Anybody Can Take Steps, Chp. 3

Anybody Can Take Steps (Copyright, 2015), pp.45-55:
(Also see Chapters 1 & 2
Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
     Sounds great, but how exactly do I turn myself over to God? What does that even mean? For now, let us consider this Step to be a vow – a promise to ourselves, to others and to our Higher Power to grow along spiritual lines and to repel anything that prevents us from doing so. On a practical level, we are vowing to cultivate and expand our conscience, and then never to ignore it. As well, we are not going to consciously erect any walls between us and our mental, emotional, physical and spiritual health.

     For addicts and alcoholics, when we remove substances and begin taking right action, we should experience the return of our conscience – that feeling in our gut which tells us if something is right or wrong – and our new job is to listen. For some, this will become an entirely new purpose in life. If my gut tells me something is right, I can no longer ignore the message but must gather the courage to act, and if I have no courage, I pray for it. If courage does not immediately come and I continue to be filled with fear or reluctance, I have to push myself to walk through it and act, knowing that if I do not, bad things will happen. When we fail to act on our conscience, we gradually lose our spiritual connection and become ill again.
     On the other hand, if my gut tells me that something is wrong, I refuse and repel such a thing at all costs, and again, I pray for the willingness and power. I refuse to act, speak or even think in a way that is harmful to self or others. If I see wrongdoing around me, I do not selfishly remain in my comfort zone, but instead speak up and do the right thing. By diligently obeying our conscience, we nourish it like a tree. Soon it becomes rooted and grows taller. The roots spread, its foundation becomes more secure and the wind cannot blow it over. Our tree grows fuller and more beautiful as the light inside of us shines brighter. Following our conscience is the way to recovery, as it heals the soul of a person. With each right action, we draw closer to God.
     Turning our will over to God also means that we don’t rush around forcing our will, trying to control everything and everyone. Sure we continue to get up, go to work and do what we can, but we let go of the outcome and how that will look. As human beings, we often feel as though we must manipulate the world around us. If something veers even slightly off course to the way we envisioned it, we hurl ourselves in, aggressively trying to steer the ship in the direction we see fit. In trying to force certain outcomes, we amass countless expectations, expectations that are never quite met to our standards, thus ensuring we suffer constant disappointment. Turning our will over to God means that we stop trying to dictate what is happening, both inside and out. If things happen the way we want, great, but if they don’t, also great. We accept the outcome. We stay in the moment and leave the rest to God.
     It’s easy to get confused and frustrated while trying to figure everything out on our own. Slogans such as ‘Think Through the Drink’or the CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) model of thinking through a situation make no sense when you are incapable of thinking properly through anything! One way to get through tough and chaotic times is to simply STOP. Stop right in your tracks. Stop trying to think. Stop freaking out about what to do. Step back and get quiet for a moment. Pray. The prayer can be simple, such as “God be with me” or “Thy will be done.” I like to pray in my own language, as I would talk to myself or to a friend. “God, please keep me out of my head right now.” “God, help me to let go and have patience with my boss.” After praying, we simply continue moving forward, but we have now come back to the present moment, letting the details and the future work themselves out. Human beings like to play God, as if we can do that, as if we are that powerful… but playing God is a fool’s game. Do what you can and then get out of the way.
     Another strategy is to put the more complicated tasks aside for a while and engage in a more simple or menial activity like cleaning, organizing, walking or exercising. Simple activities can take us out of our racing mind and ground us with haste. When I came home from treatment years ago, I somehow procured a cooking job at a local assisted living center for about 150 residents, despite having no experience whatsoever. This involved running around a kitchen for eight hours straight – mixing this, whipping that, throwing together soups, entrees, appetizers, deserts, you name it. I loved it because for those eight hours, not a single thought went through my head. No thinking about the world, the past, the future or any other illusory, self-made problem. The mental relief alone was worth the shitty paychecks and the menial, dead-end labor.
     Simple activities and hard work can effect wonders as a meditative tool. Try it, and don’t think of it as punitive. Next time you are all wound up, go outside and start landscaping your yard or working on your house. If you rent, try cleaning and organizing, or just going for a walk or a jog. And if you don’t feel any immediate relief, don’t worry about it. You did it. You took action, and that alone is positive and can shift your direction. That alone will serve you in some way. Just keep moving forward and don’t let your feelings stop you. Ask God to dissolve your resistance. Continue doing productive things and taking more and more action. Most importantly, don’t give up. Trust me, in time it will make you stronger.
     Finally, one simple way to stop thinking and redirect self-will is to simply do what’s right in front of us. If you think about it literally, there is no such thing as the past or the future, so why go there? When we project ourselves into the illusion of the past or the future, we are imagining things and thus not really living. We are stuck in our heads as opposed to living in the present reality, so stay out of lala land and instead put one foot in front of the other. For instance, all I’m doing right now is writing this book. That’s all I need to do, so I’m not going to worry about anything else. After I’m done writing, I’ll do what comes next, which is to go make breakfast. Then I’ll take the dog out. On and on, moment by moment, we move through the day with relative ease, in peace rather than chaos. Being where our feet are right now without constantly wandering off somewhere mentally = freedom. Try it.
     Cause and effect. This is a central idea behind not only this 3rd Step, but the entire process. We are to smash into our heads the certainty of the law of cause and effect, and not only its universality, but its reciprocity as well. We have been taught in school that Newton’s 3rd law of motion (for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction) occurs on the physical plane, but that is only partially true. Contemplate this law crossing all realms and holding true on the mental and spiritual planes as well. Everything we do, say and think will have an effect in kind. If we have committed some wrong, even if we make it right, rest assured, it will come back to bite us in some way. Just a simple and seemingly harmless negative thought will have an effect on self. Perhaps it comes back to us emotionally, as we begin to suffer or start feeling depressed. We must start believing that there is no acting, speaking, or even thinking in a vacuum. There is no anything in a vacuum. So we must deal with all we have done, but try not to let it bother you, as escaping consequence is no privilege. Consequences help us to evolve, grow stronger and build character, contrary to popular belief. Cause and effect is a blessing, not a curse.
     This attitude is our foundation for life, or as the Big Book says, our “design for living”. If we do this work, our conscience will return and we will suddenly care about what we are doing. That’s all there is to it. That’s the secret. Caring about the consequences of our actions drives us to always do the right thing. Let’s look at the 3rd Step prayer and see how it breaks down.
     “God, I offer myself to Thee – to build with me and 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.” -Alcoholics Anonymous, p.63
     “God, I offer myself to Thee – to build with me and do with me as Thou wilt.” Offering ourselves to God can be equated with letting go, another concept that sounds wonderful, but how exactly does one do that? Self-help books frequently talk about the almost euphoric release and inner peace that can be achieved by letting go, but where is the instruction manual? For some, the concept alone is confusing. What does ‘letting go’ even mean?…
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