Thereís something in the Big Book that says (paraphrased) that at some point we need to talk about religion and God. I hope that no one is offended by what I have to talk about ≠ about my spiritual journey that was kicked off by working Step 3 ≠ these are my thoughts and do not reflect OA as a whole.
When I left Step 2, I was comfortable with the concept of a Power greater than myself. When I got to Step 3, well, I kind of flipped out. In my early recovery, Step 3 was both a challenge and a growth opportunity. And since I was "terminally unique,... I thought I was the only one to have this problem.
[An aside: For most of my life I have been "the only one to have this/that problem.... Most of my problems were with other people or institutions ≠ and I felt frustrated that no one else seemed to experience the misery that I suffered. I think that the underlying problem was that I went into most situations expecting to be disappointed (remember, I believed I was the worldís victim), and I expected people/institutions to behave the way I wanted them to. I can chuckle about this now ≠ even joking with my husband that the inscription on my cemetery headstone will be "She wasnít the only one this happened to.... J)]
Because there is probably at least one person who might benefit from my Step 3 process, let me tell you the story.
I was raised in a fairly secular family with a strong cultural tie to my religion. My parents never went to the synagogue to pray; in fact, they used to send me (not that I was unwilling to go ≠ I kind of enjoyed it) with the request "pray for us, too.... We didnít talk about God unless I had done something wrong and my father wanted to make the point that God had specifically said that what I did was pretty awful. We did the holy days by feasting (or fasting) ≠ the emphasis was always on the food. I left my formal religious education when I was 12. This is important because when I stopped studying, I had a childís concept of God and my religion.
I believed in God alright. God was vindictive, spiteful, mean, cruel, hurtful, malevolent, vengeful, unforgiving. God was someone (thing?) you bargained with to get what you wanted (i.e., if you get us a mortgage, Iíll do this or that ritual for the rest of my life). God deliberately pulled the rug out from under me; when things were going well, I knew that God would step in and ruin things for me. Additionally, I didnít know a lot about my religion, and what I did know was serious child stuff (you donít get too much mature information when you stop learning in junior high school).
I think you get the point: if Step 3 meant I had to turn my life over to God ≠ if *God* was the Higher Power everyone was talking about ≠ this was going to be a mess because I sure as hell wouldnít trust the God that I believed in. When pressed by my sponsor, I had a light-bulb moment when I realized that God looked a lot like my mother (z...l), blond and blue-eyed. No matter how hard I tried, I could never really please my parents ≠ I was always wrong and the rules seemed to change at their will. God and my parents were synonymous, and to paraphrase a restaurantís slogan, God was "no rules, always wrong....
My realization that I had confused God with my parents was a painful eye-opener. I felt furious at myself and them. It took a long time for me to eventually realize that my parents were flawed people who did the best they could with the tools at their disposal. It took a similarly long time to not equate God with my parents or anyone I thought knew the TRUTH and had more power than me.
Next problem: because I didnít know a lot about my religionís view of God, whenever I heard "God... mentioned in an OA meeting, I just *knew* (you know ≠ the mind reader) that these OAís were talking about a form of God that (if I didnít know much) I at least knew wasnít part of my religion. I felt scared and angry, and I didnít know what to do.
My sponsor had me redo that assignment about making a list of all the attributes I wanted God to have, and when I finished, I was horrified to find that my version of Godís attributes had nothing to do with what (I thought) my religion taught. Was I going to have to convert to another religion to be comfortable with this God? Talk about a spiritual crisis; I was a mess.
I started reading everything I could about my religionís view of God. In time, I realized that yes, there it was " my understanding of God talked about in my religionís language. I cannot tell you how relieved I felt and how my anger and fear immediately dissipated. The 2X4 I was schlepping on my shoulder seemed to melt away.
The really good news about Step 3 is the "as we understand "... clause. This was my journey and solution; others will undoubtedly find their own path and their own language and their own understanding of God *as we understand"* Like I said at the beginning of Step 2, my experience taught me that itís more productive to wear recovery like a loose garment. In other words, donít get all crazed, donít walk out, donít leave OA ≠ just trust the process and know that OAís "higher power umbrella... is big enough for all of us to fit under it.
OK ≠ now back to the actual Step.
Step 3 doesnít ask for a lot, just that we make a decision. Itís very simple, and itís damned hard.
