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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.

http://billybuc.hubpages.com/hub/Alcoholism-What-A-Sneaky-Bastard-It-Is

http://billybuc.hubpages.com/hub/Alcoholism-Inside-The-Mind-of-an-Alcoholic

To visit my blog on alcoholism go to:

http://thehappylifeasanalcoholic.wordpress.com/

To view or order my new Kindle book about alcoholism go to http://www.amazon.com/Loving-Life-as-Alcoholic-ebook/dp/B007V69VXI/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1334766719&sr=1-1

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    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 17 months ago from Olympia, WA

      It is amazing, Spence. I'm glad you are enjoying it...best wishes to you and thanks for the comment.

    • profile image

      spence3 17 months ago

      Thanks for the forum, Bill. Always is a long time, but it's safe to say I swear by AA today, also. Every place I travel, coast to coast, north and south, AA is there like an extended family (that I really want to be with.) Amazing.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 18 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Spence, thanks for your comment....congrats on the sobriety....ten years now for me and I swear by AA and always will.

    • profile image

      spence3 18 months ago

      haha - in the side panel is a hub "12 things AA doesn't want you to know." It makes some absurd conclusions followed by predictable bashing by "counselors" (who have a money interest), Bible thumpers who insist we're going to hell, and the disgruntled ("forced to go to those stupid meetings.') The article focuses on not drinking. NEWSFLASH: AA is not just about not drinking. For me it is about improving my conscious contact with a greater power (um, one of the steps, actually) and bringing a message of recovery to fellow drunks (another of the steps.) Oh, and I'm into character building (step 10). By the way I haven't had a drink in many years, and I still cannot think of anything AA "doesn't want [me] to know."

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 18 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Debra! I appreciate your kind words.

    • DebraHargrove profile image

      Debra Hargrove 18 months ago from North Carolina

      Great Hub and so much good information. It is always nice to hear about the positive outcome to a successful story. Enjoyed your Hub.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 22 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I've "gotten it" for nine years now, spence. Thanks for adding to the discussion. Good stuff.

    • profile image

      spence3 22 months ago

      agreed - "only a year" is major for a real alcoholic. 3rd step isn't our first decision in recovery. "If you have decided you want what we have and are willing to go to any length to get it..." I call it Step Zero. Without a decision and willingness we won't be ready to do the 12 steps. We all got the "gift of despair." Gift??!! Hold on. It evolves into the gift of Desire which evolves into the Gift of Decision. G-O-D. Get it?

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 22 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Carolyn, thank you for sharing yours with us. I think it is vitally important that we speak out about this. If this article helped one person then I am ecstatic for writing it. Congratulations on that one year...huge accomplishment and I'm proud of you.

    • carolynelizabeth profile image

      Carolyn G 22 months ago from Connecticut

      I sat on the third step for weeks, maybe months. I feared loss of control, it was one of the largest hurdles in my recovery and something I struggle with still today, and handing over my will was certainly going to ruin me. Luckily I'm blessed with an amazing sponsor who convinced me to say the third step prayer every morning and night. To appease her, I made the effort to do so, although I didn't really think it would do much good. I couldn't tell you when or how, but I slowly started practicing the step without even meaning to; I was recovering in spite of myself. When I realized what was happening, rather than become anxious or try to do an overhaul of taking my will back, I took a moment to recognize that it felt like a literal weight had been lifted off my shoulders. To this day I have never had a mental, emotional, AND physical reaction to taking a step. I've got only a year of sobriety to my name so far, and I'm not done with my first go-through of all the steps, but I can see how the Third Step would be considered the foundation of the program. I appreciate your insight, and thank you for sharing your experience, strength, and hope with the Hubpages community.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Spence, thank you! I don't know where I would be without the fellowship of AA; they keep me alive and enjoying life.

    • profile image

      Spence3 4 years ago

      Isn't it a wonder that alcoholics get together and help each other recover? I mean it's like people in quicksand rescuing each other - amazing. And that's just the beginning of fantastic, good things happening in AA and the Fellowship of the Spirit for those who are willing. Thanks for contributions, Bill.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Jamie, that is why I write the hubs on alcoholism....they help me to stay in touch, and hopefully they help someone else. In truth, many of my motivational hubs are AA based; as you know, the 12 Steps are applicable to life in general and not just alcoholism.

      As for that other hub.....sheez....I remember writing it....let me look for it.....here it is....https://hubpages.com/health/Lifestyle-Choices-What...

      Thank you my friend!

