Monday, March 3, 2008

The 12 Steps for Everyone (Step Three)

¡Hola! Everybody,
Not feeling too good today...

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Step Three: Control
“We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.”

The first time I attempted to practice the principles of Narcotics Anonymous, by the time I reached this step, I quit. This is bullshit! I told myself. Fuck that God shit.

I wasn’t ready for recovery and I spent the next five years, the worst of my life, chasing a bag, a piece of ass -- anything that could get me outside of myself. In a very real way, my addiction was my Higher Power, and I knew this, but I would be damned before I knelt before a God I didn’t believe, or religious principles that I saw as intolerant and juvenile.

I didn’t sit still long enough to read the part of the step that says: ... as we understood Him. The second time around, I was pretty much beat down and I was desperate to learn to live more effectively, wisely. I was more open, but I also knew that I couldn’t submit to religious dogma and not go back out.

My First Step forced me confront the contradiction of my addictive process: that I felt powerful when in fact, I was powerless and needed help. However, having internalized and accepted my powerlessness (not to be confused with hopelessness), I was left open and vulnerable, and while I understood my powerlessness, I needed something to latch onto, some form of support.

My Second Step helped me come to terms with trust -- at least a little but and it challenged my feelings of grandiosity, bringing me to the realization that I am a human being, and as such, I am limited. The Second Step helped me take a good look at faith and it began my spiritual search. In fact, I see my entire history of active addiction as a spiritual search gone wrong. Recovery was a matter of turning that mad search into something sane and good.

In the beginning, I was able to accept the collective consciousness of the fellowship of NA as my Higher Power, but as I continued to work the steps in my life, I came upon the teachings of Buddhism (The Dharma) and I accepted them as my Higher Power. In Buddhism, I found a Higher Power that could restore me to sanity.

In NA, there are no “shalts,” nothing is forced down our throats and everyone works the steps to the best of their abilities and at their own pace. The first three steps serve as a foundation, as a bridge of sorts, back to life. It’s not about belief, but about practice. Believing is not enough; it is through living and applying the steps that we recover our Original Self. I think what’s most important for anyone, is that one maintain a frame of mind described by Zen masters as “beginner’s mind.” In the mind of an expert, it is said, there are few possibilities. But in the in of a beginner, everything is possible.

Truly, change and recovery are about coming back to a state where we’re open to suggestions and looking at life with fresh eyes. It’s about dropping the mess and listening to the message. If you’re like me and many others, there are issues that have tested you sorely. Whether it is drugs, sex, relationships, food, or other people, we all have found ourselves at out wit’s end at one time or another. The Third Step is about letting be, as the Taoists put it.

One thing I was painfully aware of was that whenever I imposed my will, things got messed up quick. If I was in a relationship, my will meant lot’s of insanity. *grin* Imposing my will on my addiction meant that it made it worse because my will was warped. So recovery (and the Third Step) is a lot about letting go of the impulsive need to control. It’s about allowing a Higher Principle, Higher Power, or God -- or whatever you choose to call it -- guide your actions.

My experience teaches me that when I’m less reactive and defensive, life becomes less stressful and easier to live. The fact is that I’m constantly taking my will back. I become a backseat driver to my life and demand to make a right turn, when my Higher Power is telling me to make a right. There are times I’m downright nasty about it and I take the wheel and “all of sudden” there I am, my ass out on Broadway. Sometimes I would take my will back on an hourly basis, especially in the beginning. I had the good fortune to have someone explain to me that recover (and life) is really about practicewilling to grow along spiritual lines. These principles are guidelines to progress. The issue isn’t spiritual perfection, but spiritual practice. and not perfection. No one, my guide told me, gets this perfectly. The point is if we’re

Whatever your understanding of God is, it is suggested that it be a loving and understanding God. For me this means living a life of non-harming, of skillful speech and action. If I can turn my life over to that Higher Power, then I’m released from the bondage of self. But it can also mean throwing away the concept of an angry and jealous God for one that is loving, accepting, and compassionate. It could mean an understanding of God that resides within, instead of a concept of a God-in-the-sky. Perhaps the Universal Principle is a stream flowing through all of us. What’s important, in this spirituality, is that your God be loving and trustworthy.

Finally, this all about coming to terms with our trust. In my active addiction, I was more concerned with control. Lack of trust, my friends, is really about control. If you don’t trust someone, then you’re trying to control that person. In other words, lack of trust is the impulse to control because if you can’t trust another, you want to do everything yourself. And how has that worked so far?

Let go...



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