Step 3: Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
On paper, taking Step 3 seems quite esoteric. How, exactly, do we turn our will and lives over? It’s simple. If you believe that the path to recovery is in the Steps, turning our will and lives over to this Higher Power means to follow the instructions for Steps 4-12. So the decision we make in Step 3 is essentially a contract to work the remaining steps.
Crossing the Bridge
I wrote earlier that Step 2 is the bridge between Steps 1 and 3. If you read the Big Book, pages 60-64, you can see that the discussion of Step 3 begins by explaining what taking Step 2 means in a practical manner and why taking this step is essential before we can continue on our path to recovery.
Frankly, it boils down to our self-centeredness and belief that we can control everything and everyone around us. By taking Step 2, we acknowledge that our way hasn’t work. The shift from playing “God” to allowing ourselves to be directed is the essence of Step 3. The section ends with a prayer as one means to take this Step:
God, I offer myself to Thee-to build with me and to do with me as Thou wilt. Relieve me of the bondage of self, that I may better do Thy will. Take away my difficulties, that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help of Thy Power, Thy Love, and Thy Way of life. May I do Thy will always!
This prayer is an affirmation of our commitment and our contract. It’s like the pep talk given by the coach before the big game, and, as in sports, these pep talks are an essential component of gearing up our minds to be in the proper state to go out and play with all our heart and soul.
So too, through taking the 3rd step, we are able to overcome our fears and doubts to move into the actions of making the life changes that will remove our compulsion and obsession to debt and spending … one day at a time. Just as in sports, pep talks must be given before each game, so, too, you can return to this step whenever you need help moving forward to the next phase of your spiritual growth and work in the steps.
Lights, Camera, Action
So, first we illuminate, then we examine, and finally, we are lead directly into action, as described on page 63 of the Big Book:
Next we launched out on a course of vigorous action, the first step of which is a personal housecleaning, which many of us had never attempted. Though our decision was a vital and crucial step, it could have little permanent effect unless at once followed by a strenuous effort to face, and to be rid of, the things in ourselves which had been blocking us. Our liquor was but a symptom. So we had to get down to causes and conditions.
This “vigorous course of action” continues through the rest of the steps. We come back to the first three steps at times of doubt to remind us of why were are in this program in the first place.
For me, doubt and argument are simply ways the disease of addiction keeps me from recovery. When I argue, it’s just a stalling tactic that keeps me from having to do something I don’t want to do, just like my compulsive debting and spending were.
The bottom line is … it’s ok to doubt … as long as you don’t let it keep you from moving into Step 4 and the rest of the steps. Many DA members have a terror of doing Step 4, and some even leave the program because of the bogeyman they have made it into in their minds. A lot of people stall and stall, taking months, if not years to complete this step.
But as you will see as we get into discussion of the 4th Step, it doesn’t have to be a big deal at all and can be completed in days or weeks by simply following the directions on pages 64-71 of the Big Book! Yet, its repercussions are profound in the healing it can provide.
Step 3 is the diving board from which you jump into the cold water of Step 4. Yet, walking out to the end of the board and jumping off are essential if you are to find the recovery offered by DA. As Joe and Charlie say in their Big Book Study, “…far back as I can remember four has always followed immediately after three. Now knowing that and knowing we might get drunk if we don’t get along with step 4, why would we still tend to procrastinate?”