Step Three

Made a decision to turn our will and our lives
over the care of God
as we understood Him.

Leader's Share and Step Questions

The principle behind Step Three is FAITH

Hi, all. It's me, Susan, still walking along the path to Recovery with all of you. I've read all the Step Two shares that have come in, and I thank all of you who have shared with the loop [though not sharing with the loop is Ok too!]. I see such HOPE in your shares, and I'm so grateful to have all of you here on this journey with me.

On to Step Three. This is the first Step that mentions the "God" word (though we've certainly seen it in the assigned readings), so I want to repeat -- and add to -- something I said last time.

We often see the use of "God" in the AABB. We've seen it already in the assigned readings. If this is a word or concept or deity that bothers us greatly, we are absolutely free to use it as an excuse to quit this program. Our disease of Compulsive Eating (CE) would like nothing more than for us to do just that -- quit the 12 Steps. Trust me, the disease of CE wants us dead, but it will settle for us fat or dangerously underweight or miserable. On the other hand, we can bypass the "God talk" in the AABB and use our own word(s) for this "power greater than ourselves" or "Higher Power." ["Why don't you choose your own conception of [this power greater than you]?" AABB p. 12] Whatever works for us, we need to use it. We can't let the disease "win" because of a vocabulary word. It's not WHAT we call this power, it's that we believe there is one. I sure believe there's one -- just by my relief from my cravings (remember my Halloween story?). Feel free to use my Power - and give it any name you want. [Remember, this "[power] of your understanding" is a spiritual concept, not a religious one -- and there's a big difference. You should google it!]

Ok, so Step Three does mention "God," but it also gives us a way to work with that. It says, "God as we understood Him." That means we're free to understand "Him" as a deity, as an amorphous "power," as "the creator," as "the universe," as "the sunlight of the spirit," as an angel, as the collective "power" of the 12-Step group, or something else entirely. The point is -- it's not WHAT we call that power, only that we believe there is one — and it’s not us. Let's face it -- we're here because there's something going one with us -- we have a disease, an addiction. So if "we" have the problem, then the solution can't be "we," it must be "elsewhere." And that's the whole point of the 12 Steps -- to get us *to* the "elsewhere," and we get to call this Power whatever we want. [Trust me, petulance and arrogance and fear and lack of willingness were all on my "character defects" list! And the disease of COE would have loved for me to stay there, all caught up in defiance over the “God” word!] :-)

So what did I do? All I had to do was talk to my sponsor for 5 minutes, or “listen” at my online meetings, and I believed that *something* got all of them into recovery, and my sponsor said it sure wasn't she who did it. I believed her. And now I believe it of myself. Don't you think that if I could have stopped compulsively eating all by myself, under my own power, mustering all my human will, that I would have done so??? Why else would I have struggled for over 40 years? Who would do that voluntarily?

Ok, then, so let's say I've now got this "God of my understanding" [GOMU or "power" or whatever -- just NOT ME.] What am I supposed to do with it...? This Step implies I have to "turn my life and my will into his/it's care." WHOA! What does that mean? I've heard people say, "turn it over," but what does that really, really mean...? If I "turn over" my life and my will to some other entity, then where will **I** be? Will I disappear...? [Let's face it, "turning it over" involves TRUST, and some of us CE's come from a background where trust was a scarce commodity. This could be new for many of us.]

So how do we do this? Well, for one thing, I can turn "outcomes" and "results" over to something-else-just-not-me. That means I have to let go of my *expectations* for an outcome, I have to let go of my *fantasies* for an outcome, I have to let go of my *wishful thinking* for an outcome, I have to let go of stamping my foot and *demanding* an outcome -- and I have to say over and over to myself, "Something else is in charge of how this will turn out, so I don't have to think about it, worry about it, or be anxious about it. I can sit back, relax, and do other things. What will be, will be." This takes trust. This takes FAITH (that it can and will happen; that I can and will do this). [Oh, I did a *LOT* of talking to myself in the early days.] :-)

