"When I first came to 12 step recovery I was appalled to think that I had to admit that I was powerless. Then when they told me that I had a disease I was relieved to think that all those years of insane behavior were not my fault. I still had problems with powerlessness and surrender however. To surrender meant to be a loser in my mind. What helped me was when someone told me that surrender didn't mean I was a loser, it just meant that I was smart enough to join the winning side."
"The principle behind the first step, and the foundation of the twelve step, or any Spiritual program, is self-honesty. If we are not being honest with ourselves, then we are not capable of being honest with anyone. It is vital to start stripping away the layers of denial, self-delusion, disassociation, magical thinking, victim thinking, blame, resentment, and dishonesty that we learned to protect ourselves with in childhood. Again, it is not shameful or bad that we have used these behavioral and emotional defenses to protect our self - it is because we were wounded in a variety of ways in childhood. Some of those ways include being: abandoned, betrayed, rejected, invalidated, shamed, discounted, deprived, degraded, abused, violated, damaged, put down, spiritually broken, emotionally raped, intellectually dishonored, hurt, humiliated, diminished, heart broken, molested, etc."
"The thing that made it possible for me to start getting honest with myself and to start being willing to surrender was the possibility that there might be a Loving Higher Power. When I first came to the program I would not even use the word God - and thought that these people must be a bunch of religious fanatics. I wanted nothing to do with God because I had been Spiritually, emotionally, and mentally abused in childhood with a concept of God that was vengeful and punishing. I had my sexuality abused by a shame based religion that taught me that God would send me to burn in hell forever for even thinking about sex.
Is it any wonder that I didn't want to surrender to God as I understood 'him.'"
"Working the third step is about taking action. Once I decide to try this new way of life in which I believe there is a Higher Power that Loves me - then I need to start taking action based on that belief. I need to align my will with the will of a Loving Universal Force. There is nothing wrong with will power, or self-will. It is self-will pointed in the wrong direction that is destructive. Once we admit powerlessness out of ego-self then we start accessing power out of Spiritual Self. Spiritual Self is the part of us that knows we are connected to everyone and everything."
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Robert is the author of the Joyously inspirational book
The Dance of Wounded Souls
|Included are excerpts from Codependence: The
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The Miracle of The Twelve Step Recovery Process:
1, 2, 3, and a 1, 2, 3 - The first three steps
"I spent most of my life doing the Serenity prayer backwards, that is, trying to change the external things over which I had no control - other people and life events mostly - and taking no responsibility (except shaming and blaming myself) for my own internal process - over which I can have some degree of control. Having some control is not a bad thing; trying to control something or somebody over which I have no control is what is dysfunctional. It was very important for me to start learning how to recognize the boundaries of where I ended and other people began, and to start realizing that I can have some control over my internal process in ways that are not shaming and judgmental - that I can stop being the victim of myself."
In the process of moving this article to Joy2MeU from the Joy2MeU Journal (see first article in this series if you haven't already The Miracle of The Twelve Step Process) I started adding and clarifying a little here and there. This article was not originally written to be a comprehensive look at the steps - rather it was just some of my thoughts on the individual steps. The process of adding soon got out of control, and I realized that I needed to write a whole new article about the concepts of powerlessness and unmanageability as I understand them in recovery.
So, I went back to my version of this article that I first published in the Joy2MeU Journal in the summer of 1999. That article follows, with the exception of making some additions to the first part of it - prior to the discussion of the individual steps. I expanded this first part to try to communicate a little bit more fully about what I call the recovery three step.
Growing up in dysfunctional societies, we learned to relate to ourselves and life in a way that is dysfunctional. That is what codependence is: a dysfunctional emotional and behavioral defense system. As I state in the quote from my book above, I spent most of my life doing the serenity prayer backwards: trying to control things and people I am not in control of, and not taking responsibility for what I can have some control over - my own internal process.
Trying to control that which I do not have ultimate control over does not work to help me relax and enjoy life. It does not work to help me find some happiness and fulfillment in life. It does not work to help me achieve some inner peace and serenity. Relating to life in the ways we learned in childhood is dysfunctional because it does not work to help us dance the dance of life in a way which really serves us.
