Monday, 1 July 2019

Working The Steps: Step Three

My name is Russ and I am a compulsive gambler. My last bet was April 2nd 2019. I had previously posted Step Two back in June so now I thought I would share my work on Step Three. Anything in bold or italics is from the work sheet, the rest is my own.

Step 3: Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of this Power of our own understanding.

Step 3, Exercise 1: Surrender

Step 3 asks us to surrender – to turn our will and our lives over to the care of our Higher Power. Notice that the step says care of, not control of. There’s ease, gentleness, comfort and support in this kind of surrender. Step 3 asks us to make a commitment to let go of our stubborn, habitual or irrational need or desire to control things that are clearly beyond our control. These are “things we cannot change” – like the actions of others, the weather, the passage of time, and our compulsive gambling. By allowing our benevolent guiding spirit or Higher Power to handle these things, we free ourselves to address the things that are within our control. These are all the things we listed in Step 1, Exercise 4 – like remaining abstinent, attending meetings, being honest, finding spirituality, achieving balance. If we allow ourselves to be cared for in matters over which we have no control, we can direct our energies to effecting change within ourselves.

1) Write about three things you could lose – or you’re afraid you could lose – if you were to make a decision to turn your will and your life over to the care of a Higher Power. Write about three things you could gain.

When I first entered recovery and asked my partner to take control of my finances I was worried I would lose my financial independence. I was basically admitting I could not be trusted with money. I had thoughts about being questioned every time I bought something in a shop or why I needed money. At the end of the day this is my money and I shouldn’t have to justify why I need it. Of course, I actually should have to justify why I need money. I have a 14 year track record showing I can’t be trusted with money. I had no financial independence when I was gambling because any money I had was spent on gambling. So in fact I have gained financial freedom. I no longer need to worry about my bills being paid as that has been sorted out. I don’t mind being questioned on what I’ve spent my money on. My partner can access my accounts at any time. I get a monthly allowance and I’m slowly starting to learn how to budget that over a month. I will also add I didn’t just hand my partner my finances and tell her to sort them out. I planned the budget with her help, switched the direct debits over to the new account, keep her informed of dates that bills come out, which debts I’m paying back each month. This was a very hands on situation and not something I just dumped on her lap for her to fix.

Personal privacy was something I was concerned with losing when I turned my life over to the care of a Higher Power (Higher Power being my family). I had thoughts of being constantly questioned about what I was doing on my phone or laptop, where I was going, what I did at work etc. My privacy was going to be constantly invaded by people who were keeping an eye on me. Early on in my recovery I started to embrace this and in fact encourage it as I found that the more open I was with people and the more willing I was to show them I had nothing to hide then I could slowly start to gain back their trust. Now that can be seen as a double edged sword as once you start to gain back trust the onus is on me not to abuse that trust like I did in the past. By continuing to be open and honest during my recovery and relying on my family I will be able to show that I am thankful of their trust.

Last but not least, and I hope this makes sense, I am afraid I could lose my family by turning my will and life over to the care of a Higher Power. By this I mean if I go back gambling, and I don’t mean a small relapse, but if I go back gambling the way I did before I am under no illusions I will lose my family as I know it. If I had kept this addiction a secret maybe I could have prevented that from happening. If I kept this to myself maybe they would never have found out. On the flip side, what I can gain from this is also my family. By them knowing exactly what I’m going through and by showing them I am serious about recovery it will only make our family stronger going forward.

How do we become willing to open our minds and hearts to the benevolent guidance of a Higher Power? We can start within the program itself. Many of us in G.A. have come to experience the meetings and the fellowship as a power greater than ourselves. Through sponsorship, we can align ourselves with members who practice the principles of the program and embody its spirit.

2) Do you have a sponsor? If yes, write about how the relationship connects you to G.A. and supports you in your life. If no, list the qualities you would look for in a sponsor and write about how a nurturing relationship with someone in G.A. could enhance your recovery. Are you willing to make a commitment to choosing a sponsor within the next 60 days?

I do have a sponsor and he is the person who talked to me about the positives of G.A. Not only that but he has encouraged to write this blog, to join and participate in the PG Support Group meetings on Skype and to reach out to others in need of help. He’s also someone I find easy to talk to and I’d be comfortable to bring any issues I am going through to him. I know he will not judge me and is someone who will be able to offer advice.

