what, and trusting that there is always something there holding me. So if you’re new, or if you’re dancing around Step 3 for some over-complicated reason, let today be the day that you make like Nike, and just do it.