Basically, the reason that life as it is experienced by humans is so messed up, is because we have been dancing to the wrong music. We have had our dance of life defined by fear and shame, by lack, scarcity, and separation. The Twelve Step process helps us to change our relationship with life and self - it helps us learn to dance with music that is aligned with Love and Joy and Truth. That is what is so miraculous and awesome about the twelve step recovery process - it helps us to enjoy our dance.
The True meaning and purpose of life is Spiritual in my opinion. I know that when I started living life from that perspective - the perspective I learned from working a 12 step program - was the first time that life made any sense to me. The twelve steps work to help us align with what I believe is Metaphysical Truth. The basic steps of that dance are 1, 2, 3, - and once we start to get into the rhythm of that Spiritual dance we start to live life in alignment with the Metaphysical Truth contained in the Serenity Prayer. It is the begining of transformation. It is the path home to Love.
"The first three steps of the twelve step program basically involve: 1. getting honest enough to recognize that what we have been doing is not working; 2. getting willing to open up to some help from outside; 3. asking for help."
1, 2, 3,
2. Remember that I can't do it alone
3. Ask for help - from my Higher Power, from another person, look up something on the internet, whatever. Have the humility to remember I am not in control, I am not writing the script.
and a 1, 2, 3,
There is a Universal Force / God / Goddess / Great Spirit who is in control.
I guess I will surrender to the Power of that Universal Force
1, 2, 3, and a 1, 2, 3, and a 1, 2, 3, . . . . . This is the recovery 3 step.
I can't, there is a God/Goddess that can, I guess I will let go and let the Great Spirit handle things.
And a 1,
The first step is about recognizing that I am powerless to control life and other people.
I can not stop someone else from drinking or eating or smoking or killing themselves. I can not make someone else love me or hear me or see themselves clearly if they don't want to do those things. I can not change the past or control the future. In the case of addictions, it also means that I am powerless to control my addiction by myself, out of my own will power. The second part of the first step is about recognizing that my life is a mess because I have been doing the same things over and over again expecting different results.
and a 2,
The second step says while I am not in control of this life process there is a Power, a Force, that is - and that Force is on my side.
and a 3,
The third step says that if we surrender thinking we have to be in control - and open up to receiving guidance from a Higher Power we will get help and guidance.
|Step 1 - Alcoholics Anonymous||We admitted we were powerless over alcohol --- that our lives had become unmanageable.|
|Step 1 - Co-Dependents Anonymous||We admitted we were powerless over others --- that our lives had become unmanageable.|
|Step 1 - 12 Steps for Kids||I am powerless over alcohol, drugs, and other people's behavior and my life got real messed up because of it.|
|Step 1 - Intellectual level (my version)||I acknowledge and accept that I am powerless out of ego-self to control my human life experience, and that the delusion that I should be in control has caused pain and suffering in my life.|
"We are powerless out of human ego-self to get out of this quagmire. That is the bad news. It is also the good news.
Once you let go enough times, once you becoming willing to go to any length, to do whatever it takes, once you become willing to make healing the number one priority in your life, then you will be guided all the way. You will get the tools you need when you need them. You will get the help you need when you need it. You will have Loving, supportive people come into your life when you need them. You will start making rapid, discernible progress in your healing transformation.
On the other side of powerlessness is all the power in the Universe. On the other side of powerlessness is freedom, happiness, and peace within. On the other side of powerlessness is Joy and Love!
The answer is to stop fighting it, to surrender to the Spiritual Forces at work. Surrender to the possibility that maybe, just maybe, you do deserve to be happy and Loved."
When I first came to 12 step recovery I was appalled to think that I had to admit that I was powerless. Then when they told me that I had a disease I was relieved to think that all those years of insane behavior were not my fault. I still had problems with powerlessness and surrender however. To surrender meant to be a loser in my mind. What helped me was when someone told me that surrender didn't mean I was a loser, it just meant that I was smart enough to join the winning side.
One thing I sometimes say in AA meetings is that I was a 'Frank Sinatra' type of alcoholic. I used to sit in bars and get teary eyed when they played My Way - because I was doing it 'my way,' I thought. One of the first things I had to surrender to, was realizing that my way wasn't working very good. One of the next things I had to surrender was my subconscious belief that it was not possible to live life without drugs and alcohol.
