Step 3

In the first two steps, we engaged in reflection.  We realized that we were powerless over addiction, but also realized that faith is possible.  Although they required our acceptance, these conclusions did not require any action.  Starting with step three, the remaining steps require affirmative action.  Faith is certainly necessary, however, it will not be sufficient to achieve a successful recovery on its own.  In step three we are asked to make a decision.  This decision is based on faith.  Specifically, a decision to believe that there is a force for spiritual growth that can help us in obtaining and maintaining a successful recovery.  A decision to change direction, to stop rebelling at the natural and logical flow of events in our lives.  A decision to stop wearing ourselves out trying to make everything happen as if we were in charge of the world.  Ultimately, we are accepting that a Power greater than ourselves will do a better job of caring for our will and our lives than we have. 

Prior to becoming sober, our will and our lives were often times controlled by our addiction.  We were trapped by our need for instant gratification that alcohol gave us.  At first, this may have been a pleasurable experience, but after some time, the euphoria wore off and we saw the ugly side of our addiction.  We discovered that the better alcohol made us feel when we were consuming it, the worse it made us feel when we weren’t.  It is at this point that we have to make a decision.  Either we can suffer through the pain of withdrawal or drink more; or we can look for another way.  In step three it is suggested that “another way” can be obtained by turning our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understand him.  At this point you might wonder what will happen to you if you continually turn your will over to something/someone else.  It is this kind of thinking that takes no account of the facts.  The facts, in this instance, seem to be that the more we are willing to depend on a Higher Power, the more independent we will be.  

We might wonder at this time who our Higher Power is and what our Higher Power’s will is for us.  Our Higher Power’s will for us will manifest as we work the steps, however, it is suggested that we choose an understanding of a Higher Power that is loving, caring, and greater than ourselves.  This could be a variety of things.  Some examples include God, nature, the twelve-step group, the spiritual principles of the twelve-step group, or any personal power or being in which we can communicate.  Once we begin to have an understanding of what/who our Higher Power is, it is important that we begin to form a relationship with that Higher power.  This will include being able to communicate with our Higher Power, being open to communication from our Higher Power, and having feelings about our Higher Power.  As we mature in our recovery, we will begin to form an understanding of our Higher Power that gives us peace and serenity.  At this point, if we are willing to surrender and be open-minded, our fear starts to lessen and faith starts to grow.  We no longer have to fight fear, anger, guilt, self-pity, or depression.  We are slowly beginning to lose the paralyzing fear of hopelessness.   Today you can turn your life and your will over to the God of your understanding.  Today you can shed the weight that self-will carries with it.  Today you can overcome hopelessness! 

(Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash)

Faith

“Faithless is he that says farewell when the road darkens.”- J.R.R. Tolkien

Hebrews 11:1- Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

In Psalm 46:10 God tells us to be still and know that He is God.

Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 2:5 to rest our faith in the power of God rather than the wisdom of men. He goes on to say in 2 Corinthians 5:7, that we walk by faith not by sight.

Ephesians 2:8-9- For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 

Luke 1:37- For nothing will be impossible with God. 

Staying encouraged about our future and our lives is often quite easy when things are going well. But, what about when things aren’t going well? What about when the road darkens? It is at these times that we must have faith. During these times God tells us to be still and know that He is God because He is taking care of what we are hoping for. I know it is often easier to trust in the wisdom of our friends or our families, but we can never forget to include God in our plans and trust in His power. For by grace we are ultimately saved through this faith. And, all things are possible with God. Today you can choose to trust in God’s power of your life. Today you can have faith in His plan for you.

(Photo by Zac Durant on Unsplash)

Strength

“You never know how strong you are, until being strong is your only choice”- Bob Marley

Hebrews 4:12 – For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

Isaiah 41:10- So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Philippians 4:13 -I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

1 Chronicles 16:11- Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always.

2 Corinthians 12:10- That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

The first verse in this post speaks of the strength of scripture. I wanted to touch on that because I often forget how strong God’s word really is. It is so strong that if we lean on it and Him, we are guaranteed to have our paths made straight. Walking this path may not always be easy, and no one ever promised it would be, but if we look to Him during hard times He will uphold us with His righteous hand. He will give us the capability to do all things. Yes, it is often easy to forget to look to him in hard times. The easiest solution is often to try and fix things ourselves. But, when we are weak He gives us strength. In times of weakness, insult, hardship, persecution, and difficulty He can and will be our rock. We need only seek His strength and it will be found. Today you can find strength in the Lord!

(Photo by KirstenMarie on Unsplash)

Don’t Tread on Me

Tread on me?!  That’s not a good idea, can’t you see? 
I’ve been to the bottom, I know every pain, I’ve got ’em.
Your shallow ways will get you nowhere!  I know how it feels to walk through a room and have people stare. The best thing about that is I don’t care! 
I thrive on it!  At first, it was hard, I will admit.
  But now I see it does not matter what people like you think!  Your worthless glare will not make me shrink!
It means nothing to me! It’s actually starting to make me happy.
  I love that for some reason; you think you’re better!?  What’s your biggest accomplishment this month?  Reading this letter?! 
  If you think I’m wrong, prove it then!  I guarantee I will remain strong!
If you’re not willing to do this, then the purpose of my letter, I guess you miss! 
I will have to be blunt!  Stay out of my life; it’s going to lead for you great strife!
  If you don’t, I’m not sure what will happen, I guess we will see… if you’re ever able to stand up to me!

