Treatment and the 12 steps – Step 3

This entry was posted in Articles on by .

Step Three

April 2012

As we discussed here the past few months (please read the 2012 articles prior to this one if you can, if not no worries), 12 step recovery based treatment programs are, according to research, the most successful type of treatment programs. We broke this down a bit. Now we will begin to explore treatment’s unique relationship with each of the 12 steps.

The 3rd step in a 12 step program deals specifically with turning one’s will and life over to the care of a God or a higher power of their understanding. With the acceptance and belief of a Higher Power of our own choosing in step 2, it then makes sense that we would be able to follow that step with one that could implement those new beliefs into actual life circumstances. Step 3 represents an addict’s or alcoholic’s beginning to really take action to live a new life. This is the part in the recovery process where you see people really begin to change. Liars start becoming honest, thieves start giving, and anger gives way to compassion and understanding. Treatment is a great catalyst for this change. A true advantage is gained in treatment when it comes to the 3rd step because of the difficulty in understanding how to live in God’s Will and what that really means. In other words, how does a newly sober addict or alcoholic decide whether or not something he or she wants to do is his/her will or if it’s God’s? It’s a tough question for anyone to answer, huh? Well, that is exactly why treatment is so important in this process. Learning to practice this recovery principle takes many months and having the advantage of being taught this information in a safe setting is invaluable to one’s spiritual growth and recovery process.

As is the case with many things in recovery and even in life, this topic is subject to as many definitions as there are people willing to define it. The exact specifics of what someone learns in treatment are up to that person’s treatment team, but in general they will come to understand the following way of
thinking:

God’s Will is loosely defined here as “doing the next right thing for the best of all concerned”. Sometimes all concerned is you, sometimes it is the 10 other people in the room as well as you. It all depends. We learn to look at will as another way of saying want. In other words, God’s Will = What God / Higher Power of your understanding wants – Self Will = what you want. Then we learn that life = outcomes. In saying we turn our will and our life over to the care of a Higher Power, what we are really saying is that we take what we want and the outcomes arriving from that and instead do what our Higher Power would have us do and enjoy the outcome of that. Here is a simple analogy. If an addict (now sober a few months) walks into a gas station and notices the attendant is in the restroom, chances are high the addict may think “hey, I could grab my chips and drink and run out of here without being caught”. Let me hop in with an important point here. I heard from a man much smarter than I that a human being’s first thought in any situation is what they want to do. I don’t know if that is true or not but it makes great sense to me. So, back to my analogy. If the newly sober addict grabs the chips and runs, chances are good he will be caught and face charges. Even if successful in his heist, he will most likely use again as a result of living in a dishonest way. He wanted to steal, he did steal, and now he is using or in jail. If he, instead, remembers the 3rd step and either A) thinks about what his family, or sponsor or others who support him would have him do (a great way to determine what God’s Will in any situation is) B) stops and really thinks his choices and potential consequences through (an important skill taught in treatment) or C) calls his sponsor or support system, the chances of him doing the right thing and feeling very good about himself raise ten-fold. This is just one example of everyday situations that addicts find themselves in that they must learn how to respond to. Using an addict’s own thinking can be catastrophic. Learning to trust and rely upon a Higher Power combined with an active desire to try and be the best person one can be is the root of the 3rd step and the root of what is done in treatment to teach such an important component. It is imperative that addicts and alcoholics learn that when we do what we want, the results aren’t usually very good. When we trust a loving and supportive Higher Power of our choosing, life goes very well and we are on the path to happiness.

See you next month!

**Please note that all matter stated here is that of an independent writer and does not represent The River Source trying to re-define the steps, this is simply a look at how treatment uses the 12 steps. In support of that purpose, only a synopsis of each step will be included every month. For a list of
the 12 steps and the accurate definitions please contact AA world services or obtain a copy of the book “Alcoholics Anonymous”.**