- What is Step 3 in AA? How Do You Complete This Step?
- What is Step 3 in A.A.?
- What is the Purpose of Step 3 in A.A.?
- What are the Spiritual Principles of Step 3 in A.A.?
- How Do You Complete This Step?
- Questions About Getting Sober?
- Treatment Options for Alcohol Abuse & Addiction
- What's Next?
- Understanding Step 3 in AA (Making a Decision)
- What Does the Third Step of AA Mean?
- How Does Step 3 Work?
- The Spiritual Principles of Step 3
- The Third Step Prayer
- Questions to Ask During Step 3 of AA
- Step 3 of AA — Alcoholism Recovery in Belief
- What Is Step 3 of AA?
- Practicing Step 3 of AA
- Myth 1: You Must Believe in “God”
- Myth 2: You Lose Your Independence
- After AA Step 3: What’s Next?
- Finding a Meeting and Starting the 12 Steps of AA
What is Step 3 in AA? How Do You Complete This Step?
Alcoholics Anonymous, founded by Bill W., is a treatment option centered around 12 steps. The 12 steps act as rules and guidelines to overcoming alcoholism.
The goals, steps, and structure of Alcoholics Anonymous come from “The Big Book.” Written by Bill W., the big book is the equivalent of the bible to those in alcohol addiction recovery. Alcoholics Anonymous groups are centered around spirituality, self-reflection, and change.
What is Step 3 in A.A.?
The 3rd step of A.A. is “Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.”
The 3rd step of A.A. dictates a willingness to turn one’s life around and place it in the care of a higher being. All steps of A.A. focus on the personalized change needed to overcome addiction. Step 3 is the culmination of steps 1 and 2, which touch on admitting alcohol addiction and the belief in a higher power.
What is the Purpose of Step 3 in A.A.?
A.A. recognizes that once one becomes an alcoholic, they are helpless to the pull of alcohol. The purpose of step three is to succumb to a higher power. To be clear, A.A. doesn’t require a stout religious view or upbringing.
A.A. only requires that a participant genuinely seeks help and accepts that they cannot defeat alcohol addiction alone. The first three steps of A.A. require the participant to admit they are powerless over alcohol and that they need a greater power to help them recover.
What are the Spiritual Principles of Step 3 in A.A.?
Each of the steps of Alcoholics Anonymous has spiritual principles to go with them. The spiritual principles serve to provide direct actions to achieve the steps. The primary principle for step 3 is faith.
During this step, a participant is meant to give up their old ways and surrender control of their own lives. In doing so, they may avoid certain triggers for alcoholism.
They must also have faith that the system works and that the higher power will help them overcome their addiction.
The third step prayer, different from the serenity prayer, can be summed up as giving oneself unto a higher power. Lastly, the term higher power often refers to God’s will.
However, it doesn’t have to. A higher power or higher purpose can vary between individuals.
For example, some may consider their children, partner, or even their work to stabilize the force they need to overcome addiction.
How Do You Complete This Step?
It’s important to remember that A.A. is a form of addiction treatment. A.A. provides tools to use throughout a lifetime. This means that the steps of A.A. are not simply to be completed but also guidelines to live by.
Completing step 3 does not mean that individuals never again need to give themselves over to a higher power but must consciously and repeatedly admit to themselves their powerlessness over alcohol.
any step in A.A., this step can only truly be completed if accepted and believed by the individual. Many people may only declare their want to quit alcohol as a placebo to their friends and family. This mentality will experience diminished results within the A.A. program. Simply put, one must internally want to quit drinking for A.A. to be effective.
Questions About Getting Sober?
If you or a loved one have alcohol substance use issues, then the A.A. a twelve step program can help. The recovery process is life-long, but with the proper help, you can overcome addiction.
Treatment centers and Alcoholics Anonymous groups all over the United States are ready and equipped to help. The first step in A.A. and any recovery process is admitting there’s an issue.
If you need alcohol to function, if alcohol consumes your thoughts, and if your life is falling apart because of alcohol, then it’s time to seek help.