(Don’t Tread on Me is a poem by Justin Heupel) (Photo by Ricardo Gomez Angel)

Overcome!

I’ve had enough! It’s no one’s fault but my own!  My lack of discipline has been shown! 
I don’t feel like that justifies my ignorance, however.  I can’t live like this forever! 
Mistake after mistake, how many dumb decisions can one person make?! 
To that, there is no right answer, mistakes are just a cancer.
  Most are treatable, though; it depends on how far you’re willing to go?! 
Can you push yourself past that limit?  That moment when you think there is no way to win it!?
  I know I can, I have before, even after people had hope for me no more! 
So I’ll get past this as well, even if in pain I must dwell. 
I know afterward, I will reap my reward, of this I am assured! 
I’m going to overcome every lousy decision; this is my mission, and my mission I will stand by.  I will not fail, I’d rather die…
(Overcome! is a poem by Justin Heupel) (Photo by
Gayatri Malhotra)

Avoid Cognitive Distortions (“Emotional Reasoning” & “Overly Rigid Rule Keeping”)

What are cognitive distortions?  Cognitive distortions can be considered slips in our thinking that we all make at times. They are a derivative of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).  The main premise behind them is that your thoughts have an enormous impact on your emotions and the way you are feeling.  So, if you are feeling terrible, there is a big chance that you are thinking in an unhelpful way.  These unhelpful thinking styles cause us to jump to incorrect conclusions, make false assumptions, and much more. 

Ten main cognitive distortions cause us to feel bad about ourselves, others, and situations/circumstances.  So far, the cognitive distortions all or nothing,” “mental filtering,” disqualifying the positive,” and “jumping to conclusionshave been addressedDuring this blog post, the cognitive distortions “emotional reasoning”  and “overly rigid rule-keeping” will be presented, along with a way to overcome and avoid using these unhealthy thinking styles.

Emotional reasoning leads us away from thinking rationally.  It refers to situations when we begin to depend solely on our feelings as a guide for our thoughts and behavior.  For example, your significant other has been staying late at work quite frequently.  The main feeling that manifests in this situation is suspicion.  Based on your feeling of suspicion related to your significant other’s behavior, you conclude that they are meeting someone on these evenings.  Or, suppose you feel embarrassed about something you recently did.  Based on your feeling of embarrassment, you conclude that you are stupid.  In each case, you would be basing your conclusions on your current emotional state. 

We can do several things to combat this unhealthy thinking style.  We can start paying attention to our thoughts.  Start paying attention when certain feelings begin to manifest.  Remember that basing our conclusions on our feelings is not always the most appropriate way to measure reality, particularly when we are not in the best emotional state. We can consider how we might view the situation if we were in a calmer state.  At this point, we can consider whether there is any concrete evidence that supports our interpretation of our feelings.  Is there any FACTUAL evidence that suggests that we should be upset about this situation? 

Overly rigid rule keeping refers to assigning overly rigid rules to the way we believe we should behave, others should behave, or how a situation should turn out.  When we assign overly rigid rules to another’s behavior, we will often become angry when they do not conform to our rules.  When we assign overly rigid rules to our behavior, we will often become guilty when we do not conform to the rules.  When we assign overly rigid rules to our expectations of how something should turn out, we are often left feeling disappointed when our expectations have not been met. 

Using terms like “should” and “must” are typically great indicators that we are utilizing this unhealthy thinking style.  These statements provide insight into the standards we uphold and the things we expect from others, ourselves, and situations.  Of course, these standards can be helpful.  However, they can also lead to unrealistic expectations that we, or other people, will find difficult to uphold.  These overly rigid rules that we place on ourselves, others, and situations typically mean that we have not adapted to reality as well as we could.

For example, you might believe that you must have the approval of others.  Or, you think that others should never let you down.  Maybe you think that the meeting you go to tomorrow should be one of the most inspirational meetings you have been to.  In each of these cases, if the expectations of your overly rigid rules are not upheld, you will be left feeling guilty, angry, or disappointed.   

We can combat this unhealthy thinking style by adopting flexible preferences related to our expectations of ourselves, others, and situations.  Rather than making demands on ourselves (“I must have the approval of others”), others (“no one should ever let me down”), and situations (“my meeting tomorrow should be one of the most inspirational meetings I have been to”).  Instead, we can pay attention to the words we are using.  For example, “I prefer the approval of others.”  “I wish no one would let me down.”  “My meeting tomorrow could be one of the most inspirational meetings I have been to.”  Of course, we would prefer all of these things, but are they reality?  Will everything still be fine if they don’t happen? 

We can also remember that the world doesn’t always play by our rules.  Everyone has their own rules they live by.  No matter how much you value your rules, others in your life may not place the same value on them.  Of course, keep your standards, preferences, and ideals, but try to remove your overly rigid rules about you, others, and situations should be.  Today you can avoid cognitive distortions (“emotional reasoning” & “overly rigid rule-keeping”)!

(Photo by Elijah O’Donnell)