Step 3: “Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.”
February 5 at 1:30 p.m., two days after the drug bust, I trudged out of the Lucas County Jail in Toledo, Ohio. I hadn’t showered or shaved for several days. My mind was spinning with questions and uncertainty. A local TV reporter and his cameramen confronted me. It felt like an attack and I was not in the mood to chat. Toledo TV’s Channel 13 recorded footage of me almost punching a reporter who stuck a microphone in my face.
Once home, I received a call from my Los Angeles Chief Pilot, Captain Gary Meermans. I assumed he was calling to fire me so I wanted to make it easy for him. I told him I was sorry for embarrassing him, my fellow pilots and United Airlines and I understood the purpose of his call was to terminate my employment, which was what I expected and felt I deserved. Surprisingly he said he wasn’t calling to fire me.
Although his words were comforting, they felt meaningless since I believed I was headed to prison. He asked me if I would consider going to rehab. I said yes, thinking it would be in a week or two. I was dumbfounded when he said I needed to go right away because they were holding a bed for me. But I said OK and informed my family of the plan.
It was just after 3 p.m. and teenage my sons would now be out of school. I called them and said I needed them to come over for a talk. It was the most humiliating experience of my life. I was face to face with my sons, explaining to them that their dad had been arrested for possession of drugs and that I was going to be on the evening news. Nathan, 19, and Lucas, 17, witnessed my shame and out of compassion pretended not to be upset. Still, I could see their pain and knew they were embarrassed by the situation I had created.
I then made a decision never again to hurt my sons because of my selfish need for pleasure. Little did I know how many more decisions I would have to make before I could begin to mend the pain and damage I had caused to those I loved and who loved me.
As we start down the road to a new life in recovery, we make many decisions. We make the decision to choose love over fear, peace over chaos, spirit over ego and truth over deception. Faith in nothing is deception. Man left solely to his own devices, over time, will enter into darkness. The decision to follow the well-lit path of truth and God-consciousness generates simplicity and serenity on the journey to eternity.
The goal of this book is to influences the choices we make… Not just with the choice to abstain from mind-altering chemicals, but with the choice of awareness to recognize that every decision we make not only affects our lives, but those of everyone we know because we are all connected.
The choices are simple: there are dark choices and there are bright choices. The first is of the self-driven ego and the second is of the spirit. The first choice brings pleasure in the form of instant gratification that results in chaos and eventual death. The second choice brings peace, true happiness and an authentic feeling of self-worth.
There are two strong, opposing and diverting forces in the universe and it is more apparent today than at any point in time. The camouflaged evil forces disguised as fundamentalist religions are dangerous to mankind’s survival. This is so if their goal is to separate, hate and judge for that is not the role of religion. The positive force of Christ-consciousness hides nothing, forgives and loves all and leads us to salvation.
Step 1 to transformation hinges upon the willingness to surrender. Step 2 opens the door to hope. Step 3 stipulates the necessity for a conscious decision to have faith.
The first three steps in any 12-step program are based on these basic premises:
I have a problem I can’t control or fix myself.
I surrender and totally accept that I am powerless over my problem.
I believe that I can become whole by making a decision to have faith. In order for this to occur, I have to let go of my will, become aware of God’s will and distance myself from my ego.
The decision to turn our will and lives over to the care of God is not made on a whim. It is a well-thought-out, internalized process. Once the decision is made, we can find freedom through the trust we have instilled in our higher power.
Unconscious Actions, Conscious Awareness and Impulsivity
Much of what occurs within and between us happens unconsciously. We blink 17,000 times a day and our hearts beat 100,000 times a day, all without conscious thought or effort. Most internal body functions do not require active decisions to complete. We turn on a light, flush a toilet and start our automobiles without full consciousness of our actions. Some call it muscle memory, which accounts for 90% of the actions taken by experienced pilots while flying. The benefit of muscle memory is that it frees up our brains to concentrate in the moment on actions that require our focus.
Habits are subconscious actions. The habit to look both ways before crossing the street is ingrained in our brains at an early age. Other habits, such as lighting a cigarette or a joint when stressed, grabbing a beer when passing by the refrigerator or popping another pain killer when there’s no real pain, are classic and habitual actions of the addicted. There is usually no real decision process involved with the event of using when addiction exists.
Conscious awareness is a process of recognizing what is going on inside and out. Conscious awareness, or the lack thereof, affects every decision we make. Conscious awareness involves seeing and observing our thoughts and recognizing our feelings. As we evolve, we become consciously aware of how our actions and moods affect others. The higher the level of conscious awareness the closer is our perception of truth to reality.
Conscious awareness allows us to be present with the people and circumstances we face in the moment. Humans tend to ruminate on the past or project our thoughts into the future. With addiction this is another form of denial – denial of the present. Our brains like familiar and the past is familiar, as is the worry we carry in our minds of what bad could happen next. When not living in the moment our nemesis fear will work its way into our minds via our egos.
This is why in recovery we teach living in the present, which comes with many synonyms: God-consciousness, Christ-consciousness or what athletes and musicians refer to as “being in the zone”. Studies have shown that people are the happiest when they are in the flow and actively engaged in an activity or experiencing a meaningful connection with another human being.