Reach out to local groups and treatment facilities for more information.
Treatment Options for Alcohol Abuse & Addiction
Here are some of the best treatments for AUD:
Inpatient treatment is the most intensive and effective option for alcohol addiction treatment. This treatment is the most intensive and effective option for alcohol addiction treatment.
These programs usually last 30, 60, or 90 days. However, they may be longer in some instances. Throughout an inpatient program, you'll live on-site in a safe, substance-free environment.
You'll go through medically supervised detoxification first, then behavioral therapy and other services will be added to your regimen. Many of these treatment programs will assist you with an aftercare program afterward.
Partial Hospitalization Programs (PHPs)
PHPs are the second most intensive alcohol addiction programs. They are sometimes referred to as intensive outpatient programs (IOPs). Partial hospitalization programs provide comparable services to inpatient programs.
These may include detoxification, medical services, behavioral therapy, support groups, and other holistic or custom treatments. The main difference between PHPs and inpatient programs is that you return home and sleep at your house during a partial hospitalization program.
Some PHPs provide food and transportation. However, this varies by program. PHPs are ideal for new patients, as well as patients who have completed an inpatient program and still require intensive treatment.
Outpatient programs are less intensive than inpatient programs and PHPs. They are best for people who are highly motivated to achieve sobriety and have responsibilities at work, home, or school.
Outpatient treatment programs customize your treatment sessions around your schedule.
Outpatient programs can help new patients achieve success. They may also be a part of aftercare programs once a patient completes an inpatient program or PHP.
Medication-Assisted Therapy (MAT)
Certain patients qualify for medication-assisted therapy. Some medications can assist you throughout detoxification and withdrawal. Others can reduce cravings and normalize your bodily functions.
Disulfiram (Antabuse), acamprosate (Campral), and naltrexone (Revia and Vivitrol) are the most common medications used to treat AUD.
MAT can help prevent relapse and increase your chance of recovery if combined with other therapies.
Support groups are peer-led organizations made of people dedicated to helping each other stay sober. They can be the first step towards sobriety or a component of an aftercare plan.
Many of these programs follow the 12-step approach.
Understanding Step 3 in AA (Making a Decision)
“Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over the care of God as we understood Him.”
The third step of the 12-steps of Alcoholics Anonymous is to make a decision about the higher power you acknowledged in step 2. In this step, you turn your will over to your higher power. This step comes after learning and accepting that your life is unmanageable and that you have no control over restoring sanity. Only a higher power can restore you to sanity.
In this step, you open yourself up to faith, hope, and trust, and feel serenity. It’s about getting your way and allowing your higher power to begin working in your life.
What Does the Third Step of AA Mean?
The third step is about making a decision. It requires you to look at how staying committed to self-will means focusing on only your wants and not considering others.
It helps you understand how acting on your impulses leaves a path of destruction behind you.
This step also allows you to see how the way you were living caused you to lose touch with your higher power and helps you understand how to regain that connection.
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How Does Step 3 Work?
In step 3 of AA’s 12-step program, you focus your attention on learning about your higher power’s will for you. You turn your life over to your higher power and turn away from your own will. The decision is made and it’s followed by action.
One of the most powerful tools AA participants use in this step is the Serenity Prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr. The Serenity Prayer states,
“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
This prayer helps AA participants accept the serenity that comes with understanding you cannot control other people, but you can control your reaction to a situation. There might also be things in your own life that you can change, but you can decide to surrender and trust a higher power to help you with the things you cannot change or control.
The Spiritual Principles of Step 3
The first three steps of AA’s twelve step program focus on one’s higher power.
Unfortunately, some people are put off by the spiritual aspects of AA. Even the mention of the word “God” in AA literature makes some uncomfortable.
However, the organization does what it can to help people understand that “higher power” doesn’t need to mean a specific god. Participants in AA are not required to accept anyone else’s definition or concept of God. They are free to create their idea of a higher power.