    • Jamie Brock profile image

      Jamie Brock 4 years ago from Texas

      Bill- I read a comment you made on another hub I just read a bit ago.. it was a hub about fear.. You said you had written a hub on fear but I couldn't seem to locate it on your profile.. what's the name of it? Also, as I was scrolling your profile, I realized you had SO MANY HUBS that I haven't even read!!!!! So will be trying to catch up... especially these about the steps. To me Step 3 was all about doing the next right thing, regardless of my feelings about it.. fear was ignored and things turned out so much better than I could have imagined. It got easier and I became to trust God more.. I'm so grateful to AA for teaching me that I didn't have to be a saint to get in touch with God and that I could have my own understanding. It's because of AA that I formed a personal relationship with Him... I just wish I were more in touch these days :0/ Your hubs help to remind me. Thank you :)

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Journey yes, in moderate uses, alcohol has benefits. Unfortunately, an alcoholic does not drink moderately.

      Thank you for another visit.

    • Journey01 profile image

      Journey01 4 years ago

      When we know how to use alcohol, it helps our health better. It makes bone firm.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Carol, it's good to have you here; thank you for the visit and following. I hope my other alcoholism articles can help you or your family better understand that disease. Thank you so much for visiting and I hope to see a great deal of you in the future.

    • carol7777 profile image

      carol stanley 5 years ago from Arizona

      Hi Billybuc: I was reading through your bio and was interested-to start-this article. We have an alcoholic in the family who has been through rehab many times. The drive to be sober has to be so strong. However, I enjoyed your article and your insight. I am a new writer on Hub pages and enjoying the journey so far.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Spence, your words are food for my soul. I'm all about carrying the message these days. Way too many ego-driven days in my past so now it's time to give back in anyway that I can. Thank you my friend and keep doing what you've been doing cuz' it's working.

    • profile image

      Spence3 5 years ago

      Nice post, brother! I believe I'm on this wavelength: from what I've seen over many years I think those who "fail" in the program either don't get the First or the Third Step. Under the influence I never imagined offering myself, praying for relief from the burden of my self. These days are mostly wonderful if I start that way. So simple. Also never got DUI, prison, fired, divorce, etc - but 30 years of drinking (ending for good in 1994) almost got me all of those and worse. I appreciate your carrying the message.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      cls67...I wish I had more to give you some assistance. I can tell you this: if you ever want to send me a message and ask a question feel free; I am willing to help in any way possible. Please don't hesitate if you need to bounce some things off of me. As for the hub, thank you very much. I'm not sure when I will write another hub about alcoholism but your comment leads me to believe I should consider another one if they are truly helping someone. Best of luck to you!

    • cls67 profile image

      cls67 5 years ago

      Wonderful..it is almost like you are looking in my window. This is exactly what my ex is doing at this time, you don't know how you help both of us with your articles. I was reading them the other day and he happened to see the word "alcoholic" in the article so he stopped to take a look. I am so happy that he did. Now he asks if you have anymore:) Thank you Billy.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      rontlog...thank you for the comment. It took me a great many decades to finally reach a place of peace; the humility thing will take a bit more work but I am so much closer to it than I ever was...best of luck to you.

    • rontlog profile image

      rontlog 5 years ago from England

      I love the last part about Humility. I have found that place within myself too and love it, although it is hard to stay there when you have to go out into the big wide world. I enjoyed reading your hub on living more minimally and am also on that path, though I am not quite there yet :)

      Looking forward to reading more of your hubs.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you daniel...I appreciate you reading it.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Love you Sandy; I'll keep writing as long as I am breathing so no worries on that.

    • profile image

      Sandy Malzahn 5 years ago

      Thanks again Uncle Bill, It brought me back to when my Dad was in Treatment and I can remember him saying the third step is the hardest . Love the hub stories, keep them coming!!!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you sabrani...I had some very loving people who stood by me and kept me from failing.

    • sabrani44 profile image

      sabrani44 5 years ago

      Another truly great hub! Its amazing to see how strong you are after all these struggles with alcoholism. I can't even imagine how hard that must have been, but you have emerged as a very strong person. Keep up the good writing!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      oops...that's if possible, not is possible...I really need to slow down my fingers when typing.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you pickles...that's the whole point, really; for years I clung to anonymity on the public stage but anonymity isn't helping anyone else..I have been given the gift of sobriety and I need to share it is possible.

    • picklesandrufus profile image

      picklesandrufus 5 years ago from Virginia Beach, Va

      great hub! You really are helpful in helping others understand addiction and the programs out there to help. vote up