Step Success: Why Taking Step Three Is So Difficult And How To Get Through It

“Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.”

Why Step Three Is So Difficult:

The challenge of this step lies in the fact that we are self-sufficient, self-will-driven people and we can’t imagine being any other way. Now, in the face of our addiction and our shattered lives, we are being told to “lay it down” or “turn it over.” But we aren’t really told what that means. Even for those who sincerely want to practice the steps to the best of their ability, this step presents a conundrum. It seems hard to measure.

We are afraid to take this step because we fear the loss of independence. We are independent people and we have prided ourselves on it. So how exactly do we begin the process of Step Three? How do we remove self and will from the equation? What will we be if we are not running the show? We like being self-sufficient, but this kind of ‘sufficiency’ has its cost.

“We are certain that our intelligence, backed by willpower, can rightly control our inner lives and guarantee us success in the world we live in. This brave philosophy, wherein each man plays God, sounds good in the speaking, but it still has to meet the acid test: how well does it actually work? One good look in the mirror ought to be answer enough for any alcoholic.” (A.A. Twelve and Twelve, 37)

The other issue is that haven’t ever had a real relationship with God and we don’t know where to start. Even for those who claimed to be believers, this is a new endeavor. If you’ve come to the point that you can legitimately label yourself an alcoholic, then you have little experience in surrendering your will and life to God. You’ve been handing it over to alcohol.

How To Get Through It:

Admit where you are and how you got there. Once you are able to see that it is your ‘independence’ and ‘self-sufficiency’ that have landed you in rehab, or in a church basement with a big group of recovering drunks, you are forced to admit you don’t always know what is best for you. And even if you know it, you aren’t able to act on it.

Develop the quality of willingness. Though not easy and we may kick and scream a bit, becoming willing is always within our own power. You say you don’t feel willing? You don’t need to feel it at all. There is a little recovery trick called ‘acting as if.’ Don’t worry about what you feel. Focus on acting as if you are indeed willing and open and ready to try. Great things can be accomplished with this simple change of mindset. Within a surprisingly short period of time you may find you have become genuinely willing to do whatever is before you.

“…A beginning, even the smallest, is all that is needed. Once we have placed the key of willingness in the lock and have the door ever so slightly open, we find that we can always open it some more. Though self-will may slam it shut again, as it frequently does, it will always respond the moment we again pick up the key of willingness.” (A.A. Twelve and Twelve, 35)

Remember, this step is just a decision. Many in recovery are perplexed by this idea of “turning over” one’s will and life. What does it look like and how do we do it? The answer is in the language of Step Three: made a decision. You are not doing anything. You are deciding.

We’re less independent than we think. We actually rely on many things-perhaps the support of family, the opinions of others, and surely we relied on alcohol. Though dependency often gets a bad rap, the problem is that we have been depending upon the wrong things. There is nothing wrong with dependence. The key is to depend on that which is actually worthy and capable of handling your dependence. That one is God.

Lastly, admit there is no other option. If you have found something better than A.A., better than a spiritual approach, then you are invited to give it a try. But if you have come to the end of yourself and the end of your own solutions, then it is time to realize that your own self-sufficiency has failed you. It is time to become willing to depend upon a group and upon God.