It should also be noted that a large swathe of AA participants considered themselves agnostic or atheistic before beginning the twelve steps.
Once they began the program, they chose to put aside their previous beliefs and accept a power greater than themselves. Some call that higher power God. Others call it “the universe,” others call it “a force,” and still others call it simply “higher power.”
An important part of working through step 3 is discovering the positive aspects of being open-minded about a higher power. Not only must someone with a substance use issue admit they might have been wrong and that there is a higher power, but they must also accept that not everyone’s definition of a higher power must match their own.
Part of addiction recovery is accepting that spirituality is expansive and all-inclusive, and a necessary part of living a sober life.
Some people are reluctant to participate in AA because of the spiritual element. It’s important to remember that the program is an important part of addiction treatment and long-term sobriety. It doesn't matter if someone has no existing spiritual practice. Even people who do not consider themselves religious benefit from AA.
The important part is acknowledging God’s will or the will of a higher power in your life and your powerlessness over an alcohol addiction.
You don’t have to overcome your addiction alone. Professional guidance and support is available. Begin a life of recovery by reaching out to a specialist today.
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The Third Step Prayer
In addition to the Serenity Prayer, step 3 includes a prayer of its own. The Third Step Prayer is as follows:
Questions to Ask During Step 3 of AA
There are several questions that you can ask yourself and answer that will help you work through step 3, including:
- How has acting on your self-will affected your life and the lives of those around you?
- How can I take the action of turning my will over to a higher power?
- What is the difference between my will and my higher power’s will?
- How is my higher power working in my life?
- Is my concept of a higher power working for me or do I need to rethink it?
- What changes might occur in my life if and when I decide to turn over my will to my higher power?
- Is there anything in my recovery I’m unwilling to do and if so, why?
- How does step one help or relate to the decision I’m to make in this step?
Step 3 of AA — Alcoholism Recovery in Belief
As hard as it is to admit a problem, accepting assistance can be even more difficult. Our egos get in the way, and we’re embarrassed that we can’t handle everything on our own.
Step 3 of Alcoholics Anonymous removes the stigma of surrendering control over your life within addiction.
Instead, you invite a higher power to guide you to a healthier place, with people who are meant to support you along the way.
What Is Step 3 of AA?
The third step of AA’s 12-step journey introduces the process of surrendering control over your addiction to a power greater than yourself. Step Three is written as follows:
“Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood him.”
the two previous steps, AA’s Step 3 is meant to help alcoholics realize they don’t have control over their drinking.
What makes Step 3 unique, though, is it requires a decisive commitment, rather than just acceptance.
Step 1 asks you to admit your powerlessness over alcohol, and Step 2 introduces a belief in a higher power that can help you. Both of these steps are reflective; they ask you to observe and accept them to be true.
Step 3 is the first one that asks you to actively decide to trust that higher power and let go of things beyond your control, including your addiction. AA calls this step “the key of willingness,” which then opens the door to recovery.
It helps you begin the process of de-centering your ego, which repeatedly tells you that you can—and must—maintain your independence at all costs.
Instead, your decision to surrender means that you’re ready and willing to accept outside guidance and help.
Practicing Step 3 of AA
What does Step 3 look in practice? The answer is very personal to you and your recovery. Remember, Step 3 requires you to make a decision—to acknowledge that you’re choosing to surrender rather than maintain control.
There are a few tips for how you might manifest your decision to “let go and let God.”
- Choose your “higher power.” As you’ll learn more about below, “God” does necessarily mean a religious deity. Instead, think of it as your own conception of a higher power that you can trust and lean upon. Part of practicing Step 3 is acknowledging who, or what, your higher power is, so you can begin turning your will and your life over to that entity.
- Turn to the Serenity Prayer. In fact, this prayer has become a staple of most Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. Reciting the Serenity Prayer is a way to actively embrace your higher power and hand over control of things you both can and cannot change.