First, letís look at turning our *lives* over to the care of God. Itís not just our food or our food addiction/compulsive eating ≠ itís everything. Remember, in Step 1 and 2 we acknowledged that we had screwed up our lives and that they were unmanageable but that there was a power greater than we were who could bring sanity and order back into our lives (like my life was *ever* sane and orderly ≠ ha J). Step 3 is piggy-backing on that work; itís a natural extension. If we accept that weíre a mess and that we canít do anything about it by ourselves and that thereís a power greater than ourselves who *can* clean us up, then Step 3 says that itís time to decide to turn our lives ≠ mess and all ≠ over to that Power, however each of us defines, conceives or imagines that Power.
I find a lot of comfort in the "care of God... part of Step 3. I imagine God (whatever God looks like) saying to me, kind of like the perfect (non-existantly perfect) parent kindly encouraging me: "Donít worry ≠ Iíll take care of it.... Isnít that a sweet thought? What a relief. I donít have to carry the burden of the world on my shoulders, like the statue of Atlas Holding the World at Rockefeller Center in New York City.
But like most of us, I immediately created chaos. If I didnít spend all my time and energy worrying about my life, if I turned my life and everything involved (including friends, family, loved ones, the weather, etc.) over to God, what was *my* role in the world going to be? I would be the ultimate empty-nester and the proverbial hole in the you-know-what.
And again my sponsor calmed me down. She suggested that I had plenty to do just taking care of myself and doing the next right thing ≠ and she even suggested that Iíd have more time to be loving to myself because for the first time in my life, I was going to be able to focus on me and not get involved in what other people did or thought (especially about me). Very cool and very comforting. So far, so good.
Now about the *will* thing.
I spent many years trying to proverbially shove the square peg of life in the round whole of life. I did my best to manipulate and control people and situations so that Iíd be taken care of and safe. I knew what was best for the people in my life, and if they didnít do it, they (and I) would be in trouble. The big problem was that things never really seemed to work out the way I thought they should. My desperate attempts to control my world and my failures to succeed led to more fear. So I ate to stop feeling the fear and the loneliness and the agony of being a failure. And I spent sleepless nights tossing and turning because I had screwed up yet again.
What I eventually learned is that "will... is the same thing as "I wanna,... and Step 3 was suggesting that by linking my will to what God wanted me to do ≠ "Godís will, not mine... ≠ Iíd eventually stop trying to change everything to suit what I thought was best for myself and others. The 3rd Step Prayer suggests that instead of asking (demanding) that God do what *we* want, that we work towards asking what *God* wants and channeling our efforts into doing just that.
This is the Third Step Prayer: "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....
Lest you think that you take Step 3 once and get it over with (whew ≠ thatís over!!), not. Youíll hear a lot of people in OA rooms saying things like, "I took my will back.... We all do it; weíre not perfect. The idea is that every day we make the decision ≠ sometimes even many times during the day; and we eventually learn what it feels like when weíve decided that weíre God and itís time to remake that decision.
So hereís what I learned from making this simple decision:
1. Iím a compulsive eater and all my attempts to control or manage my food and my life had failed. After years of trying, my life, soul and mind were a perfect example of total chaos. I had been lashing out in fear all those years, trying to get people to do what I thought I wanted so that I wouldnít be abandoned, unloved and terrified.
2. There is a God, and Iím not God, and this is actually a good thing.
3. When I turn my life and will over to Godís care, all sorts of good things happen, but the absolutely best thing is that Iím sleeping at night and Iím abstinent.
4. I can and may need to work Step 3 many times; this is ok because Iím not perfect.
Iíll stop talking now J.
STEP THREE QUESTIONS:
1. Describe your attempts to control your life, your world, your relationships.
2. How come you try to control things?
3. Are your attempts working, or are they messing you up even more?
4. Talk about your misuse of your will and how itís gotten you into trouble in the past.
5. What does it feel like to turn your life over to God (as you understand")?
6. The AA 12&12 talks about our fears that if we turn our lives over to the care of God (as we understand") will make us like the [forgive the expression J)" hole in the doughnut.... Is this something you worry/worried about? If you made the Step 3 decision, has this happened to you?
7. Talk about your reaction to the "as you understand God... clause.
8. You may need to make the Step 3 decision many times (sometimes many times a day). Are you comfortable with not being perfect?
9. Read the Third Step Prayer again. Read it out loud. The Big Book says that you say this prayer ≠ or a similar one of your own choosing ≠ and then you have taken the 3rd Step. Are you ready? If not, what is preventing you from being ready?
10. If you are ready to make the Step 3 decision, talk about your decision with your sponsor, recite the Third Step Prayer ≠ or a prayer of your choosing that states the same sentiments, and take Step 3.
11. So ≠ how do you feel?