Sunday, February 22, 2015

Offering the Third Step

Step Three: Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God, as we understood God

In our common recovery parlance we talk about “taking” the Third Step. It’s one of those delightful controversies we engage in that might be our recovery equivalent of debating the number of angels who can dance on the head of a pin. (Instead of asking, “Angels can dance?”)

You have heard it too: How do you take Step Three? Do you do it by reading the step in recovery literature? Do you take it in your heart? Do you go to the beach or a mountaintop or the bare desert and get on your knees and say the words? (I’ve done all three)

 Or, do you take this step with a sponsor—in the presence of God and another trusted human being and your own sincere self (as the wording of the Fifth Step suggests)? (I did that too.)

 Or is it a totally private matter? (On a daily basis it’s just me saying the words in front of the little altar in my bedroom.)

But what we talk about less often is how to offer the Third Step to another person. If you are a sponsor or clergy or a spiritual director—or that trusted human being—how exactly do you guide or witness or help someone to take the Third Step?

A week ago I had that opportunity. I am a sponsor and the woman I am accompanying on the steps was ready. I’m a writing teacher by day so I had created assignments for Steps One and Two—things to ponder and journal about, lists to make, and books to read. For Step Three we wrote about what we were willing to turn over and what was going to be harder to surrender but for which we were willing.

It’s always our personal lives: We want our intimate relationships to go well, and we want our dreams to be achieved: (book, baby, career, house, healing) and the biggie: how other people live their lives. Isn’t that where we get caught most often turning things over and then taking them back accompanied by, “He should,” “She should” and “They should”?

So for Step Three I knew I wanted a ritual. It’s a big moment and I also knew that in the very early days of AA the Third Step was taken publically—in a small group, sometimes in a meeting, definitely not alone. So that’s what we did.

Vincent Van Gogh
We met in my home, talked through what would be hard to surrender, and we acknowledged the paradox that Step Three is both a moment in time and a life-long process, and then we got on our knees and said the words together. 

It was powerful to offer this to another human being—powerful to say the same words that I say every morning before I leave for work, words I read aloud from a page in my meditation book, words that seem rote some days and like begging on others. 

Now, aloud and line-by-line—I could offer Step Three to another recovering person, and by doing that I offered the Third Step to myself again in a real moment in time.

More on working the steps in long-term recovery in my book: "Out of the Woods--A Woman's Guide to Long-term Recovery" published by Central Recovery Press.

No comments: