Step 3: Questions and Directions

Although the word direction was edited out by the existing AA groups in Akron and New York, we can get the flavor of Bill’s conviction about the Steps by his original wording of  How It Works:

Rarely have we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed our directions path.

Our stories disclose in a general way what we used to be like, what happened, and what we are like now. If you have decided you want what we have and are willing to go to any length to get it – then you are ready to follow directions take certain steps.

Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care and direction of God, as we understood Him. (Step 3)

Sometimes I’ve wished they’d just left it like he wrote it, but increasingly I’m glad they overruled his hard-sell language. There is something in me that rebels against familiar authoritarianism. Do I really want someone else to tell me what to think again? I hope not. I want to be teachable, yet I’ve learned I need to be free to question, to think.

“You think too much,” was an accusation from my past. Most often this was the automatic response to my questions. I do love to question. It’s how I process, how I search, how I learn the truth for myself. The authoritarians don’t encourage questioning. Questions are messy, they can be seen as challenging, they are unsettling. “We’ve already decided that.” was a common reply. Eventually, I picked up my genuine questions and left the land of black and white.

From a very young age, I knew God and I knew He loved me. So I was not leaving church and God behind, just church. I told my preacher that He was not my Holy Spirit and cut off all contact with the figure heads that I’d looked up to. Where did that leave me?  My life had become untenable with them in charge so I swung to the opposite approach. I was in charge. They were off that pedestal and, unwittingly, I climbed onto it.

Life didn’t get worse. It didn’t get better. It just got old.  It wasn’t until I started Step 4 that I realized how truly difficult my life had always been. The more I wrote, the more I shook my head. This life I was living would make a better book than a life. I had nightmares during Step 4, spending a whole weekend doing nothing but writing it out. I was depressed and angry and hurt. My disgust turned from others inward. I wanted to drink again. (All of this was typical, but I didn’t realize that.) The process of climbing back down from the pedestal was difficult.

That’s why I still question myself. That’s why I love Step 3. I am alcoholic and cannot manage my own life. No human power could have relieved my alcoholism (my self-will, my dependence on others). God could and did when I sought Him. By doing the Steps I was seeking His direction for my life. I was getting some answers, finally.

PS: In the next post I’m going to share some of the questions I ask of myself regarding Step 3. What has been your experience with directions and questions?