Narcotics Anonymous Way of Life

~ 2012 Form ~

How It Works: 12 Steps

Step Three

"We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of the God as we understood him."

Our first experiences with any kind of power greater than ourselves may have been in a meeting. We may recall where we were when we suddenly felt that what had happened before in our lives might not apply to us any longer. This might not have been a conscious thought in our minds. We may have only sensed a curiosity and, amazingly, found ourselves able to listen to others in a way that was different for us. Our newly found identities appear to give us strength, when in actuality it only reduces that power that we have been putting into keeping our walls up. As our trust grows and we start to experience Godís care, the inner walls of fear crumble.

This spiritual power starts to flow into all areas of our lives. The inward aspect of the Third Step is visible in the way that we can become humble. We begin to relax many of the defensive mechanisms and efforts that we used to control others that left us tired and without the energy to take care of ourselves. After we realize that our way doesnít work, we decide to choose another way. Our addiction had smothered our senses so much that we could not care for ourselves in a healthy way. The decision we make here releases the tension that we hoarded in our futile efforts to maintain control.

As we become more familiar with our Higher Power, we begin to realize the magnitude of the Spirit. We move outward to connect with that energy. We can decide to turn our will and life over to the care of our Higher Power yet we are powerless to make God take it. It is the depth of our sincerity and willingness that enables us to accept this. Our decision frees us to fix ourselves, not the rest of the world. Our decision establishes a new direction in our lives.

The Third Step requires a surrendered attitude of spiritual growth if we want to keep the good things coming. Our will is a simple way of stating what we want. Our wants direct our lives and if they are not in alignment with what we need, we have a contradiction to overcome. Turning our will over to the God of our understanding removes the burden of contradiction. We find that some of the things we wanted come more quickly when we let go. Other things cease to be interesting to us, and it is even hard to recall what they were. Having dealt with surrender and a new belief we look outward to turn our life and will over to something far more powerful and loving than ourselves. We entrust ourselves to Godís care. This is a big change from our attitudes of fear and distrust. We become part of the whole. We are putting action to what we learned in the Second Step. We made a decision to trust Godís care of us. We do what is necessary and the outcome simply belongs to God. We are not as powerful as the God of our understanding. We are indeed powerless. In recovery, we grow but not to the point where we can afford to stop praying. We have to maintain, and sometimes renew, our decision to actually let God take care of us. We try to remain open and aware of His guidance through our prayers, meditations and the people in our lives. The decision to trust Godís care releases us from the need to try to control what we have no real control over.

This decision opens the way for new possibilities. Many of us find that the real power of this Step comes with total surrender. When done on a daily basis, our prayers can incorporate this principle. Letting go of our role of authority is a gift that makes us wonder why we ever wanted all that control in the first place! It is a struggle to continue to let go on a daily basis. Whether the simple processes of everyday living or the main courses of developing a career, raising a family, or somehow contributing to the human race, our life is too important to leave to chance. Getting all the help we can, we invite this greater power, which allowed us to admit our addiction, to enter our lives and supply the missing parts. Active addiction eroded or twisted these parts into an unstable state. Making decisions is an action that is a product of recovery. Commitments and their subsequent responsibilities are things that most of us avoided in our addiction. We determine that we deserve the best that life can offer and we believe that the best will come from aligning our will with that of a loving God. Then, we make the choice and turn our spirits toward this task.

We think about and try to imagine the caring that an all-powerful, all-loving God could have for us. It seems that it must be a stepped up version of this Ďfree caringí that we experience with one another. Nurturing someone who is in poor health and needs to recuperate resembles the active caring that we show the members who have become our friends in recovery. While we may relate well to all members, a few can really arouse our affections. Most of us are willing to go to extraordinary lengths for these members. The freedom to find a God of our individual understanding emphasizes our belief that the Twelve Steps will work for us regardless of our personal orientations. Far from feeling as though others only tolerate our beliefs, we are actively encouraged to find a belief that will work for us. This is stressed time and again because so many addicts assume that they are permanently cut-off from achieving a real relationship with God. Somewhere, sometime, each one of us earned the right to experience the bliss that occurs when we make contact with a loving Higher Power. It is more than part of human potential; it is part of what restoration to good health and well being holds for us. Denying ourselves simple happiness is part of our self-destructiveness.

Open-mindedness allows us to learn about things that may seem either unimportant to us or invalid merely because we donít know about them. As our understanding grows, we can see relationships between things. We may have suspected but never really grasped these relationships in any useful manner before. Getting past our pride and arrogance enough to see the lessons that God brings before us, we are more able to fulfill our potential and many times find the answers that we have sought right in front of us.