Recovery is a process of learning to accept reality. Empowerment is about accepting reality as it is and making the best of it. In order to accept reality, it is necessary for me to be honest enough with myself to realize that I am not in charge of this process. I cannot make life do what I want it to - so I need to continuously surrender to the plan of The Great Spirit rather than try to force my plan on the Universe (and feel sorry for myself, or blame others, when that doesn't work.) It is not bad or shameful for me to try to make things happen the way I want - it is just human, dysfunctional, and painful. The sooner I catch myself not accepting reality as it is, the sooner I can let go of my picture of how I think things need to be, the more serenity I have in my life.
Melody Beattie says "Learn the art of acceptance - it is a lot of grief." She is right. Many times the reason I am not accepting reality is because I do not want to own the feelings involved. The grief and anger over a loved one self-destructing. The grief over having to let go of something or someone that means a lot to me. The grief over accepting that life - from my perspective - is not fair or just. One of the reasons that I try to control life is to protect myself from having to see someone I Love in pain. I cannot protect others from the reality of life, or from themselves, - and if I think that I am trying to control someone else just for their sake I am lying to myself.
The principle behind the first step, and the foundation of the twelve step, or any Spiritual program, is self-honesty. If we are not being honest with ourselves, then we are not capable of being honest with anyone. It is vital to start stripping away the layers of denial, self-delusion, disassociation, magical thinking, victim thinking, blame, resentment, and dishonesty that we learned to protect ourselves with in childhood. Again, it is not shameful or bad that we have used these behavioral and emotional defenses to protect our self - it is because we were wounded in a variety of ways in childhood. Some of those ways include being: abandoned, betrayed, rejected, invalidated, shamed, discounted, deprived, degraded, abused, violated, damaged, put down, spiritually broken, emotionally raped, intellectually dishonored, hurt, humiliated, diminished, heart broken, molested, etc.
It is only by stripping away the defenses and false definitions of self that we had to adapt to survive that we can start getting in touch with our True Self. There is absolutely nothing wrong with who we are - it is our relationship with ourselves that got so screwed up in childhood. By learning how to be honest with ourselves we can change our relationship with ourselves.
One of the most important levels of honesty for us to strive for is emotional honesty. It is vital to owning our self that we learn to own our feelings.
"It is necessary to own and honor the child who we were in order to Love the person we are. And the only way to do that is to own that child's experiences, honor that child's feelings, and release the emotional grief energy that we are still carrying around."
|Step 1 - Emotional level (my version)||Admitted that I am powerless to substantially change the learned behavioral defenses and dysfunctional attitudes from childhood until I deal with the emotional wounds of my childhood experience.|
|Step 2 - Alcoholics Anonymous||Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.|
|Step 2 - Discovery and Empowerment||We come to believe that God /the Goddess /Universe /Great Spirit /Higher Power awakens the healing wisdom within us when we open ourselves to that power.|
|Step 2 - 12 Steps for Kids||I need help. I can't do it alone anymore.|
|Step 2 - My version||Came to remember that I am a Spiritual Being who is part of the ONENESS that is the Unconditionally Loving, ALL-Powerful Universal Force, and that believing in that Force can help to bring balance, harmony, and sanity to my life.|
The thing that made it possible for me to start getting honest with myself and to start being willing to surrender was the possibility that there might be a Loving Higher Power. When I first came to the program I would not even use the word God - and thought that these people must be a bunch of religious fanatics. I wanted nothing to do with God because I had been Spiritually, emotionally, and mentally abused in childhood with a concept of God that was vengeful and punishing. I had my sexuality abused by a shame based religion that taught me that God would send me to burn in hell forever for even thinking about sex.
Is it any wonder that I didn't want to surrender to God as I understood 'him.'
I could however relate to "The Force is with you." That resonated in my being. So I started to try to find a concept of a Higher Power that could possibly love me and be on my side. I started 'acting as if' there might be a Loving Force in charge, and pretending that I believed that everything was going to work out. It was a great relief to start opening up to the possibility that maybe I was Lovable and worthy - but it was also terrifying and took many years to really start trusting.
