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Step 3: No one accuses addicts of making good decisions, until now

This is part of an ongoing series explaining how I did the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. With the opioid epidemic claiming so many lives, I believe it is important for those who are not addicts to understand 12-Step programs and what it means to “work the steps.”

Step 1: Admitted we were powerless over alcohol and that our lives had become unmanageable

Step 2: Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

I don’t know if the folks who wrote the 12-Steps did this deliberately, but Step 3 actually has three steps: Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over the care of God as we understood him.

The first step of Step 3 requires us to make a decision. By now you have probably noticed that addicts and alcoholics are not adept in decision-making. Often, we just do things without making a decision at all. We like to think we’re spontaneous, free-spirits.

In reality, learning to make a healthy decision is an unnatural act for us. We don’t make good decisions because making a good decision would require us to think about options and consequences.

Who wants to think about options and consequences when you are downing your second bottle of wine or shooting up some dope that came in a tiny little baggie with a skull and crossbones on it?

We ask ourselves, what are my options? Continue using drugs or stop. What are the consequences? Tatoos you will regret, unemployment, sleeping on the street, prostitution, stealing, losing your family, HIV, Hep C, infection, rotting teeth, overdose, death.


Health, family, job, money, car, girlfriend/boyfriend, a home, warm bed, good food and not freaking out when you look in the rear-view mirror and see a cop.

Next, we need to figure out how to turn our will and our lives over. Some addicts think this means surrender. However, that implies you are a loser. I am not a loser. So, prefer to think that I have joined the winning team! But I must remember,  just because I am putting on a different team’s helmet doesn’t mean I am Tom Brady.

I had a hard time with this part of Step 3. I was cool with turning my will over sometimes but not all the time. I wanted to reserve the right to take it back when my higher power fumbled or needed a break. My sponsor and I went back and forth on this with all kinds of metaphors.

Finally, one stuck: You have won a magical, once-in-a-lifetime vacation. Your destination is a surprise! You pack your bags, make it through TSA (because you’re not carrying any dope) and you get on the plane.

You have two options: 1. Settle in to your first-class seat with all the complimentary peanuts you can eat. 2. March into the cockpit and tell the captain, “Scram, dude. I’m flying.”

Finally, there is that God-of-our-understanding thing. In Step 2 we came to believe in a Power greater than ourselves. Now, we have to understand that higher power. This is not your parents’ God. This is YOUR God and YOUR relationship with YOUR God.

This may not be a God that has a son named Jesus who died on a cross or the God that parted the Red Sea. It may not be a religion at all. It might be nature or love. It may simply be Good Orderly Direction.

When we finish Step 3, we get on our knees and say the Third Step prayer:

God, I offer myself to thee, to build with me and do with me as you will.

Relieve me of the bondage of self that I may better do your will.

Take away my difficulties that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help.

Of your power, your love and your way of life.

May I do your will always.






Step 3: No one accuses addicts of making good decisions, until now

Christine Stapleton

Christine Stapleton has been a journalist for 35 years. She is now an investigative reporter for The Palm Beach Post. In 2006, began writing a blog for PsychCentral called Depression on My Mind. Her latest blog, Addiction Matters, draws on her 19 years of sobriety and her coverage of the drug treatment industry in South Florida.

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APA Reference
Stapleton, C. (2017). Step 3: No one accuses addicts of making good decisions, until now. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 23, 2019, from


Last updated: 11 Jun 2017
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 11 Jun 2017
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