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May 21

Willing To Let Go

The decision we are asked to make in the Third Step involves letting go.  This is the moment of surrender.  For some of us that sounds scary, it might even sound impossible but surrender does not imply giving up or giving in. It is instead a matter of willingness.  We have opened our minds to the idea that there is a better way.  This willingness is the key to freedom.

 “Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.”  ~ Step Three

We have come to believe that a Power greater than ourselves can restore us to sanity.  That belief is still growing, often fragile, in the early stages of recovery but we are already being asked to prove it.  We’ve been hanging on for so long that the idea of giving up what little control we still have can be frightening.  How can we turn everything over to something we are still learning to trust?  Fortunately we are not the first to have felt this way. There is an answer.

We have agreed that the concept of a Higher Power is not optional in 12 Step programs.  How that Higher Power is defined is very personal but the need for one is essential.  So we take a leap of faith and follow the example of those who’ve gone before us.  We believe that our relationship with God will continue to grow as we begin to let go and trust Him with our lives.  Although this commitment to surrender may seem uncomfortable at first it is necessary if we hope to find peace.  Turning our lives over to a Power that is greater and wiser than we are brings relief.  There is a caring, loving force that we can trust to guide our thoughts, our will and our actions in exactly the right way…. but only if we let Him.

This step is an ongoing process and that process simply BEGINS now by making a decision.  Willingness prepares us and provides us with a source for the serenity and the courage required for the steps to come.  So we continue to take the Third Step over and over again.  The daily practice of letting go frees us from our worry, our expectations and our fears. We begin to see things more clearly and in time this step confirms our suspicions that our own willpower was standing in the way of healing.  As life begins to change our trust in God is affirmed and turning it over to Him gets easier.

Turning over our will does not absolve us of responsibility for our lives.  It instead releases us from the confusion and stress of struggling to control that which cannot be controlled.  We aren’t left hanging there in our discomfort wondering what might happen if we really do let go.  This resolution to surrender is immediately followed by instructions for action.  There is work to be done and the steps that follow show us exactly how to demonstrate what we are learning on a daily basis.  We hold ourselves accountable for removing the obstacles between us, our Higher Power and our life as it was meant to be.

Page 63 the Big Book explains what we can expect, “Established on such a footing, we became less and less interested in ourselves, our little plans and designs. More and more we became interested in seeing what we could contribute to life.  As we felt new power flow in, as we enjoyed peace of mind, as we discovered we could face life successfully, as we became conscious of His presence, we began to lose our fear of today, tomorrow or the hereafter. We were reborn.”

We’ve taken a hard look at all we’ve done up to this point trying to set things right and we have come to a realization.  Our failure to change has convinced us that our own methods have not been working.  In the First Step we admitted our powerlessness and the unmanageability of our lives.  In the Second we came to believe that there is a Power that could restore us and now we choose to let go and listen to it.  The first three steps have prepared us and brought us to the place where we recognize the need for something more.  We finally admit that we can’t do it alone and decide that we want the miracle more than we want to hang on.

Working Step Three:

  • Write your thoughts about the Third Step.
  • What do you think it means to turn over your will and your life?
  • What’s hard about turning it over?
  • Do you feel that you can trust your Higher Power to take care of you?
  • In what ways have you tried to control?
  • How does the willingness to let go free you?
  • How does it feel to let go?
  • Have you made the decision to take all necessary actions required to turn your will and life over to the Higher Power of your understanding?
  • Choose a person, condition or situation that you regularly try to control or causes you stress.  Write about ways that you could turn that over to your Higher Power.
  • Start a new habit of taking some time before you react in difficult situations.  Say the Serenity Prayer or Third Step Prayer and take a few deep breaths before you respond.  Making a “God Box” or “Let Go List” in your journal to write down your concerns and release them to your Higher Power’s care.  Call a friend, call your sponsor or go to a meeting before you choose a course of action.
  • Consider rewriting the Serenity Prayer or the Third Step Prayer in your own words.  What do they mean to you?  How can you make them a part of your daily life?

“God, I offer myself to Thee – to build with me and to do with me as Thou wilt. Relieve me of the bondage of self, that I may better do Thy Will. Take away my difficulties, that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help of Thy Power, Thy Love, and Thy Way of life. May I do Thy Will always!”   ~ Third Step Prayer

Admitting the need for change takes courage, so be kind to yourself as you ponder the Third Step.  Releasing the burden of the past and future is not weakness.  The past has led you to this moment, it is part of what will make you strong so there is no need for regret.  Claim the hope, peace and victory that surrender has to offer.  We have been promised that what lies ahead is far more wonderful than anything we could have dreamed up on our own.

“We will comprehend the word serenity.”  ~ Promise Three

Recommended Reading:

The AA Big Book and Guide for Working the Twelve Steps are recommended reading for anyone in recovery of any kind, not only because they were the first but also for their inspirational and direct content. Two great resources for those working the Steps for codependency are also included here. More books on 12 Step Work from other fellowships and programs can be found in the “Steps” drop down list under “Programs and Literature.”

Featured image for this page taken from Hazelden 12 Step Pamphlet Collection – The Complete 12 Step Collection used by patients in recovery centers throughout the nation, these easy-to-read editions are a sure way to gain a basic, and yet thorough, understanding of the significance of each Step. Pamphlets are available individually or in a money-saving full collection.

Recommended Links:

The questions above are fairly generalized in order to apply to a variety of conditions. The basics are the same but if you are working the Steps specifically for drug/alcohol abuse or codependency the following links may help you to explore further. There are many other formats and workbooks available through a simple web search.

12 Step Worksheets

CoDA 12 Step Worksheets

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