The principle behind the second step is trust or faith. When I hear people say that faith is the absence of fear, I say bull. If I am not afraid then I don't need to have faith. It is because I am so afraid that trusting is such a powerful act of faith. There is always going to be fear in life - that is why it is so important to have faith.
The second step says that we come to believe. The way we come to believe is to make a choice to start opening up to the possibility that maybe there is a Loving Higher Power. In the first step we recognize that what we have been doing is not working - the second step tells us that there is another way to do things. The third step is about taking the risk of trying that new way.
"I had to start trying to find a concept of a Higher Power who could Love me even though I was an imperfect human. If my Creator is judging me then who am I not to judge myself? On the other hand if the Goddess Loves me unconditionally then who am I not to Love myself? And if the God/Goddess/Great Spirit/Universal Force Truly Loves me then everything has to be happening for reasons that are ultimately Loving.
The more I came to believe and trust - what some place deep inside of me I could feel, could remember, was the Truth - that all of the pieces of this puzzle of life fit together perfectly, and that there are no accidents, no coincidences, no mistakes, the more I was able to accept and Love myself and others. And the more I was able to trust the process, myself, and my Higher Power.
I learned that even though there are things that feel like mistakes, that even though life sometimes feels like punishment, that those feelings are not the Truth. I learned that my emotional truth was being dictated by my subconscious perspectives of life, by the definitions of life that had been imposed on me as a child, by the subconscious attitudes that I had adopted because of the emotional traumas I had experienced as a child.
Perspective is a key to Recovery. I had to change and enlarge my perspectives of myself and my own emotions, of other people, of God and of this life business. Our perspective of life dictates our relationship with life. We have a dysfunctional relationship with life because we were taught to have a dysfunctional perspective of this life business, dysfunctional definitions of who we are and why we are here.
It is kind of like the old joke about three blind men describing an elephant by touch. Each one of them is telling his own Truth, they just have a lousy perspective. Codependence is all about having a lousy relationship with life, with being human, because we have a lousy perspective on life as a human.
The only way that I was able to make significant progress in the process of stopping self-judgment and getting rid of the toxic shame was to become conscious of the larger perspective. When I started to believe that maybe a Higher Power, a Universal Force, existed which was Truly All-Powerful and Unconditionally Loving then life started to become a lot easier and more enjoyable. Then I could start to see that the "accidents" and "coincidences" are really miracles. That the "mistakes" are really opportunities for growth."
|Step 3 - Co-Dependents Anonymous||Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood God.|
|Step 3 - Discovery and Empowerment||We make a decision to become our authentic Selves and trust in the healing power of Truth.|
|Step 3 - 12 Steps for Kids||I've made a decision to reach out for a Power greater than me to help out.|
|Step 3 - My version||Made a decision to ask the Force to help me align my will, my actions, and my life with the Universal Power.|
When I was in treatment getting sober I was in a city I hadn't lived in for 20 years. I had no car and was going to be living with my brother who lived on the outskirts of the city when I got out of treatment. I was scared that I wasn't going to be able to make it to meetings and went in to talk to my counselor about it. He said, "You ask for rides." "Oh no," I said. "You don't understand I never ask anybody for anything." "Well," he said, "that is what working the third step is all about." "Asking for rides?!?!" I said incredulously.
I thought he was crazy. How can asking for a ride be working the third step?
Well, it is. I needed to learn to ask not only a God I didn't trust for help - but also to ask other people to help me. That was horrible for me. It seemed like such a huge risk. If I asked people for help that would give them a chance to reject me - and I had had enough rejection in my life, thank you very much!
There was a story that I heard around that time. It was about 2 guys who were arguing about rather there was a God or not.The first one said, "Of course, there is a God. How can you say there is no God."The point: God works through people. We all have had Eskimos in our lives, angels disguised as people. We are not alone in this process - we can't do it alone.
The second said, "I not only can say it - I can prove it."
"You can prove it?"
"Yes. Years ago I was in a small plane crash in the wilds of Alaska. I was the only survivor and I had a broken leg. There was nothing around for hundreds of miles, so it was only a question of rather I would freeze to death before something ate me. I prayed to God and said 'If there is a God please save me.' And God didn't do anything."
