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The Third Step of Alcoholics Anonymous and Its Significance For Recovery

Updated on May 29, 2014
A happy, contented, alcoholic.
A happy, contented, alcoholic. | Source
Happier days with my dad before I discovered alcohol.
Happier days with my dad before I discovered alcohol. | Source
I did not start out hoping to be an alcoholic
I did not start out hoping to be an alcoholic | Source

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"As we celebrate Recovery Month, it is time for Congress to knock down the barriers to treatment and recovery for 26 million Americans suffering the ravages of alcohol and drug addiction."
Jim Ramstad

Perhaps one of the best descriptions of alcoholic behavior that I have ever heard is “self-will run riot.” Those four words(or is it three?) perfectly describe the hourly/daily/monthly/yearly obsession with alcohol and the actions of the alcoholic. It is a self-centered existence that begins with the premise that you, the alcoholic, are the center of the universe and the only thing that is important is that you get what you want when you want it. To those of you who are just starting your road to recovery, or are considering a road to recovery, those words may sound harsh and cruel; to you I would say, “too bad!”

If you fall into that category, and if you are being totally honest, you will have to admit this to be true. I knew long before I ever went to AA that I had a drinking problem, but the idea of admitting that I was alcoholic and actually changing my behavior was just too much for me to face, and so I continued on with destructive behavior until I had run out of excuses and run out of options. In AA that moment is called hitting bottom, and the last paragraph of the “Twelve by Twelve” describes it, and I’m paraphrasing, as the moment that we find the willingness to listen as only the dying can have.

True recovery will not happen until Step Three of the Twelve Steps is embraced, for Step Three is the building block, the foundation, upon which the rest of the program is built. Step Three asks the alcoholic to do the following: Make a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as they understood Him.

In other words, we are asked to admit that we are not the center of the universe and that there is truly a power greater than us, and in that admittance we are taking the first small step towards diminishing our ego and our self-will. Make no mistake about this: this is a huge step, a biggie if you will; in taking this step, in committing to this step, we are saying that we are willing to do whatever is necessary to get our lives back on track, even if that means the previously inconceivable, that we will do the rest of the steps as outlined in the AA Program. This is life-changing if we really commit to it, but it is also the easiest of the steps to do lip-service to. Think about it for a second! If we really commit to the 3rd Step it means that we will quit trying to control everything around us, that we will quit our obsession that is self-driven, that we will finally start to think about others and their needs rather than just our needs. I know this is the easiest to do lip-service to because I have done it half-heartedly myself, and the first time something happened that I did not agree with I instantly switched back into my old self and tried to manipulate things to satisfy my needs.

Remember that alcohol is just a symptom of the bigger problem, and that true recovery only happens when we change who we are. Take away the alcohol and we are still left with us and if you are truly being honest you will have to admit that is no solution at all. I have heard AA called a cult, that it is a brainwashing technique, and I say to you that I am fine with that. When I first came to AA I was in need of serious brainwashing, that my brain needed a serious power-washing.

By taking the 3rd Step and by committing to it we are then giving ourselves a firm foundation so that the necessary changes can be made and THAT is the road to freedom from addiction.

I will never tell an alcoholic that this program is easy. To completely alter who we are requires willingness and hard work. Recovery must become the most important thing in your life. Think about that statement for a moment. Recovery must become the most important thing in your life. It must be more important than your job; it must be more important than your friends; it must be more important than your possessions; it must be more important than your family. I can hear the uninitiated screaming about that last sentence but it is true and here is why: without an honest practice of the Twelve Steps in our daily lives we will return to alcohol and then we will lose everything anyway. We will eventually lose our job; we will eventually lose our friends; we will eventually lose our possessions; and we will eventually lose our family.

I was one of the lucky ones. I never had a DUI, although I certainly deserved one. I have never gone to prison, although I certainly should have. I never died although I certainly should have. I did, however, lose jobs, friends, a business, trust and self-respect before I finally made a commitment to change my life.

Today recovery is the single most important thing in my life and because it is I have a job I love and I am surrounded by people who support me and love me. Today I am able to give of myself to others and I am capable of compassion, empathy and love. I do not try to control my surroundings; when things happen I make decisions and act on those decisions, but the difference today is that I accept the outcome of those decisions and move on.

One of my favorite quotes in AA is something that Dr. Bob, one of the original AA founders, had on his desk at work. It goes like this: “Humility is perpetual quietness of heart. It is to have no trouble. It is never to be fretted or vexed, or irritable, To wonder at nothing that is done to me, to feel nothing that is done against me. It is to be at rest when nobody praises me, and when I am blamed or despised, it is to have a blessed home in myself where I can go in and shut the door and kneel to my Creator and Sustainer in secret and be at peace, as in a deep sea of calmness, when all around and about is seeming trouble.”

I wish that for you; I wish happiness and contentment for you; I wish peace of mind for you.

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