Step 3: Self-willed and Controlling? Who…Me?

I am Irish and German (red-headed and hard-headed). I was a first-born child, trained to seek independence and winning. I was born on the fourth of July–a real firecracker! All of that makes for a self-sufficient, self-willed… and self-absorbed past that I am working diligently to recognize. It’s not easy to stop the trajectory of self-willed living. Let me add that I would have self-righteously denied living according to my own will and would have quoted scripture to arrest any argument. Even though I was living in the completely opposite realm, I would have agreed with the following quote.

It is when we try to make our will conform to God’s that we begin to use it rightly. ~ Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, p 40

I would have agreed. I would have also been clueless. I don’t understand the intricate workings of denial, but I’m at the same time, well-acquainted with it. I denied that I was self-centered, controlling, that I needed help and was ignorant of God’s will for my life. The fact that I was an HFA ( high functioning alcoholic) was also a complete surprise to me.

Given that, I’ve looked back at my journals and tried to create a few questions that, if asked, might have prompted me to look beneath my self-confident assumptions. With the help of some friends in recovery, the following are some sample probing questions that might shed some light on topics that smack of self-will and controlling behavior. They are good questions for any of us, whether in recovery or not.

  • When you were a kid, what did you swear you’d never do when you grew up?
  • What area of your life just has to go right?
  • What person causes you the most stress, no matter what you try?

These are just 3 from The Not Scary Worksheet of Step 3 (worksheets are below).

By working through the short worksheet, you can make a list of some hidden areas of your life that are out of control and causing you stress. The more I dig for honest answers, the more I realize how much I still try to control people in my life and control the situations of my life. I say ‘dig’ because it is an excavation of hidden motives and instincts. At this point, fear and ego will step in and try to keep the mind locked into former thinking. Our stress levels are the proof of how poorly our thinking has worked for us in the past.

We don’t have to believe in anyone else’s God or accept their values. That’s one of the really basic tenants of the 12 Step programs.  All we need to do is believe that there is a Power greater than ourselves. Willingness to believe is the key that opens the door to this Power. There is a God and it’s not me.

I look at my history, my heritage. I had plenty of will power to make my life work if self-will was going to work. It doesn’t–not alone. I needed His will and had no idea I was without it.

PS: The conviction of how clueless I can be keeps me looking for a deeper relationship with God. We don’t know what we don’t know. Do we?