"What do you mean," the first man exclaimed. "You're here and alive aren't you."
"Oh, well some Eskimo came along and saved me. God didn't do anything."
So, I learned to ask for rides. What I know now is that the Universe always responds - just not very often in the way, or at the time I think it is necessary. I need to ask for help and then let go of rather the person I am asking can in fact help me. I need to take the risk and let go of the outcome. What I need will come from someplace. There is a verse in the bible that says: (paraphrased??)Ask and ye shall receive.ASK. By asking - either God or another person - I am setting energy in motion in the Universe. Once the energy is in motion it comes back to me at some time from some place. I have to put it out before it will come back. What I sow I reap. The Universes works on the principle of cause and effect. It is very important for me to get proactive in my own life by taking the risk of asking for help - and it is much easier when I can let go of my picture of how, and when, that help is going to manifest.
Seek and ye shall find.
Knock and the door shall be opened.
Of course, it was very important for me to start practicing some discernment in who I was asking. What I told the counselor that day about never asking for help wasn't true. I wouldn't ask for help until I was in very dire straights and then I would ask people who would shame and abuse me for asking. It was very important to start asking safe people when I needed help. People who wouldn't shame and judge me.
A turning point in my recovery came when I realized that the third step is a step of action.
The third step (CoDA version) says: Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood God. What I learned is that making a decision is not a passive process. I need to make the decision and then take action based on the decision. Turning my will and life over to God does not mean saying "You got it God. I'll hang out here and wait for you to tell me what to do." What it does mean is that I turn that "problem/question" over to The Goddess - and then I let go of focusing time and energy on that one. I keep letting go of the outcome of that situation, and take some positive action on some other things in my life - like taking a walk or cleaning house or whatever.
Working the third step is about taking action. Once I decide to try this new way of life in which I believe there is a Higher Power that Loves me - then I need to start taking action based on that belief. I need to align my will with the will of a Loving Universal Force. There is nothing wrong with will power, or self-will. It is self-will pointed in the wrong direction that is destructive. Once we admit powerlessness out of ego-self then we start accessing power out of Spiritual Self. Spiritual Self is the part of us that knows we are connected to everyone and everything.
I have to use my will power to get myself to meetings, to pray, to take inventory and be honest with myself, to ask for help, to not pick up the next drink, etc., etc. It takes an act of will on my part to get me in motion. Once energy is placed in motion then the Universe responds.
One of the principles behind the third step is taking action. I need to take action that is positive and Loving for myself. That can mean making my bed in the morning or washing the dishes - as well as going to meetings or Spiritual gatherings. Any action that I take that is Loving towards myself is working the third step and aligning my will with the will of a Higher Power, a God-Force, Goddess Energy, Great Spirit that Loves me Unconditionally and always has.
Another principle involved in the first three steps is acceptance. Accepting reality as it is and then surrendering to aligning myself with taking action based on trusting that there is a Universal Force that is in charge of this life business. Any time I take action aligned with recovery - rather that be saying the Serenity Prayer, going to a meeting, looking up a web page about healing, reading a Spiritual book, whatever - I am working the first three steps.I am not in control of this process and need some help. I choose to believe there is a Spiritual Force at work that is going to support me in learning to Love myself. I am going to take some action that shows that I have faith that I am worthy and Loved by that Force. 1, 2, 3We work the first three steps anytime we pray / talk to our Higher Power, meditate / listen for messages, or take any action that supports our healing and recovery. Sometimes the action we need to take is to not judge ourselves for eating the cookies because we need some nurturing. We are unconditionally Loved - no matter what we do. Working the steps is about learning to own that in the way we treat our self. That includes accepting that we are human and can not do it perfect.
The Spirit does not come from judgment and shame. By working the steps we are learning how to align ourselves with / become allies with a God/Goddess that is Love and to quit being partners / allies with the disease with it's fear, negativity, and shame.
3-24-02 - The article on powerlessness and unmanageability keeps growing so it will come later. The next article is: The Miracle of The Twelve Step Process:Step 4 inventory