Another Look at Step 3
I was surprised to find that A.A. refers to step 3 as the most important step in our recovery process. I was shown this where it says that the “…other Steps of the A.A. program can be practiced with success only when Step Three is given a determined and persistent trial.” (Pg. 40 Twelve & Twelve). Since A.A. makes such a bold statement about step 3, I thought it may be helpful for me to take another look at the 3rd step decision and the 3rd step practice that the A.A. literature is describing. Could I have missed something? Just what is this decision we make? Just what is the suggested practice?
The 3rd Step Decision: I found that A.A. describes the decision where it states “…we decided that hereafter in this drama of life, God was going to be our Director. He is the Principal; we are His agents. He is the Father, and we are His children. Most good ideas are simple, and this concept was the keystone of the new and triumphant arch through which we passed to freedom.” (Big Book Pg. 62)
Wow, I had never considered looking at my identity in this way!
Perhaps all my self loathing or old ideas prevented me from considering it. As I was willing for these to be set aside it became clear to me that A.A. is suggesting we adopt a spiritual concept of who we are. All of the sudden It hit me. Caterpillar becomes Butterfly. Other lines in the book began to rush up to support this decision to enter a new state of consciousness. “There often seems no way of entirely getting rid of self without His aid”. (Big Book Pg. 62) A.A. suggests we are “intelligent agents, spearheads of God’s ever advancing Creation.” (Big Book Pg. 49) I ceased fighting these simple ideas. But this didn’t seem to be enough.
How could I gain the experiences I needed to stay spiritual? How do I live this way?
The 3rd Step Practice: I was at a step table shortly after. They used the Twelve and Twelve. I sat down during the ‘meeting before the meeting’ and took another look at step 3. With my 3rd step decision in place the solution jumped out from the book “…it is really easy to begin the practice of Step Three. In all times of emotional disturbance or indecision, we can pause, ask for quiet, and in the stillness simply say: ‘God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change…’” (Twelve & Twelve Pg. 40 -41)
Serenity! That’s what I needed. That’s what I was chasing all along in the first drink. Once I had a taste I knew that serenity is the drink of sobriety. As I put my faithful decision to work with the 3rd step practice I found that there was no shortage of disturbing things to use it on throughout the day! Anytime I found a person, place, thing or circumstance unacceptable to me, I paused, quieted my emotions, and in the stillness, asked for and received serenity. The more I focused on what serenity is and what it means, the easier it was to recognize and feel it. The more I shared my 3rd step experiences, the more I kept having them! As my experiences of peace added up I began to develop a quiet awareness which I now equate as the awakened spirit. Caterpillar becomes butterfly! Finally, freedom from the bondage of the self became more than just a hopeful line in the book; it was now my new state of mind- “…granted a gift which amounts to a new state of consciousness and being.” (Twelve & Twelve Pg. 107) With this spirit-self cemented in place I was able to finally practice the other steps with success, the first step of which was step 4.
“When the spiritual malady is overcome, we straighten out mentally and physically.” (Big Book pg. 64)
Sometimes I imagine a butterfly coming down from its flight, picking up a pencil and taking an inventory of what it was like when it could only be a caterpillar. Then flying off to a variety of places; willing to amend its part when its life was rooted in ground-centeredness.
I now know, thanks to A.A. literature, that quality sobriety became available to me through the spiritual decision and spiritual practice of step 3. It was worth taking another look. “You will find release from care, boredom and worry. Your imagination will be fired. Life will mean something at last. The most satisfactory years of your existence lie ahead.” (Big Book Pg. 152)