The Third Step: Making the Decision and Being Willing

If you have been working your 12-Step program and actively attending meetings for any considerable length of time, you understand that each step revolves around a powerful theme or concept. While every step that is worked is important, the first three steps of Alcoholics Anonymous are the key to a meaningful and long-term recovery. With the first two steps, you need to be admit powerlessness over your addiction and make the conscious effort to turn your addiction and the pain and suffering that accompanies it over to a power outside of yourself.

While these first two steps are essential, it is the Third Step of Alcoholics Anonymous that sets into motion and actions and behaviors that are needed for you to truly address and overcome your alcohol addiction. In this third step, you must make the decision to turn over your will and your life over to God or a higher power of your understanding to help you break the cycle of addiction that has kept you stuck. While making this important decision seems easy enough, saying that you will do something and actually doing something about it are two entirely different things.

Action, Not Words

When people get to the Third Step of Alcoholics Anonymous, most will think that the third step of AA says that we turn our will and our life over to the care of God or the higher power of our design. This line of reasoning is not entirely correct and can trip you up as your progress through the program.  The true meaning of the Third Step of Alcoholics Anonymous is that you need to make a decision to turn both your will and life over to the care of God.

The key word of this step is the word decision which simply means making up your own mind. Making a decision to turn your life over to God and taking the necessary steps to right the wrongs is only half the equation. For any decision to mean something tangible, it always requires meaningful action. As stated in opening of this article, the first three steps are important in the fact that it prepares us as alcoholics to be willing to give up control our lives in regards to the unmanageability of our addiction and give control to a power or force that is greater than ourselves.

Once the willingness is there, you will learn the steps of how to turn control over in Steps Four through Nine. Additionally, through working the last three steps, you will learn how to maintain conscious contact with God or the higher power of your creation as you take your program of recovery to a new level by helping others. Before you can accomplish those goals, however, you must first act on your commitment and not just talk about it.

How Do You Turn Your Will Over?

Being able to fully turn over control and your will as outlined in the Third Step of AA is absolutely critical if you are going to progress in your healing and growth in recovery. To truly “let go and let God” you must practice relinquishing control in order to deflate your ego which has run rampant up to this point. The following are some helpful tips that will help make the process much easier:

Ask For Help

Asking for help is the first and most important step in learning to turn your will over to a Higher Power. If you stop and think about it, you asked for help when you attended your very first AA meeting. You need to continue turning over your will, and you need to keep in mind that you don’t have to face your problems alone. If you have questions or are feeling insecure or unsure, ask others for help! Perhaps the best benefit of working a 12-step program is the fact that you can turn to your peers in recovery for advice, support and encouragement.

Learn to Pray

In many ways, prayer is a lot like medicine in the fact that you don’t need to believe it’s going to work in order to get the benefits from its practice. What you pray to is totally up to you as there are as many different concepts of a higher power as there are people in the program. No matter where you pray, how you pray or whom you pray to, it is important that you fully engage in the practice of prayer.

Learn to Meditate

Mediation is a powerful tool that can be used in the Third Step.  Meditation provides tremendous benefit in the fact that is has the ability to quiet the ego and mind through the focus on the body in the present moment. In early recovery, the ego is restless and it will fill the mind with past events or worries about what the future may bring. By being able to focus on what can be done in the here and now, the ego is kept in check and you are more willing to accept the guidance of others and your Higher Power.

Practicing Acceptance

One of the biggest stumbling blocks that is encountered in recovery (and life in general) is demanding that the world be a certain way and that it must meet specific conditions that are favorable to us. This is a classic example of self-will gone awry. True happiness is predicated not on what we demand of the world we live in but accepting the fact that the world is what it is and we must find ways to exist in that world. This can be extremely difficult, but accepting life on life’s terms and understanding that the only thing we can control is what is going on right now keeps the focus on what we need to do in order to get better.

Have You Made the Decision to Get Sober?

If you have made the decision to leave your addiction in the past, you must take decisive action in order for that decision to come true. If you are unsure of where to turn to and who to talk to, you can turn to Alcoholics Anonymous for help.

WE are Responsible.  When anyone, anywhere, reaches out for help, WE want the hand of A.A. always to be there.  For that, WE are responsible.


Powers, Tim. “The Third Step of Alcoholics Anonymous: Making The Decision and Being Willing.”,  27 December 2015,