Step 3, Exercise 2: Wisdom

Surrendering our will to our Higher Power enables us to know our Higher Power’s will for us. Letting go of our need to control (or be controlled) opens the door for us to develop the wisdom to know the difference between the things we can change and the things we can’t. Because we’re not attempting to exert out will, acquiesce to the will of others or force an outcome, we are empowered to see situations as they really are, determine whether our participation is appropriate, assess our options and make productive choices.

1) Does surrendering your will mean sacrificing your independence? Even if it does, might it not be worth it?

I think in a sense it does mean sacrificing your independence to a point but for me it is definitely worth it. I have put myself in the position where I have damaged the trust of those closest to me and I am responsible for the mess I have created financially. My family want what is best for me and they show that by taking control of my finances and checking to make sure I am not gambling by asking if I am going to meetings etc. For me to fight that, or want to fight that, would be detrimental to my recovery and throwing their generosity and good will back in their faces.

2) On what do you usually base your decisions? Anger? Intuition? Fear? Logic? How has that worked for you in the past? Is it working for you now? Are you willing to consider another path?

I feel like in the past I would have based a lot of my decisions on various emotions depending on the situation. For example, buying a new mobile phone, I would have logically researched what phone I wanted, looked at the pros and cons, but once I had made my decision excitement took over and I had no patience. I had to have the phone there and then. That lack of patience has lead to some regrettable decisions in the past. If I wanted something and I had the money for it I would want to buy it straight away. If I didn’t have the money I would become angry and resentful and turn to gambling to try and make the money to buy the items which inevitably didn’t work out too well. I still feel like I am a person who has strong emotions and sometimes they can get the better of me and I need someone else who can step in and be the voice of reason. If I feel strongly about a decision I tend to try and follow through with it with maybe only seeing my side of things. Now I am trying to take a step back and see all sides before making decisions. I’m still a work in progress from that point of view and willing to improve myself.

3) What does the phrase “Do the right thing” mean to you? How does it work? Cite a recent example from your life.

For me it’s all about treating others the way you would want to be treated in that situation. I’m trying to look at a lot of situations from other perspectives now whereas in the past it was all about me.  Sometimes doing the right thing also means telling some hard truths in a situation. In recovery I see people pussy footing around situations when sometimes being direct and telling them something they might not want to hear is the best approach. It’s the approach I would rather experience. Other times it’s doing something that I don’t want to do but I know that it will be of benefit to a family member or friend. I also experienced it in work recently where by doing the right thing for a customer has generated me more work and I could have just avoided that, but it didn’t feel right to do that. If I had still been gambling I don’t think I would have given a shit about that customer if I’m being completely honest and I wouldn’t have went out of my way for them.

Step 3, Exercise 3: Self-Awareness

We’ve looked at how surrendering our will relates to our independence. Now let’s look at how it relates to our feelings. Often, our need to control situations or exercise our will encourages us to manage, manipulate, distort, deny, excuse or bury our feelings, rather than experience them. Within the next week, choose a situation in your life and make a conscious decision to let go of your need to control it (as long as doing so will not harm yourself or others) and then follow through on it. Allow yourself to feel whatever comes up as you formulate and act on the decision. Observe your feelings as best you can.

1) How did it feel when you let go of your need to control the situation? Be specific.

I run several NFL Fantasy Football Dynasty leagues and as “Commish” my Rookie Drafts and start up drafts tend to run very smoothly and quickly. In the past when there has been someone “On The Clock” for a period of time I would message them as a gentle reminder. I’m aware they have more important things going on than fantasy football but I still like to keep things moving along. Other leagues that I do not run tend to be a much slower experience. It’s in these situations, where I have zero control compared to a little control in my leagues, that I have become extremely frustrated and impatient. This week I had a draft in a league I don’t run and I did my best to let go of the situation. It was a very slow experience and a couple of times I found myself getting frustrated but overall it was much better for me as the frustration and anger levels were not as high. I still have thoughts of “if I was running that leagues I’d do it this way” but that’s not a good way to look at things. Working on thoughts like that will be a part of my recovery.

2) Your willingness is the key to letting go. Would you be willing to let go again in the same or a different situation, regardless of the outcome?

Yes it’s something I would be willing to do again and to try in other situations as I need to learn how to deal with things that are out of my control or even things that I try to control that do not need to be controlled.

When we let go of our habitual need to control (or be controlled), we’re also freed to look within ourselves and examine our true nature. The process allows us to connect or reconnect with our spirituality and with personal interests and passions that can enrich and balance our lives in recovery.

