Step 3 in the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous states as follows:
“[We]…made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.”
In step 3 of AA, members are asked to decide to be amenable to turning their will over to a “higher power.” This choice is vital because it allows us to unburden ourselves and see things more clearly.
Step 3 AA: Turning Over One’s Will
After we have successfully worked the first two steps, we have learned and came to have accepted that our lives have become unmanageable. We must admit that we are, indeed, alcoholics and addicts and that only a power higher than ourselves can restore us to sanity.
Now, we can surrender our lives to unmanageability. We can let go of a life based on self-will operating unfettered by deciding to surrender it over to God (as we know Him) or a higher power and allow something else to support us. We can stop trying to force everything to happen as if we ourselves are in charge and control of everything in our lives.
Recovery is almost by definition a spiritual process for most people. During step three, hope, trust, and faith are promoted, enabling us to breathe deep and feel calm, centered, and peaceful again. In step three, members are asked to surrender their will, and as a result, they will be restored to honesty, truth, stability, and peace.
Step 3 AA: Seeking Knowledge
When working through step three, we examine how acting merely on our own self-will means engaging in behaviors that lack consideration for others. We have been compulsively fulfilling our own desires and neglecting the needs and feelings of those around us. While we were self-occupied following our impulses, we left a path of destruction behind us and became disengaged from our conscience and higher power.
However, while working through step three, we begin to shift our attention to understanding our higher power’s will. Choosing to surrender over our lives and will doesn’t do us any good unless we immediately take action. Merely deciding without supporting our decision with the needed changes has little to no meaning.
Many beneficial recovery tools have successfully sustained long-term abstinence and a relationship with a higher power in AA. Many have previously heard of the “Serenity Prayer,” a relatively simple statement adapted from a prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr. Reciting this prayer can help alcoholics in recovery as they seek knowledge and decide to surrender each day. It reads as following:
“God, grant me serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”
By using this prayer, we can learn to accept the current reality of our unfortunate condition peacefully. And while it’s true that we can’t control the decisions and behaviors of others, we can, however, decide how we ourselves will act in any given situation. We may not be able to alter and control everything in our lives, but we can be willing to surrender, trust, and advance knowledge and further understand ourselves, loved ones, and the world around us.
Step 3 AA: Understanding God as we Know Him
For some individuals, the idea of “God” isn’t something they wish to entertain. Some are raised in strict, religious households, and this experience has left them jaded for one reason or another. Many others are atheist or have a different brand of spirituality than those who identify as Christian, Jewish, or Muslim. Requiring a person to turn their will over to a higher power under these circumstances may seem like a lot to ask.
Those who have not previously considered the idea of a higher power may be comforted to know that, in AA, you don’t have to accept anyone else’s understanding of “God.” Instead, you are given the freedom to identify your own conception of who God or your higher power is for yourself.
Some people must put away their biases and foster the willingness to forge a connection with a “Power greater than ourselves.” That higher power can be a God, other creative entities or forces, a oneness with nature or the universe, and nearly endless other possibilities.
Getting Help for Alcoholism
Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship offering vital support to countless alcoholics over the past few decades. However, it’s crucial to note that studies have shown that lasting sobriety is best achieved using twelve-step programs as one part of a broader, much more extensive treatment approach.
Just Believe Detox and Just Believe Recovery offers group support in addition to other evidence-based services, such as psychotherapy, counseling, and aftercare planning. Our highly-skilled, caring staff are devoted to ensuring that each person we treat is given the tools and education they need to recover fully and enjoy long-lasting sobriety and wellness.