I have been going to Al-Anon meetings for about two months, now. Part of “working the program” includes understanding, accepting, and living the twelve steps, which is not a quick or easy practice. I am an academic by nature; it is helping me to read everything I can get my hands on about each step in turn, think about it, listen to others, and then write my responses. I’ve been writing my responses here, and will continue to do so until such point that I decide not to. In any event, this daylog is going to be about Step Three.
Step Three: Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
I picked apart the first two steps pretty much word for word, trying to figure out the significance of their phrasing, and find the meanings that worked for me. This step, however, is not an intellectual exercise; to me it seems to call for a leap of faith. I don’t feel I have to pick it all apart, but I do want to record my thoughts. I have found it helpful to go back and re-read what I wrote about steps one and two, and see how my thinking has changed (or how I have become more comfortable with the ideas, and able to apply them in my life.) I like being able to point to what I have written and feel like I have “done” the step; not that I’m finished with it (I am still learning how to integrate these ideas into my life daily and consistently), but that I have given it serious consideration and have accepted (my version) of it.
I had been worrying about letting go of my will, about what that meant and how one would go about it and whether I really wanted to, anyway. If I’m going to turn over my life and my actions, it has to be to someone I have confidence in—not, for instance, dubya’s God. I wanted whomever I was turning things over to, to be socially and politically on the same page as I was. I felt like I had a breakthrough, however, one night when my sponsor was talking about Love. Okay, how many times had I heard God is Love ? That evening, I heard it differently. I realized that I would be comfortable praying for Love to be my guide—for love to replace anger, and fear, and irritation. Suddenly, this step seemed less drastic, less scary, and much more do-able. In some ways, it was less about giving myself over to an unknown (and unknowable) than about changing focus in my life, making something that I knew to be great and good and worthwhile a priority in all my actions. It suddenly seemed wider in scope, and yet at the same time somehow more manageable.
So, I’m trying to do it. I am trying to use my will and my life as a path and an avenue for love. This is a huge task. It’s not like I just made the decision and it was done; I’m trying, whenever I think of it, to ask for patience and guidance and that I act with loving-kindness. I am trying to be conscious of my actions, so that I might break out of old, destructive or ineffectual patterns. It takes time and effort, and I’m not very good at it yet--I don't even see all the ways I could be altering my behavior, yet--but I am encouraged by the changes in my attitude and my perspective I have made already. I am encouraged each time I manage to find even a small opportunity to be loving rather than impatient, understanding rather than short, empathetic rather than selfish. I am heartened by the fact that I am learning ways to change and grow.
Putting my life in God's hands is very much an act of will and effort. I can choose not to answer quickly, angrily, defensively--not to yell. I can wait, be patient, be silent--wait overnight, sometimes--until a different perspective and a different way of behaving in the situation occurs to me, because I read it or hear it in a meeting, or it just comes. The action that I ultimately choose is still my decision, but I can wait and ask for input and advice. This way, my action may be more or better that what I could handle/ come up with/ do on my own.
My sponsor put it this way:
"God wants me to practice the divine attributes, aka qualities that
lessen the ego (separate self) which are patience, persistence, accepting
the world as it is, forbearance (refraining), moral courage & confidence,
freedom from worry, cheerfulness, enthusiasm, equipoise, one-pointedness,
and availing oneself of the help of HP. By practicing these qualities one
experiences egoism being replaced by humility, surging desires replaced by
steadily growing contentment, and selfishness replaced by selfless love. I
believe this is how God wants me to turn my will and life over, gradually
applying these qualities to all situations."
One does not graduate from Al-Anon; I am engaged in an ongoing process. I am trying to be mindful; I am practicing.
I pray that I may grow in my ability
to use each day with poise,
wisdom, and a touch of humor.
With God’s help, I can teach myself
not to turn little troubles
into big ones.1
I feel like I’ve started on the right path.
1One Day At A Time in Al-Anon,© Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc. 1968, 1972, 2000, page 93.
Quotation from my sponsor used by permission; she in turn was paraphrasing Meher Baba, from his book entitled Discourses.
The Twelve Steps Step One | Step Two | Step Four | Step Five
| Step Six |
Step Seven |