A BACK DOOR ENTRANCE TO STEP THREE: MADE A DECISION TO TURN OUR WILL AND OUR LIFE OVER TO THE CARE OF GOD AS WE UNDERSTOOD HIM
by Lynn Krown, MFT
Many people get stuck on Step 3, because they are atheists or uncertain or confused as to how to translate the concept “God.” Unless you can personalize Step 3 and find a way to make it meaningful, you will not be able to “surrender” attachment to control of “people, places and things.” This is a difficult cross-road in recovery, especially in personal relationships where the “need to be right” causes conflict and loss.
As a marriage and family therapist and certified couples and sex therapist, I experience clients’ struggle with Step 3 as a stubborn roadblock to intimacy. Without self-awareness, it is impossible to create a loving partnership with another person(s). Step 3 places responsibility on each partner, so that problems in marriage, or any relationship, are 50-50. If you cannot own your own part and are focused on controlling, blaming or changing the other person, you end up with more of the same. More blame. More conflict. More being a victim. More reasons to keep using, regardless of your drug of choice: alcohol, drugs, sex, anger, love, food, shopping, gambling, porn, TV, compulsive exercise or you name it.
Sometimes we can be surprised, after a long period of resistance and confusion about how to surrender. For most of my life, I was addicted to anger. I grew up in a household where anger was the prominent way of communicating: Screaming and yelling, slamming doors, walking out in the middle of an argument, angry silence, stonewalling, throwing things, and bitter complaining. I was the youngest: 18 years younger than my brother and 14 years younger than my sister. It was obvious that my parents were done by the time I was accidentally conceived. I learned to get attention by throwing tantrums, modeled by my siblings and parents. It is no surprise that anger was exciting and the only way to get attention. Almost every romance of mine ended because of my explosive anger. I lost jobs because of my uncontrollable anger. And I lived in perpetual anger, blame, shame and humiliation. I believed and my actions confirmed that I was “a bad person” and deserved to be punished and rejected.
I became a New Age personal growth junkie. I read every self -help book I could find, attended Agape Church, Self-Realization at Lake Shrine, the EST training, Landmark Forum and an exhaustive list of seminars and programs. I’m a woman of a “certain age” so you might not have heard about some of the activities and organizations I pursued. I was in several 12 Step programs with sponsors and was in individual therapy. (I still value commitment to these activities.)
The turning point in my recovery happened when my older sister was dying of lung cancer. I decided that I would spend as much time caretaking her as I could. Remember she was 14 years older, so we were never close; She left he house while I was a child. She lived on the east coast and it was expensive and a long journey to visit her. Maybe it was my realization that I wanted redemption from believing that I was a “bad person.” I suspect if you are reading this, that you also have your own share of guilt and shame caused by addictive behavior which is self-centered and self-destructive. I committed to helping my sister die and with that decision, my life turned around. I chose to Be: a person who is committed to making a difference in the lives of others.
Shortly after my sister’s death, I enrolled in graduate school in clinical psychology at Antioch University when I was 59 years old and never looked back. I specialize in optimal aging and helping others to live skillfully over the lifespan.
I offer this quotation from Goethe as a “back door” entrance to Step 3:
Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative and creation, there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. All sorts of things occur. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now.
If you are struggling with Step 3 because you are stuck with constructing a workable concept of “God,” I hope that my experience and Goethe can help you discover your own way to surrender and commit to who you choose to Be.
Lynn Krown, is a marriage and family therapist (mfc 47151) and a certified couples and sex therapist. She specializes in optimal aging and sexuality over the lifespan. She leads workshops on :Dating after age 50, Mindfulness, How to Talk About Sex, Ageless Sexuality. Lynn is an experienced practitioner of mindfulness, gestalt, psychodrama, journal writing, and inner-dance. Her clinical approach integrates object relations, Jungian thought, mind-body awareness, attachment and neuroscience. Her authenticity and intuitiveness create a safe environment to explore innermost yearning and fears.