Here is my personal, condensed guide of how I thought while I worked through Steps One through Three in Al-Anon. Yours may be longer or shorter, it’s a personal journey and there is no wrong or right way to do this.
Hard for me, because I’ve always made things more difficult than they needed to be, and thought I was being graded on whether I did this “right.” Just remember to be gentle with yourself. The only person grading you on this is yourself Let that part go…
Step One, “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol” (I inserted drugs, the drug addict) “- that our lives had become unmanageable”
I finally realized that I was powerless, this disease had me beat, I couldn’t control it or him (the addict) and any illusion to the contrary had been a futile attempt at best, and my life had become beyond unmanageable. So, I accepted this step because I could no longer deny it.
Step Two, “Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity”.
Hiccup here. First of all, I never believed either of us were actually “insane”. There are insane asylums for people who actually go crazy, right? We weren’t quite there yet but I decided not to get caught up on semantics anymore.
At the very least, I could admit that what we had been doing wasn’t creating the desired results for anyone involved and that I wanted a better, less stressed, more peaceful life. If you can equate peaceful with sanity, then yes, I’ll accept that and want that.
I replaced the word sanity with peace…so, I came to believe that a power greater than myself could restore me to a better, healthier, more peaceful place. But then I struggled with the power greater than myself.
You mean God? You mean the God I’ve felt abandoned me all these years as I prayed to him to change my situation? Why would I pray to that God when he never answered my prayers to begin with? You people know my struggle, don’t tell me that you haven’t had the same results and prayed to the same God that I did with the same unanswered prayers or you wouldn’t be sitting in these rooms because this GOD of yours would have answered your prayers and made these rooms unnecessary.
I had the same view that some people do of God as a “genie in a bottle”, and my three wishes had been used up by the age of fifteen! I had no need for him anymore, what’s He got to do with all of this? My wishes were spent. That was no longer my answer .
So, they told me about a God of my understanding. They said he could be a tree or the universe or nature, it didn’t really matter, as long as he was a God that was bigger than me, that wanted the best for me, a father, someone that loved me unconditionally, and that I trusted. If I didn’t like the word “father”, then he or she could be anything I wanted God to be. It was a little out there for me at first.
But I liked the idea that I could let go of the God of my childhood that only wanted to judge me and condemn me. I still have, at this point in the process, very ingrained notions around this word God. I still see him as ruler, creator, punisher. Not my friend, not my comforter, not my counselor and trusted friend but someone waiting for me to screw up so he can cast me off into the pits of hell. Because he has these sets of rules and he shows no mercy. You screw up, you’re screwed. Period.
But I’m still willing to try this process that has seemed to bring these people comfort. I’m looking for any relief I can get from the miserable existence that is my own. So I began to think of my higher power as someone like my best friend, someone that would love me even though I had faults. So, I accepted Step Two because I knew my best friend would have done anything to make my life better and happier and more peaceful.
Step Three, “Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God, as we understood him”.
Now they’re actually saying the word God. No longer Higher Power, now it’s God. But I think my main hang up was turning my will, and my LIFE over. Because I am so stubborn, and later realized I’m also a control freak, I was not willing to hand over the reins of my life to someone else, much less this unseen force called God now, rather than higher power.
I had to mull this over and honestly I had to come back to this step again and again and again as I learned to trust my higher power, whom today I do call God. I was often very dramatic in the beginning and thought, “What am I supposed to do, lay down and DIE? Not do anything until God tells me to?”
Well, sort of. I had to learn to die to self, die to the idea of me being in control all of the time and surrender to God’s will not only for my life but God’s will for my husband’s life as well. I was scared.
These were my thoughts, “What’s going to happen to my husband? Will he be safe? Will he die? How is he going to survive without me?” This was my conversation with God! I honestly felt I could take better care of my husband than God could. And did I really believe that I even had control over whether or not he died?
That’s the point I had gotten to in my life. Where I thought I knew better than God. I had gotten to the point that I thought the God of the universe had forgotten about me. The truth was, not that he had forgotten about me but I had forgotten about HIM. Since he wasn’t playing this game of life my way, I was pretty pissed at him for many years.
How arrogant of me to say that. But he let me do it, he let me try to be the God of my own universe, the one that thought I knew better than He did. And like Jim Carrey in the movie Bruce Almighty, I screwed up trying to play God pretty royally .
That’s the problem, when we start thinking God doesn’t care about us and we are going to forget about him and try to do it all in our own strength, things don’t work out well for us. I’m talking stress, anxiety, bad days, bad weeks, bad years. But he will let you do it. It’s called free will.
It should be called stupid will because it’s not going to get us the desired result. Think about watching your child do something you’ve told them not to do but they continue to do it, for example, jumping off of the bed. You’ve told them to stop, but they keep doing it. You say it’s not safe, but they can’t see that…..yet.
Still you try to protect them from what could happen by telling them they are going to hurt themselves and to not do that. Then you turn your back and the next thing you know they’re on the floor crying in pain. You tried to tell them….they wouldn’t listen. They had to suffer their own consequences but yet it still hurts to see them in pain.
How much more do you think your Higher Power feels that way about you? He’s tried to tell you not to go there but you wouldn’t listen, you had to have it your own way, you knew better than God did. And you fell.
So, in finally trying to work this step and in another moment of complete helplessness of not knowing what to do, I surrendered and finally got down on my knees like a child and prayed. And I said a prayer for the first time not to fix anyone else and not to fix my marriage.
I prayed something like this, “God, if this is your will for my life, then I accept it and will suffer until the end– but, if it’s not your will, please, God, HELP me.” And that’s exactly when the magic began to happen.
A small, still voice welled up inside me. I knew it wasn’t a new voice, it was a familiar voice but somehow it was now an unfamiliar voice. A different voice than the ones that had dominated my thoughts in recent years (the committee in my head) because this voice was calming and gentle.
It was no longer the thousand voices that were screaming at me to run around and try this and that to no avail. The voices that had me playing the “Whack a Mole” game where I would knock down one problem, only to have another one pop up in its place.
No, this one voice stood alone and was entirely different than those other voices in my head and it began to silence them altogether.
I had ignored that calming inner voice for so many years; I barely even recognized it when it came. And I didn’t even trust it when it came. But, I decided to follow it because it was the only option I had left. If this didn’t work, I didn’t know what I would do and I was in so much emotional pain.
I still loved my husband, I prayed that things would get better but God was telling me in this moment that I needed to let go. There were things He wanted to do and I was standing in His way.
As much as I didn’t want to let go, I couldn’t defy God once I knew it was Him. With all my claw marks still in place and holding, I turned my husband over to God that night. It was still a slow process coming but little did I know that God was about to bring me butterflies to help me learn to trust.
Great music video about this: