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In step three of AA you are making a decision: it’s that simple. You make decisions all day everyday, right? Making a decision to turn your will over to God or a “Higher Power” can be just like putting on a new pair of glasses and seeing everything more clearly.
What if we were to surrender the manageability part? We can surrender a lifetime of self-will run amok by making the decision to turn it all over to a Higher Power and allow someone and something to care for us. We can stop wearing ourselves out trying to make and force everything to happen as if we were in charge of everything in the world.
Recovery is a spiritual process and step three is when the doors of hope, faith and trust are opened allowing us to once again take a deep breath and feel the serenity: a gift of sobriety. The essence of step three is turning over your will, getting out of the way, and being restored to reality, honesty, balance and peace of mind.
When working on step three we take a look at how acting on self-will means behaving with the exclusion of any consideration for others, focusing only on what we want and ignoring the needs and feelings of others. While we were busy pursuing these impulses, we mostly left a path of destruction behind us, and we definitely lost touch with our conscience and a Higher Power.
However, while working the third step we begin to focus our attention on seeking knowledge of a Higher Power’s will for us. Making a decision to turn our lives and will over can’t do anything unless we take the actions necessary to turn it over. Simply making a decision without following it up with action is meaningless. For example, you can make a decision to go to a meeting, but if you don’t leave your home for the rest of the day, it won’t happen, will it?
In AA there are many helpful recovery tools that have worked many times over at maintaining sobriety and a connection with a Higher Power. There’s actually a very effective and simple prayer adapted from a prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr and known as the “Serenity Prayer,” which can help you as you are seeking knowledge and make your decision to turn it over on a daily basis:
“God, grant me serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”
With the “Serenity Prayer” you can learn to accept with serenity the current reality of your condition and that although you cannot control the choices and actions of others, you can decide how you will act in each situation. You may not be able to change some things in your life, but you can make a decision to change your willingness to surrender, trust and seek knowledge.
For some people a three-letter word can be even worse than a four-letter word.
Time and time again, the word “God” being used in AA literature and meetings will freak out newcomers. Upon closer inspection however, and much to all of our relief, you don’t have to consider anyone else’s conception of “God” but instead can rely on and create your own idea of who God is for yourself.
In fact, about half the original members of AA considered themselves atheists or agnostics before they began the Twelve Step program of AA. In AA we have the freedom to choose our own concept, lay aside any prejudice and have the willingness to seek a “Power greater than ourselves.” You can call that Higher Power God, Creative Force, a Oneness in the Universe, whatever you want.
There’s even an acronym that some like to use to remind themselves that a room full of other recovering addicts is their Higher Power:
When practicing the third step we discover the spaciousness for a variety of positive and useful beliefs about a Higher Power. We make a decision to admit the possible existence of an underlying force behind the totality of things, and that the realm of the spirit is pretty darn big, roomy and all-inclusive.
As part of your recovery process it’s helpful to take the time to ask and then answer important questions pertaining to step three. Here is a starting point for some review questions:
Taking the positive action of working the steps has clearly changed the course of our lives. Hope springs from the knowledge that our life is full of possibilities, while faith propels us forward into action doing the work that others are telling us is necessary if we are to achieve sobriety. This is a great point in your recovery to say to yourself: “I can’t. God can. So I’ll let God.”
(From the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous)
“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!”
Let it go!