Turn It All Over – Grapevine Article January 1984 by J.W.

Step Three

I WAS WHAT is called a high-bottom drunk. When I got to the AA program, I had not been beaten down enough to have anything even remotely approaching real humility. I was smug, arrogant, self-satisfied, and certain that every area of my life except my alcoholism was firmly and securely under my control. The trouble was that I did not understand what alcoholism really was, even after experiencing it for all those years. I thought that alcoholism consisted of drinking too much and without control. I didn’t understand that it is a disease of the whole person: physical, mental, and spiritual.

I worked the Third Step by turning my drinking over to God, and I expected the rest of my life to flow smoothly. After all, I was an intelligent, competent, responsible woman, well educated and well able to take care of myself and to handle all areas of my life, wasn’t I?

It wasn’t long, however, before the other areas of my life began, one by one, to come unraveled. For the next five years, I found myself in one unmanageable situation after another. Each time I discovered something that I thought needed fixing, I would attempt to deal with it myself, fighting and struggling to make people and circumstances conform to my will. Only after I had tried and failed over and over, did I admit I was powerless and turn that particular area over to God.

Each situation I gave to him was eventually cleared up, sometimes quickly and sometimes over a long period of time; but it was always necessary for me to surrender it before the improvement began. Once I had done that–whether the problem was getting my kids to stop fighting, reviving my interest in my work, or working out a difficulty in a relationship–the specific situation I had turned over always improved.

Soon after my fifth AA birthday, I became very angry and depressed and spent about six months berating myself, God, and the world because my life was not what I wanted it to be, and because I was not what I wanted to be. I had given God my kids’ quarreling, but not my whole relationship with them and not the kids themselves. I prayed for help with finances, but never sought his guidance about the debts I was running up, or admitted my helplessness over them. Painful situations got my attention and eventually were given to God, but the overall picture was still clutched tightly in my own hands.

Gradually, it became clear to me that my unhappiness was directly related to the amount of my life that I hung on to. So, in my sixth year of sobriety, I worked the Third Step. For the first time, I understood what the Step meant, and I made a decision to turn my life and my will over to the care of God as I understood him. I understood that the decision is made once and for all, but that the actual turning over is carried out on a daily basis.

The days immediately following were filled with a beautiful sense of peace. Gone were the anger, the feeling of pressure to succeed and to improve, the sense of struggle. This is true serenity, I thought. I’ve got it made.

Of course, the world has intruded, as it always does. Little by little, that sense of quietness and certainty has slipped away. However, the struggle doesn’t seem as difficult; the tensions are not as taut; there is less need to control, and less fear. When the crazies start, I realize that I have taken it all back and must once again put everything into God’s hands.

This is spiritual progress and not spiritual perfection. Being an imperfect human being, I am not capable of working any other Step or handling any area of my life perfectly. I am content with that today. And that, too, is progress.

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