What is Step 3?

September 3, 2021

After we have acknowledged that we are not the ultimate power in the universe and, thankfully, there is a higher power that can help us, we may ask, “How do I now rely on this higher power to restore me to sanity?”

This question is answered by Step 3: “We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understand God”. 

Our will contains our thoughts, desires, and beliefs while our lives are defined by the behaviors we enact in accordance with our will. Pages 60-64 of the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous explain that prior to seeking guidance from a higher power, we attempt to control every aspect of our lives:

“Each person is like an actor who wants to run the whole show; is forever trying to arrange the lights, the ballet, the scenery and the rest of the players in his own way. If his arrangements would only stay put, if only people would do as he wished, the show would be great. Everybody, including himself, would be pleased. Life would be wonderful. In trying to make these arrangements our actor may sometimes be quite virtuous. He may be kind, considerate, patient, generous; even modest and self-sacrificing. On the other hand, he may be mean, egotistical, selfish and dishonest. But, as with most humans, he is more likely to have varied traits.” (BB, pg. 60-61)

We want to control how we live and how others live around us. This inevitably places us in conflict with nearly everyone and everything. The product of this is exhaustion, pain, and resentment. This kind of “self will run riot” (p. 62) then becomes incredibly destructive to those who are in need of recovery. Being convinced that selfishness will only lead to more destruction, we approach Step 3. 

Step 3 allows us to invite our higher power into our will and our lives with a simple gesture: making a decision. It is truly as simple a step as that. Making a decision in itself is not complicated, but if that decision means turning over our entire self to a higher power, it can feel like a huge decision to make. Luckily for the one in recovery, just how to turn your entire life over is offered in steps 4-12. 

How do we live Step 3?

Step 3 provides us with the framework for taking action to better our lives and live in recovery. Understanding that a life guided by self-will has lead us to dark and miserable places, we make a decision to act on our recovery every day. We analyze our motives behind every interaction, decision, and belief and decide what the right course of action is. One who is new in recovery may not know what the right decision is, and so they rely on their sponsor and peers in recovery. We follow in the footsteps of those before us and we learn to be in recovery by taking suggestions. Conveniently, the Big Book provides us with a suggestion on the right course of action to take: Complete the rest of the steps!