Can you "turn it over"? Can I? Well, I can! I did! But it took practice, I have to say. When my husband had his first bout of cancer, I sat in the waiting room during one of his surgeries, and I practiced giving up control of the outcome. I practiced turning my husband's life and my life over to the care of my "Higher Power" (HP). I did this by praying. I prayed, "If it is your will, it would be wonderful if the surgeon could come out and say, 'We got it all, he doesn't even need chemo or radiation.' HOWEVER, if that is not to be, then please help me maintain my dignity and courage and strength -- no matter what happens -- even if it's terrible news. I can't control how this surgery comes out, so you do it. Your will be done, not mine." [i.e., it's not up to me, I can't control the outcome, so I can stay calm no matter what happens.]

Well, I did feel calm after that prayer! I wasn't anxious, I wasn't all tied up in a fearful knot, I was just quietly waiting, reading a book. I was actually serene! The surgeon finally came out and said, "We got it all. He doesn't even need chemo or radiation." [I nearly flipped!]

The point is not that I got some lovely miracle because I "turned it over," the point was I *DID* turn it over. And it didn't have to be "to" any other entity necessarily, it just had to be NOT-ME in control; I had to *NOT* tie myself into a pretzel to somehow magically control the outcome. And a neat "side effect" of that was that I didn't spend countless hours filled with angst. I was calm and serene -- in the face of cancer, no less!

So, outcomes and results are things I can "let go of" (i.e., turn it over to something-not-me). This is where I was learning to practice "humility" -- which, for many of us, will be for the first time in our lives!

But people in this program often talk about "turning their *food* over" to God, GOMU, HP, something-else. How does *that* work? How do you "turn over your food"? [Just a side note: I personally don't think our Higher Power "wants our food,” It's just that food has our undivided attention, and we have to break that cycle. Our attention has to be off the food — and onto our HP or something more worthy than food.]

Ok, "turning over our food." Hmmm... No one is standing in my kitchen when I've got my spoon poised over a half-gallon of ice cream -- no one except me. Who's going to come down and yank that spoon out of my hand, hmm? Who is going to grab my steering wheel when I'm headed to the Quik-Mart for sweets?? And who's going to smack me upside the head when I get ready to yell at a waitress who forgot to bring my dessert? HUH? WHO?

Well, there are two ways I approached this. One was the "outcome/results" way. For example, I became abstinent (cuz my sponsor told me I had to de-fog my brain in order to work the Steps), and I turned the *outcome* of that action over to my "not-me" (my HP / Higher Power). That is, I said to myself, "I'll put down the spoon, I'll put down the ice cream, I'll put down the sweets, I'll put down the white-flour products, I'll stop eating between meals (I was a serious grazer) -- and I have *no idea* how this works, but I'll let go of my complaining, I'll let go of the 'pain' of it, I'll let go of trying to control the food. I've put it down, now I'll let go of the idea that I can pick it back up, trying to have a wee bit, trying to have "just a taste." I let go of all of it. I put down any expectation or worry on how this will all work. I'll just have to have FAITH that it will work. It worked for my sponsor (and 10 million other addicts), so it'll work for me." []

How did that work? Well, once again, I had to "act as if." I had to PRETEND that I was a person who didn't *need* ice cream anymore -- that I was a person who didn't eat those trigger foods anymore. [I pretended a lot!] It's not unlike the cancer surgery. I could have sat in the waiting room, white-knuckled, saying, "OMG, he's going to die!!! Who will take care of me??? What'll I do??? He's got to get better! He can't have cancer! He has to get well! This can't be happening to me! That surgeon better cure him or I'll sue!!!" But instead of all that, I said I would let go of those feelings, and let something else be in charge. And so it is with the food -- I let go of the feelings of not eating my trigger foods. "I don't have to go there." [And now, with this program, I have other things to do other than eat!] [Slogan: Abstinence takes care of the fat "downstairs" (in your body): the 12 Steps take care of the fat "upstairs" (in your mind).]

