Step 3: We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
Being a self-proclaimed agnostic and some-time science nerd, it was initially difficult for me to accept and adhere to the 12 Steps, what with all the “God talk” throughout. Step 3 is the first to explicitly use the word “God” and this was off-putting to me. But I was in the business of saving my life and, having the gift of desperation, I was willing to try anything. Even Step 3.
At about thirty pounds under weight due to a steady diet of opiates, crack, and benzos I had the willingness to try something new, something different because I had tried everything I could think of to stop drinking and drugging. There was the moving from place to place (states apart), psychiatry, medication, acupuncture…you name it. But I couldn’t stop.
The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous tells me that this way of thinking and behaving is typical for people like me: the addict/alcoholic. It also tells me that sheer willpower alone will not get and keep me clean and sober; that I lacked a spiritual foundation without which, I would never get what I was seeking: a life without dependence on alcohol and other drugs. Steps 1 and 2 speak of our powerlessness over substances and mention the existence of something greater than ourselves that could save us from ourselves. Step 3 is the first step to suggest seeking God as that power “greater than us.”
Allow me to shed some light on my resistance to subscribing to a program that emphasizes the word “God.” I am that kid who, as early as elementary school, would be scolded daily for refusing to say the Pledge of Allegiance. My reasoning: because it includes the word “God” and, even at the young age of seven or eight, I was a firm believer in Separation of Church and State. I was that kind of rebel.
Now, I have for a long time made the distinction between being spiritual and being religious. I always thought of myself as a spiritual person but not a religious one. And there certainly is a difference. But, it wasn’t until I decided to get clean and become willing to follow the 12 Steps that I really got to test my ability to distinguish between the two. And Step 3: Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him, was where the real test began because it is the first of the 12 Steps that uses the word “God.”
The Big Book’s authors did a huge service to the atheist/agnostic by preceding the Step 3 Principle with a chapter called, “We Agnostics.” In it, Bill W. and Dr. Bob acknowledge those of us who do not believe in the traditional concept of God. But our predecessors were even more understanding and respectful of the agnostic when writing Step 3; they explicitly included “as we understood Him” in the wording. Aha! This sort of loophole is perfect to the alcoholic/addict who likes to manipulate words and meanings. And it was intentional. It allows those of us who do not believe in “God” per se, to create our own version of a power greater than ourselves when working Step 3.
Once I surrendered and worked Step 3 along with the rest of the 12 Steps, I was finally able to get and stay clean and sober.