Tag Archives: confession

Step Three

Last week, I wrote that steps 1 through 3 of the Twelve Steps are the “Made a Decision” steps and the rest of the steps are the “Take Action” steps. (See the entire post here.) Let’s dig a little deeper into the last of these “Made a Decision” steps and see what we find. Step 3 says that we “Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.”  Let’s break it down…

Made a Decision to…

At some point early in our recovery process, we drew a line in the sand. Our lives were unmanageable and we knew we needed help from God to change. For some of us, this decision came in a time of crisis – our world was falling apart and we had reached rock bottom. We could not continue to live like we were living. For others, this decision came from an awareness of our behavior and the direction we were going and a recognition that this was not the path we wanted our lives to follow. In either case, we reached a point that we decided to do something about our behavior. So what did we decide to do?

…turn our will…

Whether we knew it or not, our behavior stemmed from a faulty thought-process – or as our brothers and sisters in AA say, “stinkin’ thinkin’”. We had beliefs about ourselves that were not true and we had cultivated patterns of thinking that led us to acting out even when the thoughts themselves were not directly related to acting out. We lived in fear, anger, resentment, or self-pity. And we were convinced that acting out would help to make us feel better. And in the moment, sometimes they did make us feel better. But they also took over our lives and eventually, the wheels fell off. So, we had to learn to turn these faulty thought-processes over to God. We had to learn to let these thoughts go when they came into our heads. We had to learn to be thankful instead of resentful, and helpful to others instead of full of fear and self-pity. This is what it means to “turn our will” over to God. And the rest of the 12 steps help us to learn how to do these things.

…and our lives…

Not only did we need to change our way of thinking, we also needed to change our behaviors. We had habitually acted on the faulty thought processes and turned those into a regular way of life. We had been dishonest with ourselves and with others. And we had hurt a lot of people in the process – including ourselves. Instead of acting on our feelings and desires in a destructive manner, we needed to learn how to “do the next right thing”. We needed to learn to stop trying to manipulate outcomes and instead to figure out the next right thing to do – and do it! We needed to turn our lives over to our Higher Power. And the rest of the 12 steps help us learn how to do this as well.

…over to the care of God…

Turning our lives and wills over to the care of God means that we cannot do this all by ourselves. Our own thinking and decision making has led us to do things that have caused a lot of harm. We needed to learn to trust God by letting go of our old thought-patterns and choosing to do the next right thing. Finding the help to do this involves prayer, meditation, meetings, phone calls, and reading. It involves taking life one day at a time by not dwelling on the past or living in fear of the future. And it involves finding a sponsor to help us walk this path – another person who has turned their life and will over to the care of God. 

…as we understood Him.

The 12 Steps are designed to show a lot of grace to the different religious backgrounds that each of us bring to recovery. And I have seen that they work very well regardless of what we believe (or don’t believe) when we start this journey. The 12 Steps represent a spiritual journey of action and it is very likely that our belief and understanding of God will change to some degree throughout the process. This does not suggest we will reject everything we’ve ever believed. Many of us come to understand that the God we’ve believed in/about isn’t really God, but rather an image we’ve created about God, connected to someone else’s influence.  If we open our heart to the idea that change is possible, and if we take action to allow that change to take place in our lives, we will find a new life of serenity and awareness that we never knew was possible. And we can experience God differently, in a way that is more genuine and secure. 

One last thought:

While Step 3 is described like a one-time decision that we made early on in our recovery, my sponsor once told me that steps 1, 2, and 3 should be worked every day. It might be really easy for me to turn my life and will over to God one day, but then the next day, not make that decision. But if I wake up each morning and recognize my own powerlessness, acknowledge my need for help, and try to do the next right thing, I tremendously increase my chances of being sober that day. I challenge you to start your day by praying or meditating on steps 1, 2, and 3. It just might help you to stay sober!

-A grateful member of the Awaken community


Awaken is a Birmingham, AL based ministry walking with individuals, couples, and ministry leaders who have been impacted by sexual brokenness & addiction. Our goal is to help people experience hope, connection, and healing through the gospel and the recovery process. If you want to know more about Awaken or our resources, email us at info@awakenrecovery.com!