- Observe and decide what is—and is not—within your control. By allowing a higher power to take over and guide you to wisdom, you can let go of the need to steer every single thing in your life all on your own. Instead, begin approaching each situation with the question, “Can I do anything about this right now—and if so, would that action be healthy or harmful for me?” Consider even creating a list of the most significant stressors in your life and place them into buckets so you can observe all of the things you’re able to let go to your higher power.
The initial decision made in Step 3 happens in an instant, yet it’s a decision you’ll continue to make each and every day throughout your life of sobriety. So, in a sense, Step 3 takes just a moment to complete but also takes a lifetime to practice. That’s why it’s important to find ways to express Step 3 that are sustainable and resonate with you throughout your journey.
Myth 1: You Must Believe in “God”
Perhaps the biggest misconception of Step 3 is that you must believe in a Christian God to practice it. Step 3 does refer to “God,” but that doesn’t mean all members must be of a particular faith or religion to complete the step or even to join Alcoholics Anonymous.
While AA is a spiritually based organization, any person can practice the 12 Steps, whether they have a deep-seated religious faith or none at all. In fact, Step 2 uses the word “Power” instead of “God,” and Step 3 goes on to say, “. . .it is only by action that we can cut away the self-will which has always blocked the entry of God—or if you , a Higher Power—into our lives.”
The phrase “as we understood him” in Step 3 is key—each person may understand the concept of God to be whatever they need it to be.
Your higher power might be an overall sense of spirituality, or your family, or a set of close friends you love and trust.
You can even choose your fellow AA group members as the power greater than yourself—any collective entity to which you are willing to turn for accountability and support.
Myth 2: You Lose Your Independence
Another myth of Step 3 is that it strips you of all autonomy. But the truth is quite the opposite. You don’t have to change all of your behaviors to be completely passive immediately.
Consider that by joining Alcoholics Anonymous, you have already put trust in a collective group to support you and see you through your recovery—a decision that you continue to exercise each time you attend a meeting.
If you have an AA sponsor, you’ve already turned to another for guidance rather than continuing to make all of the decisions for and by yourself.
Step 3 asks you to turn your life over to “the care of” a higher power. When someone or something cares for you, they don’t automatically dictate your entire life for you.
Surrendering to another’s care allows you to trust that loving hands guide you toward a sober life. In fact, this decision is maybe the most independent expression of free will you’ve made throughout your struggle with alcohol.
Instead of the addiction making your decisions for you, you are choosing this path for yourself.
After AA Step 3: What’s Next?
Completing Step 3 of AA is critical to moving on to the rest of your 12-step journey. In fact, Alcoholics Anonymous says that the “effectiveness of the whole AA program will rest upon how well and earnestly” you embrace and work through this third step.
This is because deciding to relinquish control over to a higher power is just that—a decision.
Up next is the actual work to turn that decision into a plan of action, which then gets you the spiral of alcohol addiction.
After all, you can decide to buy a new car, but that doesn’t mean your shiny new wheels magically appear in your driveway. You have to take actions that make your decision a reality.
Step 3 of AA eases you into the emotional work you will have to do throughout the rest of the 12-step process.
It prepares you to accept whatever comes next because it’s now in the hands of your higher power.
Whatever past you must reflect on, whatever future amends you must make, you have given them over to fate, God, or whichever power you acknowledge so that you can focus on taking the next right action.
Steps 4 through 12 provide a roadmap to doing just that. Step 4 requires you to make “a searching and fearless moral inventory” of yourself, a process that can be quite painful as you strip away layers of your addiction to reveal your own deeper truths. But with the support of your higher power, to whom you’ve turned over your will and your life, you’ll be one step closer to recovery.
Finding a Meeting and Starting the 12 Steps of AA
If you’re ready to overcome your addiction for good, there’s an Alcoholics Anonymous chapter waiting to support and guide you to sobriety. You don’t have to pay any fees or meet any qualifications to join—all you have to do is show up. You find a local meeting using the AA directory.
If you need more focused treatment, call 800-839-1686Who Answers? to speak with a specialist and explore your options. They can provide thorough treatment information and help connect you with rehab, detox centers, and more.