The other way I "turned it over" with my food was more practical. When I found myself drawn to the kitchen or drawn to a food or wanting to drive to the Quik-Mart, I would tell myself that this was the DISEASE talking, and that I didn't have to listen anymore to whatever it urged me to do. So when a craving came on, I immediately turned around and left the kitchen, or put down the food item, or turned the car around, again saying, "I'm not a person who needs this. I'm not a person who eats this. I'm not that person anymore." And I'd move *away from* the danger. I'd tell my Higher Power, "You take this craving please, because I'm not going to act on it." [YES! I was pretending! Don't think for a minute that I didn't want to act on my cravings -- I did! But I was desperate, and "willing to go to any lengths" to find recovery, so I pretended! It didn't make sense, but I pretended!] [Slogan: "'Figuring It out' isn't one of the Steps."]

So, the *practical* application of Step Three was, for me, to turn around and walk out of the kitchen, or turn off the “what-ifs” in my brain, etc. That was my way of "turning my life and my will over to the care of" my Higher Power.

So when I work the "practical side" of Step Three, I actually *do* something -- I walk away from food or situations or outcomes. And I also change my mental outlook and behavior (as in the doctor's waiting room). And I get "rewarded" for this pretending, too! After a while, the cravings actually disappeared! The cravings stopped!! Imagine that!

[This "changing of my mental outlook and behavior" is the "growing in humility" we've been reading about in the AABB. It's where the "spiritual experience" begins to take hold in our lives. We're hoping to move from self-will to humility; from fear to trust; from resentment to acceptance; from self-pity to gratitude; from being in charge to letting HP be in charge.]

I also told myself that “The Voice of The Disease” will always tell me to do behaviors that hurt me (or others, or both). But “The Voice of Recovery” will only urge me toward recovery behaviors and healthy outcomes. So, whenever I got an urge to do something, I asked: Was it going to hurt me or help me? Then I knew who was trying to get my attention: Disease vs. Recovery.

So I practiced Step Three, and I actually had my first few "miracles of the 12 Steps”! The first was a day I forgot to eat lunch. [Let me just say that I in no way support skipping meals. I don't happen to think that's healthy or wise, but I'm sharing this because it's illustrative.] Yep, I forgot to eat lunch. Trust me when I say that this CE (ME!) — this obese woman (ME!) had never before *EVER* forgotten to eat a meal. I've forgotten where I parked the car, I've forgotten where my keys were, I've forgotten to mail in my rent check, I've even forgotten to pick up my daughter from school... But I have *NEVER* forgotten to eat! What I got out of this experience was that FOOD no longer dominated my thoughts. FOOD was the last thing on my mind. Hey, it wasn't even IN my mind! I had *REALLY* turned over my "food issue" to my HP! That was a miracle.

The next miracle was the "miracle of the paperclips" which I shared in my Step Two share (now in the WTS archives). One moment I would have believed myself to be still subject to temptation by my trigger foods, and the next moment they did nothing for me! I had lost interest. My cravings for them had been *removed* by something other than me. THAT was a miracle. ["We will seldom be interested in [trigger foods or compulsive eating]. We will react sanely and normally..." AABB p. 84-85] [<---- Pssst! Guess what! That's another "promise" of the 12 Steps!] :-) I believe that these changes come about as we work the Steps.

The short-hand version of the first three Steps is:

[If you don’t care for the “God” word, you could say, “I can’t; something else can (not me); I think I’ll let that something else do it (not me).”] Another short-hand version of the first three Steps is:

    Step 1: There's a power that will kill me.
    Step 2: There's a Power that wants me to live.
    Step 3: Which do I want? (If you want to die, stop here. If you want to live, go on.)

