Raise the white flag, throw your hands up, or fall to your knees. These small actions can have significant meaning. Sometimes surrender seems like defeat. It may seem like weakness to give up what we are doing and turn to someone else for direction, but when it comes to addiction, surrender is the only way. Our old way of doing things has failed us. Trying for change by our own power has not been strong enough to change our actions and their consequences.
“Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood him.” – 3rd Step of the 12 Steps
Step Two is about believing that a better future is possible, but Step Three is about making a decision. But making a decision is not the same as putting that decision into action. There is a story told in AA about three frogs that were sitting on a log at the edge of a lake. Two of the frogs made the decision to hop into the water. So, how many frogs were left sitting on the log?
The answer is three. Making a decision to hop into the water does not mean that they actually hopped into the water. In the same way, making a decision to turn our will and our lives over is not the same as the action of surrender. The action comes when we work steps 4-12. So for some, the process of Step Three may be quite short, especially because we have already admitted that we are powerless AND come to believe that a power greater than ourselves does exist. For others, Step Three may be very difficult because of one word: God.
If “God” feels complicated
‘GOD’ is a heavy word. It means something different to everyone. For some, it brings a sense of comfort, security, or grounding. For others, it brings pain, confusion, and even trauma. Every single human has a unique concept of God that has been shaped by what they were taught, things they have learned, and experiences that they’ve had. Some people talk about God and assume that everyone agrees with their concept of who or what God is. It is important to understand that, as long as there is a foundation of respect, other people can have diverse understandings of God without posing a threat to what you believe. This is especially true when we are talking about the Twelve Steps.
For some who do not consider themselves religious, G.O.D. is used as an acronym for Group Of Drunks. The recovery community itself can function as a Higher Power. For others, Step Three can be closely connected to their religious practices. The important thing is that we are surrendering our will and our lives to something that is stronger than we are alone.
The 12 Steps are not Christian. A.A. and N.A. are not religious organizations.
For people who have a robust and working understanding of how they relate to God, the phrase “as we understood Him” may seem insulting. Those people may feel that their understanding is under attack or threatened by another person’s understanding. That is certainly not the intention. Rather, the phrase gives us full freedom to explore, to wonder, and to find what works for us individually.
The phrase “as we understood Him” also helps to protect people who are working on developing their own connection with a Higher Power. Too often, a specific interpretation of God can serve as a convenient way for those in power to control those entrusted to their care. In such cases, although the authority figure may say “God wants you to do this and that”, if that person was honest, he or she would probably say “I want you to do this or that.” The small but crucial phrase “as we understood Him” helps preserve the autonomy of people in the recovery community. By giving the responsibility to each person to define God, it provides an opportunity for each person to take responsibility for their actions as well.
Spirituality is connection
At MARR, we define spirituality as the ability to connect to self, others, and the God of our understanding. We are not here to shape your idea of God or to define the way you practice spirituality. We are here to help you discover what spirituality means to you. What is going to be stronger than drugs or alcohol in your life? How can we develop practices that contribute towards greater love and understanding for ourselves and others that will help us maintain lasting recovery? Addiction is a disease of isolation and disconnection. Even though we may care about our loved ones, or our career, or our physical well-being, addiction will win if we are operating by our own power. Addiction tells us that drugs or alcohol are the only way to be okay.
True connection is more powerful than isolation. Finding belonging in community can pull us out of the dark depths of self-centeredness and hatred. When we turn our eyes and our attention away from ourselves, we begin to discover that power. The loyalty and trust of a sponsor can show us our own worthiness. Being a part of your home group or your religious community can bring joy and purpose. Serving others as a part of your own healing can give new life.
“Connection is why we’re here; it is what gives purpose and meaning to our lives. The power that connection holds in our lives was confirmed when the main concern about connection emerged as the fear of disconnection; the fear that something we have done or failed to do, something about who we are or where we come from, has made us unlovable and unworthy of connection.”
– Dr. Brené Brown
Your personal practice of spirituality is not going to work for everyone. The acceptance of this diversity is a part of what makes the recovery community so powerful and beautiful.
The opposite of active addiction is active recovery. The disease of addiction will not be reversed with an easy fix. That’s why there are meetings full of folks who have 30 and 40 years of sobriety, because recovery is a lifelong journey. In active recovery, we keep showing up. We keep surrendering the same things over and over again. We turn it over because we now know that we can’t handle it on our own. And through this journey, surrender becomes an action, not just an option.