Step 3 of Alcoholics Anonymous

Step 3 of Alcoholics Anonymous can be a stumbling block for many people. Not only because it contains the word ‘God’ but also because it involves handing our will over – and many alcoholics and addicts are stubborn and full of self will! The precise wording of Step 3 is as follows:

“Made a decision to turn our lives and our will over to the care of God, as we understood him”.

There are a few let out clauses here – you only have to be willing to do the following: Make a decision to do it… are handing over to the care of God rather than directly to him…. And it is God as you understand him. A little bit of willing goes a long way.

In order to get to step 3, you need to have got through steps 1 and 2. So you have admitted that you are powerless over alcohol, that your life has become unmanageable and that you need some outside help to get well.

Handing over our will

How do we hand over our will and our lives? That is a tall order. However, we do know that our self-will when drinking or using got us into a lot of trouble and that it was not good enough to get us clean and sober on a permanent basis. Most of us can also recognise that the people who have got recovery seem to have got it right. And for the most part, they have worked step 3. So why not be willing to follow their example, given that on our own and without someone to help us, we did not do very well. We have to admit, we have not always been the best judge of what is best for us. The goal is not to become will-less like some mindless follower – but to become willing to listen and try new things. There is a world of difference.

Another block to step 3 is a need to control. A lot of us are controlling characters and we hate to lose that control over ourselves and others. We need to find the balance between making it happen (our old ways) and letting it happen (something we are newly open to). The serenity prayer is a good reminder of what to do here. We need to accept the things we cannot change, have the courage to change the things we can – and recognise the difference between the two options. If in any doubt, try letting go of the control and listen to others. Do not automatically assume they are wrong and you are right. If they have a good sobriety, they may well know more than you!

The other things we have to watch out for are impatience (we all want everything now!) and intolerance. It is easy to deflect from our own faults by looking at other people’s.

Our goal is progress not perfection.

In summary, we have to trust that the 12 Step programme will work for us and that involves letting go of our self will and handing over to something or someone else. A god of our understanding can be the traditional religious God – or it can be just trusting the higher power you might find working amongst others in sobriety – listening to their advice and taking on board the outside help offered through them. You only need to give it a try and then Step 3 will have a chance of working for you.

The Haynes Clinic is an alcohol and drug rehab clinic which offers detox and counselling for people with addictions. Call 01462 851414 for free and confidential advice.