The point is, it's not me alone with my white-knuckled willpower. I've begun relying on that Power greater than myself (whom I *chose* to believe in in Step Two), and I've *stopped* relying on my Self-Will. I've begun to practice "spiritual principles." I've begun to practice humility (and Honesty, Hope, and Faith).

In my Step One share, I told you that I can't. I can't control my food intake or food choices. I can't control traffic or the weather or other people. I simply can't. [And when I try, it’s a disaster. Always.]

In my Step Two share, I told you that I believed that something else *could* take these cravings and behaviors from me — and it did! I recognized that it wasn’t me who did it.

Now, in my Step Three share, I'm telling you that by letting go of the notion that I can force my will on life's outcomes or that I can force myself to not want to overeat, I have come to experience serenity and some miracles -- just by letting go of those thoughts! My life and how it goes [ACTIONS], and my will that I tried to exert over life and food [THOUGHTS] are now in the care of my Higher Power -- not me. I've let go of the results and the outcomes. I allow life to just "be." I've actually started to become humble.

One of my favorite slogans during this Step was, "It is what it is." That allowed me to calm down. Another helpful reading was the Acceptance Prayer (AABB p. 417). That really helped me to let go of all sorts of things I used to cling to. You should make that prayer part of your daily routine! It's that powerful!

I once made up a concept to help me understand "turning my life and my will over to the care of" something other than me. Imagine for a moment that my sponsor and I are chatting on the phone, and maybe I'm struggling. So she tells me to stand in the middle of my living room every morning -- but stand on one leg, flap my arms like a chicken, and cluck. And I have to do it for 5 minutes. Every day. So we say goodbye, I hang up the phone, and I think about that, and I can have one of two reactions. First, I can think, "What the heck does that have to do with my COE? I'm not doing it, it makes no sense, it's the dumbest thing I've ever heard. I'M NOT DOIN' IT!!!" And then I *don't* do it (cuz, hey, she'll never know anyway, right?).

Or.......I could say, "What the heck does that have to do with my COE? It's the dumbest thing I've ever heard! But I want what she has, it doesn't make sense to me, but I have to trust in the process; I have to trust that this will somehow work for me." And I *do* it.

What I don't know during the phone call is that this was a "test." It was a test to see if I could humble myself -- if I could get my ego out of the equation. In the first scenario, I flunked the test. I wasn't "willing to go to any lengths" to get Recovery; I wasn't willing because it didn't make sense to my ego-mind, or I just "didn't want to." The second scenario has me passing the test with flying colors because I got out of my own way! I was willing to go to any lengths to find Recovery -- even when it made no sense! [Because, let's face it, this "Power greater than ourselves" feels like "it doesn't make sense" for many people.] [Slogan: You can't be too dumb for the 12 Steps, but you can be too smart.]

So, now I figured if I can begin to do things that might not make sense; if I can be willing to "go to any lengths," then I've "passed the test" for humility -- I've learned to be humble. Those who "flunk the test" are less likely to find recovery until they become more like those who "pass the test." It's all about my finding my humility.

[Note: Remember, this is just something I made up in my head -- sponsors don't ask us to squawk like chickens! :-) This was just how I helped myself understand "surrendering to the process," "turning it over," and "practicing humility."]

And now the Step Three Prayer. [Note from last week: Even though it's called a "prayer," this doesn't mean that it's to "God" or any other deity, necessarily. Say it to God, if you choose, or just say it out to the universe. And consider saying it every day of this journey. If you don't like the "God" word, you can change it.] The "God" word is in this prayer because I'm quoting directly from the AABB. Please feel free to re-write it to fit your conception of your Higher Power.

[from the AABB, pg. 63]

I offer myself to Thee
To build with me & 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 & Thy way of life.
May I do Thy will always!


Thank you all for being here and sharing your journey! - Susan (COE / Sugar Addict)

A. Read Chapter 4, "We Agnostics,” and share with us all the descriptions and situations that remind you of yourself (whether you're agnostic or not).

B. Step 3 is detailed in Chapter 5.

    Readings: page 58 through the second paragraph of page 63 in Chapter 5 ("How it Works").

