Remember that the 12 steps were what the first 100 men used to get sober. Step 3 says that they “Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.” This is commonly called the “surrender” step.
Continuing with our theme of personalizing the AA steps, step 3 is the first mention of God in the historical steps published in 1939’s ”Alcoholics Anonymous” book. Half of the 12 steps mention God, but this is the first time we encounter God (Him) in working the steps.
If we didn’t expect to be asked to acknowledge God as part of getting sober, this can be the first challenge for many of us as we learn about AA and its steps. One of my first sponsors skipped over this step, knowing I might have difficulty with it. But sooner rather than later, we all meet the generalized acceptance of God in AA rooms. If we are uncomfortable with this general acknowledgement of a religious God, we are given an alternative: “God as we understand him”. Does this work for all of us in AA? No. For some it is a barrier to accepting AA and getting sober with AA’s tenets.
The concept of a religious god or an alternative is not necessary for sobriety. What is needed in step 3 is simply to “let go”. Let go of our ego’s idea that it is in control. Let go of our delusions that we can get sober by ourselves when we were never able to in the past. In letting go of these things, we then are asked to trust something outside of ourselves.
Who or what can we trust in step 3? For some it still could be God. For more and more of us, this eventually becomes our sober self. Until we feel comfortable with letting our best instincts guide us, we may use the rooms of AA, sponsors, and our friends, families and counsellors.
Some alternative versions of Step 3 (again, from “The Little Book”) include:
1. We turn to our fellow men and women, particularly those who have struggled with the same problem.
2. Made a decision to entrust our will and our lives to the care of the collective wisdom and resources of those who have searched before us.
3. Made a decision to accept things that were outside our control, especially what already is and to do the best with it.