Step of the Month: Step 3

3. Made a decision to turn our will and lives over to the care of God as we understood him.

For those of us with religious education that included phrases such as “sinners in the hands of an angry god” or “fear is the heart of love,” we may not be thrilled by the prospect of Step 3. However, if we’ve done Step 2 well, the third Step will feel like precisely the next right thing to do.

In Step 2, we chose to define God in a way that is helpful to our recovery. This is the Higher Power that we want in our lives. This is the Higher Power we’re excited about. So it’s sensible to tell the God of our understanding that we’re all-in, that we want to do whatever God wants us to do. If we aren’t willing to do this, then we need to look again at our concept of a Higher Power. Does our concept actually work for us? Is it a concept that we’re willing to work with? Are we hanging on to old ideas about a Higher Power that keep us from recovering?

It may be that we are diffident about giving our selves away. We fear that this surrendering to God will result in the neutering of our personalities. We imagine ourselves turning into spiritual robots, smiling automatons spewing programspeak and ignoring what’s really going on outside our limited point of view.

Don’t worry, that’s just the usual…our disease trying to kill us.

All we need do is look around at those who have experienced recovery. Does Mrs. so-and-so on Wednesday night act like a Stepford Wife? Is that fellow on Sunday morning devoid of personality? Do we know anyone who has completed the 12 Steps who hasn’t faced hardship since then? Of course not. What we might see are people with more perspective on their problems. They don’t need to drunkalog about their issues because the Steps help them feel, heal, and deal appropriately. They don’t have to talk about what hard going life is because they have a solution. They express gratitude not because it’s expected but because they aren’t dead nor are they physically or emotionally incapacitated by food addiction. They are like the cancer survivor who is thankful for every healthy day.

Beside which, do we really want to keep on being the miserable person we are? The one we really don’t like that much? We may be all we’ve got, but in that case we are as impoverished as a starving third-world refugee. But our disease is once again pulling its usual levers: fear, pride, and control. These forces are quite strong. One OA member recollects that while taking Step 3 they felt a physical sensation as if someone inside them had grabbed their ribs and was yanking down to prevent the reciting of the Third Step Prayer.

In the Big Book’s chapter titled “More About Alcoholism,” Fred says that after taking Step 3, “I had the curious feeling that my alcoholic condition was relieved, as in fact it proved to be.” Of course, he did the other nine Steps as well, but this points out that Step 3 is a turning point where some members receive a jolt of God-presence. Others find themselves being decisive where in other aspects of their life the were frustratingly irresolute. The reality is that in Step 3, we are making an agreement with God that goes like this: We’ll do the rest of the Steps and agree to help others do them, too, in exchange for our Higher Powers removing our compulsion for food and helping us turn our lives around. The experience of those who live in recovery today confirms that our HPs keep their word.