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Alcoholics Anonymous Step 3

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It’s easy to feel reluctant or overwhelmed when seeking help for alcohol addiction. Feelings of guilt or shame can arise, and your pride may get in the way. Over 140,000 Americans die from excessive alcohol use every year.1 If you’re ready to seek help, now is the time. Peer support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) are a great place to start because they meet you where you are in your journey.

After you’ve accepted powerlessness over your addiction (Step 1) and invited a higher power to guide you (Step 2), Step 3 asks you to actively commit to your higher power and let go of all control.2 This page will guide you through Step 3 of AA, helping you to understand how to get started, common misconceptions, and how to find support with AA.

What Is Alcoholics Anonymous Step 3?

The 3rd step of AA states, “We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood him.”2 The first 2 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous lead you through the process of observing your circumstances and accepting your reality. While Step 1 and Step 2 are about acceptance and reflection, Step 3 is where you commit and begin to take action.2

Step 3 opens the doors to recovery through “the key of willingness.”2 It begins the process of letting go of things you can’t control and solidifies commitment and trust in your higher power.2 Diverting your focus from your sense of personal identity and independence and surrendering to a higher power helps you achieve the ability to accept support and guidance from outside of yourself. You’ll be one step closer to sobriety by depending on others and being willing to let go.

Starting, Working, and Following Step 3

Starting the work for Step 3 of AA is unique to each person and can be one of the most difficult steps for many people. It requires you to move forward in recovery by embracing spiritual growth and putting all your trust in your higher power.2 Some tips to best achieve Step 3 include:2

  • Choosing and trusting your higher power: Many are confused by this step and think their higher power has to hold religious significance. A higher power can be anything you find sacred or special that can lead you down the road to recovery. Practicing Step 3 is all about taking action to turn your life and will over to your higher power, relinquishing any perceived control over your addiction.
  • Adopting a positive attitude: Making the conscious decision to think positively and deal with difficult emotions like sadness, frustration, and anger helps build healthy coping skills. Turning your life over to a higher power can remove the need to relieve these symptoms with alcohol. As a result, people feel more capable to deal with life’s challenges in a healthy way.
  • Using the AA prayer: This prayer is commonly recited at the end of each meeting and serves as a reflection of the relationship between freedom from addiction and peace of mind. Anytime you need to re-center yourself during a meeting, you can ask the members to repeat the AA serenity prayer. In times of indecision and emotional disturbance, this can be particularly helpful. Returning to the AA prayer can help you actively let go of control and place your trust in your higher power.
  • Deciphering what’s within your control and what isn’t: Recognizing what’s within your control allows you to let go of stressors in your life by handing them over to your higher power. When struggling with alcohol addiction many people attempt to control everything, even things beyond their control, like their addiction. You can use Step 3 of AA to evaluate the things in your life that you can and can’t control, which can decrease your desire to drink.
  • Becoming open-minded to guidance: The need for control can make it hard to accept help. Step 3 encourages openness to support and guidance from any source that can make a positive change in your life.

Practicing Step 3 of AA requires determination and persistence. Starting this step is easy and only takes a second, but making the conscious, daily decision to let go is critical to set the foundation to successfully practice the rest of the steps.2

Common Misconceptions about Step 3 of AA

Some people could feel discouraged when starting Step 3 of AA because of 2 common misconceptions:

  • AA members must believe in God:3 This misunderstanding may be one of the main reasons people are reluctant to seek help for addiction through AA. God is referred to throughout the 12 Steps, but that doesn’t mean you have to practice a certain religion to join AA or complete Step 3. The belief in “God” originally stemmed from the religious fundamentals that AA was built on but can be seen as a “ higher power” to accommodate everyone’s unique beliefs.4 In Step 3, the phrase “as we understood him” exemplifies that everyone may have a different idea of their higher power.2 A higher power can be religious or spiritual, but it can also be anything you’re willing to turn to for responsibility and guidance, such as a loved one, nature, science, or even AA itself.
  • AA causes you to lose your sense of self:2 Another common misconception is that Step 3 takes away your independence. This isn’t true. With Step 3 of AA, you’re making a conscious decision to welcome support and guidance into your life. You don’t become passive but rather put your trust in a support system that cares about your well-being and wants to hold you accountable. Every time you attend a meeting, it’s your decision. Deciding to accept the care of a higher power and let go of perceived control over your addiction is actually you choosing your own path.

How to Find Help for Alcohol Addiction

Overcoming addiction is a long process requiring different methods of treatment and care.5 Everyone is unique, and different treatments will work better than others depending on your specific needs. Combining AA with other alcohol addiction treatment services can supplement your journey to recovery.

You can strengthen your recovery efforts with:5

  • Medical detox: Medical detox is often the first step in recovery. When you stop using alcohol, your body may go through dangerous withdrawal symptoms that require medical assistance. With medical detox, you can rid your system of alcohol under the supervision of a healthcare professional who can offer assistance to relieve withdrawal symptoms.
  • Inpatient treatment: Inpatient rehabs are safe, supportive spaces where you can live while receiving 24/7 treatment. Many seek treatment in inpatient rehab if they feel their addiction has become too overwhelming in all aspects of life.
  • Outpatient treatment: Outpatient rehabs offer similar services to inpatient rehabs. With outpatient rehab, you can continue living at home and tending to responsibilities like work and family.
  • Behavioral therapy: Therapy is integral to recovery because it helps you deal with underlying issues that affect addictive behavior. Many treatment facilities offer therapeutic options like group and individual therapy, alternative therapies, family therapy, and couples counseling.
  • Aftercare: After treatment, addiction aftercare is necessary to promote long-term recovery. Participating in different therapies and peer support groups like AA can keep you on the right track to maintaining sobriety.

Different behavioral therapies are used to overcome addiction. Some common behavioral therapies used during alcohol rehab include:5

Alcoholics Anonymous is a highly effective addition to these addiction treatment methods. If you’re interested in attending an AA meeting, you can search for local meetings online or visit the AA website. Meetings are available throughout the country, so you’ll always be able to attend a meeting, even if you relocate or travel often.

Peer support groups like AA have been found to be particularly beneficial in increasing self-efficacy and building healthy coping skills to achieve long-term recovery.6 To find out more about local alcohol rehab centers, search our drugabuse.com directory or contact us to instantly verify your health insurance coverage. If you’re ready to seek alcohol addiction treatment, actively participating in AA and creating an individualized treatment plan can offer you the support you need to get better. Call .

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Senior Web Content Editor
Jennifer Fifield is a Senior Web Content Editor at American Addiction Centers and an addiction content expert for drugabuse.com and recovery.org. She holds a bachelor's degree in Broadcast Journalism and a master’s degree in Health Promotion Management. Jennifer has served as a content editor on numerous articles, web pages, and blog posts within the medical, dental, and vision industry. She has 15+ years of experience in higher education including writing/editing, administrative, and teaching positions within the health/wellness, accreditation, and health communications areas.
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