Sunday, 22 November 2015

Step Three

I came through the doors of AA with little, if any, knowledge of a Higher Power, or God, or Spirit or anything remotely similar to those. I came through the doors filled with fear. Fear was the only emotion I knew. I was filled with fear. Clearly if one is filled with fear, no thought, decision, or choice, is going to be a particularly enlightening one. The whole way I acted, and therefore thought, would have to change.

“First of all we would have to quit playing God.”

I didn’t even know what God was. I didn't know what act I was ‘playing.’ I would have to learn all of this, or in my case, re-learn. I would have to re-learn how to live. I would be slowly shown how to live life on life’s terms.

But before any of that could be done, I would first have to surrender. Surrender would be my passage to freedom;

“We began to lose our fear of today, tomorrow, & hereafter. We were re-born.”

Here’s what I understood of getting to Step Three. I first took my step three only weeks into sobriety. On my knees, I held the hand of my sponsor and read the following prayer;

“God, I offer myself to Thee-
To build with me
and to do with me as Thou wilt.
Relieve me of the bondage of self,
that I may better do Thy will.
Take away my difficulties,
that victory over them may bear witness
to those I would help of Thy Power,
Thy Love, and Thy Way of life.
May I do Thy will always!”

I don’t even think at that point I understood half of what it was saying. The idea was, by kneeling with another, holding the hand of another, and repeating the prayer with another, I would find empowerment. I think more than anything I was humbled. I was in a place I never had been. I felt embarrassed, stupid, and incredibly uncomfortable. But I did it. I did it because I was doing what was ‘suggested.’ I followed the words of others and my sponsor. I was willing. The key word, willing.

Someone who wasn’t raised with religion or with a church, the use of, Thou, Thy, Thee, God… was alien to me. But I saw them as I saw the word God (Good Orderly Direction), I saw them as just words. Language used to say prayer with. I didn’t over think or work it. I just allowed.

When I first started to grasp a concept of something bigger than me, it wasn’t so much I did or didn’t believe, it was more, I had no connection to it, whatever it was. Sure, I had prayed. We did it in assembly at school. I had found myself on my knees when deeply pained. Not prayer, pleas to this apparent entity who was clearly punishing me for whatever the hell I was supposed to be doing wrong. But, despite those memories of prayer, I figured I could try again. I needed to figure out how I wanted to pray. If I could figure out how I felt comfortable praying (again, just another word!) I could surely try to connect with something bigger than myself. So, I took the following steps – steps I would later learn could translate to ‘doing the next best thing’, or ‘right thing,’ or later, ‘next indicated action' - this being the trust we can always take one small step to help move us in the right direction.

I overheard in a meeting, discussion of Silkworth Net. I noted it down, realised how Silkworth connected to AA (he wrote the Doctors Opinion) and I looked. I saw page of prayer, clicked on it, and printed all twelve or whatever pages. Serenity Prayer, prayers for step 1-12, morning prayers, night prayers and so much more. I printed them, and every morning and night, I sat in the silence and read them. I still have the battered pages. Read thousands of times over, like an old bible of sorts. I have to say, I am not religious in the slightest, nor am I now. So it may seem odd to you I did this, but I did. Again, I was willing.

This willingness would eventually lead me to a decision.

In some weird way, the prayers made sense. I didn’t need to kneel in church or beside my bed. I could lie in the bath if I wanted. I could sit with headphones in and read them on the way to university. I could light a candle and blow the candle out when I had read them. It didn’t matter how or where I did it, the important part is, I did. I did this well up until my first year’s sobriety. I clung to those prayers and I believed in them. I had faith in what I was doing, in the actions and willingness I was taking and showing.

I didn’t ‘sit and talk to God.’ I did sit in the silence. I did attend, at least weekly, meditation. I explored spirituality. I practiced twice daily meditation. I took time out in nature. I made time for myself. I sought to trust and believe in something greater than myself, and I did this with whatever remainder of faith I had when I first came to AA.

And I did have faith before AA. I had a lot of faith. I knew how blessed I was to have survived this far given the mental health history I had. I had not surrendered, but I had compromised.

Ah, “half measures availed us nothing!” Clearly where I was going wrong.