Conscious awareness functions as a mirror functions for a dancer: it allows us to see ourselves exactly as we are. As we cultivate awareness, we reflect upon and respond to challenges and opportunities rather than react to them. Conscious awareness is essential to experiencing positive transformation.
Impulsivity is a strong, unreflective feeling to act on an urge with little or no forethought. This precisely describes the actions of addicts and obsessed people.
Instant gratification for the addict is a way to escape and avoid feelings of fear, guilt, anger or shame. The reward circuits in the brain are lying in wait, ready to be activated. Craving areas of the brain are awakened by deceptive brain messages and cognitive distortion, causing the addict to act impulsively. Addicts truly believe they have no choice in that moment other than to use. The result is powerlessness.
Impulsivity is self-will taking action without a plan. Ego-driven self-will ignores negative consequences, always choosing pleasure before happiness. Free will unfailingly allows us the ability to choose and works best with a quiet mind. Aligning our free will with the eternal freedom rendered by God’s will is never impulsive, selfish or destructive.
The word decision is of Latin origin: decider, to determine. It means the conclusion or resolution reached after consideration.
We make thousands of decisions every day. Most of these decisions appear not to have any real consequences in our lives, but I’d argue that even the most trivial decisions that we make can potentially have life-and-death results. A decision to sleep in or to take a different way to work may or may not involve us in an accident. Decisions to stay in or go out to socialize (or go to a meeting) may create an opportunity to make a new acquaintance that may turn into a best friend or a horrible enemy. Life is a combination of chance and timing that results in destiny.
Where we are at any given moment is a direct result of the culmination of all the decisions we have made in our lives. Often, while facilitating a group, I suggest that everything every one of us has experienced in the past brought us together right here, right now and that acceptance of everything right here, right now is the key to finding inner peace.
Other people’s decisions also have tremendous consequences in our lives. Every decision made by our parents, and even made by our ancestors over thousands of years, came together to bring us into this world.
For each of us to find our way to this planet, it took trillions of events to align perfectly – proof that each of us is a miracle.
Most of our decisions are made without meaningful consideration. However, making a decision to turn over our wills and lives to the care of God is the most monumental decision we can make.
The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous uses these phrases to emphasize that we are constantly in the process of turning over our wills to the care of a power greater than ourselves.
Give ourselves completely.
Decide to go to any length.
Remember, half-measures avail us of nothing.
Think well before taking this step.
Voice it without reservation.
Abandon ourselves utterly.
Be entirely ready.
Ask with complete abandon.
Take this position sincerely, honestly and humbly.
Herb K., in his book Twelve Steps to Spiritual Awakening says, “Willingness is the key and grace is the power that turns that key.”
Conscious Awareness Changes Over Time
Making a conscious decision to turn over our lives and wills to the care of God is not a permanent resolution. Understanding this is a must for people in recovery. When we hit bottom or have that moment of clarity, we make a decision to change. For me, it was laying naked on my kitchen floor with a cop pointing a shotgun in my face. The decision I made to change at that time would be challenged many times in my early sobriety.
Relapsing does not mean we were not sincere about making a decision to get clean. It does mean, however, that we were not thorough or persistent enough in living the principle of recovery. Underestimating the power of addiction and obsessions is the primary reason people relapse.
As life’s problems arise, we are continually forced to turn over our wills. We seek to be aware that any hesitation to redirect our conscious awareness comes from our pride and ego. Ego relies on the past to destroy the present. Ego speaks first and it speaks loudest. This is when faith is critical: trusting that we can get through any situation is paramount, and living in the moment is essential. Recognize that pain is the catalyst to dethroning ego. We need to be as persistent in pursuing recovery as we were in pursuing the chemicals we used to get us here.
Alcoholics and addicts in the midst of addiction have lost the freedom of choice and, therefore, the freedom of decision. They may not consciously admit this loss, but in their present state of consciousness it appears impossible for them to stop using. Many people insist they have the right to drink, which they obviously do by the letter of the law, however they fail to grasp that they forfeit the freedom of choice by exercising that right to drink.
Recovery avails us the freedom to distance ourselves from the hectic world around us and to consciously connect with God. We now have the freedom of choice, the freedom to decide, and the freedom to constantly improve our connection with God. We retain this freedom by experiencing the first three steps over and over again.
Due to fear, many people I work with choose to attack the messages within the 12 steps and the basic principles in recovery. There is even a TV commercial for a non-12-step program that indirectly slams the 12 steps. The man in the commercial makes a prideful assertion that he was “once an addict and now he’s not”. He states his program is not a 12-step program – his program “really works” – and for $19.95 you can purchase the secrets founds only in his book.
A Course in Miracles counters such attacks:
“When you attack, you are denying yourself. You are specifically teaching yourself that you are not what you are. Your denial of reality precludes the acceptance of God’s gift, because you have accepted something else in its place. If you understand this is always an attack on truth, and truth is God, you will realize why it is always fearful. If you further recognize that you are part of God, you will understand why it is that you always attack yourself first.”