1. In the Chapter 5 reading, it says, "At some of these [12 Steps] we balked. We thought we could find an easier, softer way." What have been some of the "easier, softer ways” you have tried to live your life and control your food? [i.e., "easier and softer" than these 12 Steps]
2. In the Chapter 5 reading, it says, "Some of us have tried to hold on to our old ideas and the result was nil until we let go absolutely." What are some of your old ideas that you are still holding on to? How does the idea of "letting go absolutely" make you feel?
3. The reading also says, "Half measures avail us nothing." What does this tell you about the kind of work you need to do here in WTS or with your sponsor?
4. On page 60 it says, "...any life run on self will can hardly be a success." Do you believe that? Give an example where you ran your life on self will and it was a disaster.
5. From page 60 to 63, the reading talks about how we play the role of an "actor," and it talks a great deal about how we put "SELF" in the middle of everything -- either in a bossy way or an "I'm-a-nobody" way. What are some ways in which you can now see yourself as "selfish, self-centered, self-absorbed, self-deprecating, self-sacrificing, self-delusional, self-important, self-pitying, self-seeking, people-pleaser, blamer, lowly worm, know-it-all,” etc. etc. etc.? [NOTE: those words described me to a “T” before this program!!!]
6. The AABB gets us away from the notion that we just have "a food problem." As we read, it begins to dawn on us that we have a "Self-Will Run Riot" problem. There's a slogan in this program that says: "We have a Spiritual Malady so it requires a Spiritual Remedy." In other words, it's not the food! We don't need a "good diet," we need "a spiritual remedy." What does this mean for you? How do you think the 12 Steps (listed on pg. 59) will bring about this "spiritual remedy"?
7. There were two precursors to AA: one was religious and one was secular. They both failed. AA is spiritual, and it has survived and flourished since the 1930's. Question: What's the difference between "religious" and "spiritual"?
8. You're being called on to practice humility. What's the difference between humility and humiliation (humiliation is something you are *not* called to do!)?

C. Write a "want ad" or “job description” for a Higher Power -- just as if you were writing it for a new administrator for your business. Be very specific about what qualities and behaviors you want in this Power (it's going to be something you'll want to turn your life (actions) and will (thoughts) over to, so be very specific!).

D. Here are some "promises" of Step Three from the AABB pg. 63:


    • More and more we became interested in seeing what we could contribute to life.
    • As we felt a new power flow in, as we enjoyed peace of mind, as we discovered we could face life successfully, as we became conscious of [the presence of a power greater than ourselves], we began to lose our fear of today, tomorrow or the hereafter.
    • We were reborn.
    • effect, sometimes a very great one, was felt at once. [but see also Apendix II in the AABB.]

Questions on the Promises:

    1. What do you think of these promises right now?
    2. Do you think these promises have come true for your sponsor? for others?
    3. In what way would your life change if these promises came true for you?

E. Step Three doesn't actually say, "Turn our will and our lives over..." It says, "MADE A DECISION TO turn our will and our lives over..." Why does it say that? Why is it important that we "make this decision" to do it? [NOTE: There's a great story that many 12-steppers talk about in relation to this Step. The story: "There were 6 birds sitting on a wire. Four made a decision to fly south for the winter. How many birds were left on the wire? The answer is 6. Why? Because they didn't fly south -- they only made the decision that they would fly south."] Again, why is it important that we make the decision? Then, once made, what do we *do* about Step Three?


Gentle Reminder:

Only emails regarding the study should be sent to the loop. Personal emails should be sent to others’ private email addresses.

Housekeeping Section

Don't forget to get a copy of the AABB (online or your own copy), please get a sponsor to help you during this session, keep a journal or notebook, keep your commitment to this Step study and your abstinence, and ask questions if you need to. [A more detailed "Housekeeping Section" can be found in my Introduction in the WTS archives.] ODAT!

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