All I did through recovery was compromise. Agree, to a certain point. Let go, to a certain point. Backed into a corner I would do as others wished. But, I was filled with belief (belief is only gathered from a group of thoughts we so much trust in!), only I could do this. With enough effort, fight, will, determination, I could get myself better. And don’t get me wrong, the degree of recovery I had by that point was huge. I’d done nothing short of committing myself to recovery. Be that, making the choice to finally start eating, gain weight, and accept my body as it is naturally. Or, stopping self-harming. Or by agreeing to certain medications. There were many times I knew what was good for me, and I did it. In AA they call in “the gift of despair.” I had reached that rock bottom thousands of times, and almost all of those triggered me forwards in recovery. But, it could only ever get me so far because I cannot control what happens to me and others. I cannot be in control of everything.

But I believed I could.

I believed I could control my recovery, my mental health, my addictions. This time, I knew I had lost control yet again, and the most important step for me now, was to not only surrender as I had done in the past, but I had to stay surrendered. I had made a choice to surrender, give in, realise I was fighting the wrong fight in the past. Catatonic at home, realising the only hope to get out of such a depression was taking the medication prescribed, and believe me, taking Lithium was not easy. But I did because I was so knocked down, I had nothing left in, but faith in others, or a thing, or medication, to help get me well. I have the most amazing family, they always gave me hope. As did my friends. I had re-built myself a life, and in ways, re-built myself. I had achieved dreams I had before getting sick with my mental illness. I had travelled parts of the world, got myself back to university, fallen in love, and I had lived a recovered life. One free from an Eating Disorder and other illnesses. But…

But, I only got so far. And then in frustration when things got bad again, I would sit in self-blame, self-pity, despair. I couldn’t understand any of it. I could accept, again, to an extent, I had an illness. What I couldn’t do was accept this is how my life was. In recovery, I became complacent, every single time. I would bounce back, get on with life, and then fall. More often than not, there was a trigger, or at least perhaps a number of events preceding getting sick again. But as I recovered from other struggles and behaviours, thinking if I stopped, x, y and, z, I would be in the clear, and despite all my knowledge and acceptance, it still threw me each time, and often lower. Like with drinking, each time I stopped and re-started, I went deeper. Every time I fell apart, I fell apart worse. 
However, as early sobriety showed, sometimes shit happens and there is absolutely no reason, other than I have a disease. Or in my case, two. Until AA, an untreated addiction, and a mental illness And as I spoke of in step one, thank God I had this program, even just a couple of months in. That alone gave me such a huge amount of peace, which without, I would have just fought and gotten sicker and without a doubt, ultimately relapsed. This program saved my ass, even two months in when I was hospitalised. It saved my life, even then.
All the recovery I had this far; the therapy, which over the years, had tremendously healed me, the right mix of medications, the continuity with my health and wellbeing, I still wasn’t fixed. And this fact, infuriated me. It didn’t mean I would confess to powerlessness or surrender. For both those things, I had to also accept the situations I repeatedly found myself in. I do however, feel eternally grateful for the recovery I had when I got to the rooms. I hadn’t hit rock bottom, per se. I hit another bottom, but with the knowledge and experience I did have, I knew I needed help then, and not later. I always fell to the bare rock bottom in the past. Everything with my mental illness and past addictions took me to depths of hell I never knew existed. This time, I didn’t go as far. I was in a bad way, my addiction was messing up my personal life, impacting everyone around me, and destroying me a little more each day, but I knew it could be worse, and I didn't want that. I knew I deserved more than that. And oddly, it didn’t make surrender harder. It made it easier. I had knowledge, faith, a degree of objectivity, and an inner strength which had been built through years of sickness.

Maybe I was ready.
And maybe that has made all of the difference.

I was still feared up for many months. Despite any denial or questions in my head, fear kept me in the rooms. Fear brought me to AA, and fear kept me there. I had made a decision, I was willing to surrender, and I was also willing to do whatever it took to get well. I was willing to go to 'any lengths.'

"If you want what we have AND are willing to go to any length to get it."

I was. For the first time in my life, I would do absolutely anything to get well. 

Armed with passion, determination and willingness, I went to my sponsor and for one long afternoon and night, took my first nine steps.
Again I found myself on my sponsors floor, hand in hand, reading the Step Three prayer.

Having made this decision, I now had to act.

And here is how I identified acting;

"Three frogs were sitting on a log and one of them made a decision to jump into the pond. How many frogs were left on the log? Somebody will almost always shout, 'two!' My friend will say, 'nope. There were still three. He just made the decision to jump. He didn't do anything yet."

-Joe McQ "The Steps We Took."

I jumped. A jump which felt like a total free fall with no net in sight. Little did I know, that as I took that leap, my wings would open and take me to new land.

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