Click here to read the introduction to my 12 Step Series and find links to all of my 12 Step posts in one place as they become available.
Step Three: Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
Step Three in a 12 Step program is where you bravely take your leap of Faith. You agree to give your Higher Power a chance at the reins and then you get to watch your life change. No, it’s not overnight but it can definitely happen. Have you ever felt like you’re seriously lacking some direction in your life? I’ve felt like that a lot. Thank goodness that Step Three is all about getting a brand new compass to help you find your way…
Making the Decision to Turn it Over
Decisions can be hard for Adult Children of Alcoholics who usually view the world in a very “black-or-white” way and like to overthink everything. So when you get to Step Three, the decision to “turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understand him” can cause a panic if you’re not already acquainted with your Higher Power. Step Three seems like the super-serious “Unbreakable Vow” where you’re asked to sign your life over – maybe to someone that you just officially met – and that can feel really scary.
Fear not, Adult Children of Alcoholics. This is not a one-time-fits-all decision and no blood ritual is required. Making this decision is quieter, less dramatic, and more personal than that.
Step Three is a decision that you get to make (or not make) every single day and for every single situation. Now, usually when you decide not to give your will and life over to your Higher Power – life doesn’t work out all that well. But hey – feel free to experiment. Sometimes we have to learn a lesson the hard way. Ask me how I know. 😏
What’s my will?
Turning your will over to your Higher Power means that you agree to let go and let God work in your life. It’s about accepting your Higher Power’s bigger (and better) plan – the one you can’t always see – instead of trying to force your own plan to work out. Think about it: Who would you rather have running the show: the all-powerful, all-knowing, all-capable Creator of Life? Or you and your measly bag of tricks? And I get it: sometimes we feel real powerful armed with a smartphone…maybe a Daily Planner and some highlighters. Office supplies trick me into thinking I’ve got it all under control all the time! Am I the only one? (Hmm, my calendar is completely color-coded? YES! I’m winning at life!) But even armed with office supplies, you and I just can’t compare to a Higher Power working in our lives…
When I was working Step Three, my brain kept going back to this thought: “But what about the really hard stuff? How does that work into my Higher Power’s will for my life?” What about the:
I wondered “If I turn my will and my life over to a Higher Power, is that Higher Power going to steer me right into the hard stuff and say it’s “for my own good” or something? All the crap I’ve been trying to hide from and run from my whole life? Do I still have to deal with the hard stuff with a Higher Power in charge?
Well, the answer is yes. Life’s gonna include hard stuff here and there. It’s part of the deal. But with your Higher Power, it’s all more manageable because 1. You know you’re loved, wanted, and never forgotten and 2. Because your perception of problems can change and you can see how the hard stuff really can be what ultimately makes you stronger, more compassionate, and just a”better” person in general. That is – if you feel it, heal it, and learn from it. I’ve experienced hard stuff in my life. So have you. I know you have. But all pain is an open invitation to become more than what you are right now.
(Walking Dead Fans – click here to read more about the positive use of pain and how it applies to Mrs. Maggie Rhee.)
My parents’ alcoholism (and addictions) made me who I am today – strong and compassionate – and you know what? I’m doing better than I ever have been in my entire life. So…HA! Screw you, Alcoholism! 🖕 (This is where I like to imagine Alcoholism as an evil villain, screaming a long and hearty “Nooooooooooooooo!” – in only the way an evil villain can – because the plan to ruin my life has been foiled by my willingness to change my pain into my power.) Cassandra Kali and her trusty Higher Power save the day!
As we understood Him
12 Step programs are spiritual in nature (not religious) so working Step Three isn’t about having the “right” Higher Power or religious affiliation. You can attend meetings and work the program successfully no matter who your Higher Power is and what he/she/it is like.
This Step does use the words “God” and “Him” and maybe you don’t like that for whatever reason. I can empathize with that. But the word choice of the Step does not have to stop you from experiencing connection to the Higher Power of your understanding or to the other people in your 12 Step group. Here’s my hunch: I think we’re all speaking the same language when speaking about Higher Power – it’s a language of love, faith, prayer, etc. And we just happen to all have different dialects…like the Brits! Which is cool when you think about it because who doesn’t love the Brits? They’ve given us Harry Potter, about half the cast of The Walking Dead, and Victoria Cake. Enough said. They’re cool. 😎
So how exactly do you do this?
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wished my Higher Power would take a more modern approach to contacting me. Shoot me an email with detailed instructions or maybe a text…with the little “Halo” emoji included because my Higher Power has a good sense of humor. 😇 But that isn’t how it works. There’s no formal contract or 30-Day guarantee that comes with Step Three. It’s more about what feels right to you. If I can share one bit of wisdom about my opinion on 12-Step programs, it’s this: This is your life and your program so you get to talk it out with your Higher Power and your sponsor and then do what feels right. There are plenty of ways to “officially” start working Step Three:
- Have a long, drawn-out conversation with your Higher Power
- Have a super short conversation with your Higher Power
- Something like “Higher Power, I’m tired. You take it from here. Thanks.“
- Write a letter to your Higher Power
- Create a formal contract between you and your Higher Power and sign it
- If that’s how your brain works, work it! No shame in being fancy.
- You could use song to express yourself…
- “I’m so excited and I just can’t hide it…I’m about to lose control and I think I like it…I know, I know, I know, I know, I know – I want you – to take over, Higher Power! 🎵 🎤 🎵
You get the point.🤣
For me, I wrote a letter to express my willingness to turn it all over. It basically said:
Dear Higher Power,
I need help. I have tried really hard all on my own for a long time and I’m tired. I cannot keep going like this. Bulldozing my way through life apparently isn’t the best idea? I’ve realized that I deserve better than this craziness. So you take it. Seriously. I can’t do this anymore. Let’s do this and see what happens. I need help and I hear you’re gladly willing to take it all on. Great! You lead, I’ll follow. Let’s Dance.
Cassandra Kali ✏️️
And if none of this sounds doable right now, a simple “Hey Higher Power, can you help me be willing to turn it all over? Because, right now, I’m just not willing but I think I’d like to be” is a big step to take too. Remember that every new relationship can be a little awkward at first so don’t let that stop you from continuing to work on your relationship with your Higher Power. Step Three is an option for every situation and every day. There’s plenty of practice and progress to make with this Step as you continue to grow in your program and get better at allowing your Higher Power to guide you.
And how does this relate to a Compass?
You know what a compass is – the little gadget that shows the different directions (North, South, East, & West) and helps individuals find their way. People will trust a compass to get them where they need to be even if they have no idea how a compass actually works. They just have to be willing to follow its lead anyway and walk in the direction the compass tells them to go in.
And that’s why your Higher Power is your brand new compass!
Just like a compass, your Higher Power helps you find your way. And just like a compass, you don’t have to understand all of the cosmic details about how your Higher Power works to be able to benefit from his/her/its guidance. You just need to be willing to follow your Higher Power’s lead and trust that you are being directed to where you’re meant to be.
Magnetism (the force that the compass uses to find magnetic North) AND your Higher Power are both invisible phenomena…but you can navigate with them if you know that they’re there and ready to help. And, from my experience, your Higher Power definitely is.
Step Three = “Recovery Party”
Once you finish working Step 1, Step 2, and Step 3 in a 12 Step program, you have a solid foundation to move forward and start making some exciting changes in your perceptions and your life. At this point, your Higher Power has officially been invited to the “Recovery Party” and it’s about to get real! 🎉 Congratulations!
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Thanks for being here with me, friend. When we share and support one another, there is hope for Adult Children of Alcoholics. 💗