Step three in Alcoholics Anonymous is, “Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over the care of God as we understood Him.” Usually, our sponsors ask us to recite the third-step prayer during this step.
Let’s discuss the third-step prayer, which is:
“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!”
Many newcomers in recovery have lost faith in God, have never had faith in God, or don’t feel comfortable praying. Please know that whatever your feelings are about God, you can still say this prayer. If it helps, replace the word God with AA or NA and believe that the twelve-step group you belong to, the recovery residence you are in, and your sponsor, want the third-step prayer to come true for you.
Whatever you do, don’t let your past feelings about prayer dictate your future in recovery. Just say the prayer and then really think about what it means to “offer yourself” to a power that you trust to build you into the best version of yourself. Now is when we look at our sponsors, who have jobs, joy, and healthy lives, and trust that we too can have those things if only we do what they did to heal.
The beauty of prayer in Alcoholics Anonymous is that NOBODY dictates how you pray. I’ve said this prayer on the floor of my apartment crying out to God, I’ve said it standing up happily sober and hoping for life’s miracles to continue, I’ve said it without even believing it would come true, and I’ve said it knowing it would lead me to grace. The point is, wherever we are in our recovery journey, this prayer is one that we can come back to over and over. You’ll find that it takes on a new meaning every time you say it.
The first time most of us read Step Three of Alcoholics Anonymous and get to the part about turning our lives over to a power greater than ourselves, we immediately balk. Let’s think about why we find the idea of turning our will over so frightening. It is in the deconstructing of that fear that relief lies.
Let’s be honest. Most addicts seeking recovery, arrive broken. Many of us are hopeless and desperate and guarded because we haven’t had reason to trust anyone or anything for a very long time. During our addiction, we have relied on ourselves to keep our addictions going. We are often under the illusion that we’ve managed our own lives just fine on our own. Some of us have been hurt and have lost trust in the world and retreated into ourselves for safety. Those coping skills are not compatible with life, though, because they block us from the love we deserve.
So, AA does say you have to turn your will over. It feels terrifying at first because we aren’t used to trusting the right people. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t people worth trusting, though. It doesn’t mean that God isn’t worth trusting. It just means that the way we were living was killing us and it’s time for us to trust someone else to care for us until we learn to love ourselves enough to stop hurting ourselves through addiction.
For too long, we’ve stopped dreaming about the amazing people we could become if given a chance. We’ve stopped letting people IN and blocked ourselves from meaningful relationships based on love, community, and mutual trust. It’s time to start dreaming again. What’s more, turning our will over to God, a recovery residence, and a sponsor, opens the door (even if it’s just a crack) for those dreams to grow.
Addicts and alcoholics are driven by self-will. People with twenty years of sobriety will tell you that they still take their will back, stop trusting the process, and face pain before finally surrendering AGAIN and ending up reciting the third-step prayer for the zillionth time.
Recovery is a constant process. We obsess over things, and we try to manage or manipulate outcomes over and over only to find that we’d have been better off trusting God to handle our problems. The truth is we waste endless hours worrying over situations that we would be best suited to let go of and trust God (or the process) to handle for us.
Imagine what a relief it would be to stop trying to manage EVERYTHING. What would that free you up to do? Imagine the feeling of letting go and trusting that you will not be dropped. That’s what Step Three is – jumping into the unknown with the belief that you will be taken care of.
Here are a few things I’ve done over the years to give my self-will to God.
So, go to the beach, write what you want to release into the sand and wash as the ocean washes it away. Look at the beauty and vastness of the sea and remember you are worth the freedom you are asking for.
The truth is that letting go opens the door to relief. Every addict will tell you that there are things they have refused to let go of until pain finally crushed them into submission.
The longer you stay sober and the longer you turn your life and your will over to the care of God or the group, the less appealing it becomes to be dragged.
Whatever you are holding onto, don’t hold onto it alone. Let it go. You deserve all the peace that comes from knowing that you don’t have to control the universe and that you can be free of addiction.