3) Are you feeling more connected to your spiritual nature? How has this connection changed the way you feel about yourself? How do you feel about yourself?

Since entering recovery I am definitely more connected to my spiritual nature. I am starting to become the person I was before the addiction took over. I’ve always been a laid back person, someone who would go with the flow and be my true self to others. I would openly practice values that are important to me and allow myself to grow as a person. I lost a lot of this during my addiction and went into a shell, afraid to show those closest to me what I had become. I still have work to do but with each passing day in recovery I find myself becoming the person I used to be. I still need to work on becoming frustrated with simple things which is something that developed during my addiction and need to learn to take things as they come.

4) What interests, hobbies or passions have you discovered or rediscovered in recovery? How have they added to your life? Are there any you might like to explore in the future?

I have rediscovered my passion for cooking, I have always enjoyed it but during my addiction I had no time or energy to try new things. Now I’ve been trying different recipes and enjoy my time back in the kitchen. Weight gain could start to become an issue though! I’ve also started to spend time with friends either at lunch in work or at the weekends. That’s something that died a death during my addiction.  We go out as a family now more than we did in the past and it’s something I missed doing. Writing my blog is a passion I have discovered and it’s something I will look to continue doing. As for future hobbies, tennis is something that I would like to start and play.

Step 3, Exercise 4: Decisions

In Step 3, we’ve written about and discussed important aspects of our independence, including self-will, self-reliance, defiance, false pride, arrogance and our need to control.

1) Have you continued to surrender your will and let go of your need to control people, places and situations? How do you feel when you do so?

I’m a work in progress when it comes to this I think. I have surrendered my will in a lot of situations such as my finances and will continue to do so. I still think I struggle at times when it comes to certain situations when I think I am right. I still find myself trying to control that situation because I think my way is the right way when there may be another way to approach things. Learning to back down in this sort of situation to at least listen to other points of view is something I am working on.

One aspect I have improved on is controlling my impatience. I am very much someone who wants something done to my speed and if it doesn’t happen I get agitated and frustrated. I have been practising letting go of my “control” in these situations as I actually have no control over the speed of which other people do things.

Paradoxically, as we gain recovery and make progress in G.A., overconfidence may set in. We may begin to feel like “our old selves” and conclude that our problems are solved. In Step 3, several additional aspects of independence may appear – like impatience (nothing seems to be moving fast enough), intolerance (focusing on the perceived faults or shortcomings of others) and immaturity (“the rules don’t apply to me”). No coincidence – they’re all tell-tale signs of overconfidence. It’s also no coincidence that these thinking patterns start with the letter “I”. As much as we’d like to put the onus on others, the people, places or situations we’re struggling with, focusing on or judging have everything to do with “I” and very little to do with “them”. The trick is to notice the thinking before we act on it.

2) Are you experiencing any of this “I” thinking? How are you dealing with it? 

Having read that passage above I have to admit that, mentally, I do this all the time and it’s something I am constantly working on. As I said before I’m trying to take a step back in a lot of situations and trying to see all sides before making a decision or voicing concerns I may have over a situation. It’s something that stems from my addiction and although I may not verbally say any of the things I am thinking but it’s still a toxic character defect in my mind. I am trying to think of others before I act in as many possible scenarios as I can to try and focus my mind to not always think of me first.

Step 3 asks us to make a decision to surrender our will to the care of our Higher Power. If the request seems too intimidating, we can start by simply deciding to be willing to make a decision. We can choose to remain open to the idea of surrender. We can continue to use the G.A. program and fellowship as our Higher Power, if that’s more comfortable. Remember, it is a Power of our own understanding with which we desire to connect, and our understanding may change and evolve if we seek help, trust others and remain open and willing.

When we decide, the decision probably will not be universal. Most of us will make it many times and in countless different situations. We may decide to test it, only to take it back when the outcome is not to our liking. We may convince ourselves that we’re too time-pressed to turn it over, resolving to “do it later”. We may “pick & choose”, letting go in minor, inconsequential situations, but holding on for “important” ones. But if, gradually, we can become willing to make the decision one day, one hour, one situation, one person at a time, eventually it will become our “second nature” – a more open, humble and accepting nature that can support us to live life on life’s terms.

3) Are you willing to continue the journey through Step 4’s searching and fearless self-inventory in partnership with a Higher Power of your own understanding?

Bring it on!

I've found step work to be an enjoyable experience and something that makes you really think about your thoughts and emotions. Maybe someone who reads it can relate and potentially work the step themselves.


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