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Step 3 of AA is something I’ve seen hundreds of people struggle with. It’s so hard that many people just can’t get past it at all.
But step 3 doesn’t have to be so bad. There are a few ways of looking at it.
And to tell you the truth, you don’t have to believe in “God” at all to get past this, just like you don’t have to believe in a god or a religion to get through step 2 in AA.
But first, I want to talk a little about the God problem.
It Doesn’t Have to Be God
Here’s the wording of the steps:
“Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood him.”
From the outset, a lot of people are going to see that and say “Nope—not for me.”
Because they don’t believe in “God” with a capital G.
And you know what?
I totally understand that.
I struggled a lot with the idea of “god” when I came into the program. I had a powerful, strange experience when I was 24 where I felt the presence of something while I was detoxing from opiates on Suboxone.
I didn’t know what that thing was that I felt. I thought maybe it meant I was crazy. Maybe I was and still am, who knows, but in that moment, I came to believe that there is something out there.
But to call it God? I didn’t know about all that.
I’ve been sober for 9 years and I still don’t call my higher power God unless I’m trying to simplify things for someone. It’s easier to use that word because most people have an immediate idea in their heads of what a god is.
My conception looks more like an actual power than anything else, like electricity or the sun.
It’s powerful enough to keep me sober, but that’s it. It’s not God the way most people mean it. It’s not a god at all.
But it works, and that’s all that matters.
So while this was my understanding of a power greater than myself when I got sober, I still struggled with the idea of how to turn my will and my life over to something I barely understood (and honestly, didn’t understand at all).
Fortunately, my sponsor made it easy for me.
Step 3 of AA Made Easy | A Commitment to the 12 Steps
My sponsor asked me if I could just throw out the idea of turning over my will and my life and if I could instead agree to work the steps to the best of my abilities, one day at a time.
I said yes.
Basically, my step 3 was to commit myself to the 12-step program of Alcoholics Anonymous, and that was it.
The 12 steps were my higher power in the beginning. Even though I believed in something else, in terms of the actions I took, I made the AA program itself my higher power.
And you know what?
I stayed sober for 30 days when I couldn’t make it a single day without using or drinking.
In fact, for 8 years, I used and drank every single day.
30 days was a miracle, and it happened when I said that I would devote myself to the 12 steps and work them to the best of my ability.
30 turned into 60 turned into 90 turned into 6 months turned into a year turned into 9 years.
It took a lot of work and the discipline of going to meetings every week (which I still do) and working the steps (which I still do) and sponsoring guys (which I still do).
I can’t give up on it.
That’s how I demonstrate that I’ve turned everything over. That’s how I turn step 3 of AA into reality—by never giving up on the 12 steps.
The Step 3 Prayer of AA
“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 might better do thy will. Take away my difficulties, that victory over them will bear witness to those I will help of thy power, thy love, and thy way of life. May I do thy will always.”
That’s a prayer I still pray, even though I don’t believe in the classic version of God as religions would have it.
The closest that any “religion” comes to my understanding of a higher power is probably Taoism.
Basically, Taoism says that there’s a power in the universe and that this power is unknowable.
That makes sense to me.
I’ve never heard voices.
I’ve seen things that seem like signs and felt things that feel like a presence, but it’s never been for sure, never something I can pin down and say, “Yes, here is god.”
But it doesn’t really matter.
I’ve turned everything over to this power by working the 12 steps.
That’s all you have to do.
If you’re struggling with step 3 in AA, I promise you that you’re not alone.
Try to focus on the action that you need to take. Step 4 is action. Move past this step, work on step 4, and see if your life changes.