It is hard for a human being to envision something that has no beginning or end. Ordinarily, our minds are set up to deal with things that have existence in a measurable sense. Going beyond these boundaries requires quieting the mind and focusing on attainable goals. For the most growth, these goals can be set at least a little beyond our present capabilities. The care of a loving God through this process makes a powerful difference. The worlds that we discover within ourselves by working the Steps have been there all along and part of our minds may have been vaguely aware of it. That may be one explanation of the fact that many of us are so angry. We sense infinity yet we find ourselves preoccupied with our limitations instead of realizing our dreams.

The Steps enable us to sort who we are and what we really want. We learn in Step One that we suffer from a disease that is destructive and forces us to destroy ourselves against our will. In Step Two, we learn that many positive powers are available to us - meetings, sponsors, literature, fellowship, service, etc. With these powers in our lives, we may be in a position to recognize ourselves as distinct from God or the disease. We gain the awareness that we are beings capable of making decisions about to where and how we will focus our time and our energy. With the discovery that we are lovable and really didnít want to self-destruct all along, we are free to choose and walk toward sanity. This discovery grows when we continue with the Steps. With the acquired knowledge of ourselves and with the confidence contributed by other members, we can continue to make this decision on progressively deeper levels.

How often have we thought that there was something wrong because we expended so much energy with so little results to show for our efforts? Many of us believe that the Steps, in a simplified definition, eliminate the wasted efforts by allowing for the non-injurious removal of parts of our character that no longer work. These parts of ourselves have taken up time and energy for years without producing much that was desirable or useful. Our decision to give ourselves into the care of a loving God opens the doorway to these changes.

Overcoming the limitations of our eyes, ears and mental processes is one way to describe what happens when we decide to let God take care of our lives. We are finally able to tap in directly to a major changing force for good. That force is so loving and gentle with us that most of us only see the changes in retrospect. All the fear of pain that accompanies our personality change seems to be futile in hindsight. It is only human to fall back on our sensory perceptions. Without the preceding two Steps and the close association of others who have been living our way of life for years, it is certain that recovery would be more frightening. It might require more faith and might even be harder. Our progress has been hard won! We have learned to trust the God of our understanding as a practical and proper way to go about seeking and effecting the changes that we need to be happy, prosperous people.

A member shared about his Third Step, "When I did my Third Step, I told my sponsor about all the different books I had read about understanding Godís Will for me. I thought that if I was to turn my will over to the care of God, I must find out what His Will for me was. My sponsor asked me if I was trying to find God. When I said, ĎYes, he told me not to try to find Him because He wasnít lost. ĎItís an inside job,í he explained. He told me to go into the bathroom, get down on my knees, and ask God to come to me. It was a decision that we made and I went into the bathroom and asked God to take my will and life into His hands and guide me in my recovery."

Recovery involves the ability to manage a certain degree of personal power. By establishing and maintaining a conscious contact with a Higher Power, we can subjugate our ego. This may prevent many of the abuses and personal excesses that we would indulge in if we felt like we were personally powerful. The mind can be a good servant but it makes a poor master. It will feed us wrong ideas about who we are and what is real. By focusing on our Higher Power rather than our personal preferences, we begin to make this transition. We must remain aware of our relationships with people around us or what our Higher Power wants for us. There seems to be a connection between feeling the illusion of personal power and moving towards relapse. As our luck returns, learning to befriend and utilize the spiritual forces awakening within us is what we define as practical spirituality. As we realize the extent to which God has been helping us all along, our capacity for surrender increases.

There is an old program slogan about emotions being Ďego in motioní. While there may be some truth to this, obviously emotions are part of our response to the things we experience. In many cases, we may not want our emotions to automatically determine our responses, yet we would be unwise not to consider them. Some emotions can be the result of adrenaline, jealousy, fear, guilt, worry, hunger, or other simple phases of the human condition. Others may be complex and spiritual because they may be deep but hard to describe. We survive our emotions and begin to let them function as part of our personal guidance system. Active addiction made this all but impossible. As we begin to explore our new life, we gain the ability to trust our feelings and emotions because they are a functional part of reality.

Surrendering to an all-loving and caring Higher Power becomes easier. If it continues to be difficult, we may wish to review our belief. The Second Step is not a matter of rehashing or re-labeling our old beliefs. It is finding a new way to believe in God that helps us go beyond what we knew before. The same excitement that we felt when we learned that we could really learn to live clean should be present if we are getting the message of this Step. Often decisions have been a problem for us because our way was blocked by a disabling fear. In the Third Step, only the decision is up to us. The consequences and responsibilities of that decision are in the hands of our Higher Power. We have looked at this Step and asked, "If I turn my will and my life over to the care of a Higher Power, how can I be in control?" The truth is that we wonít. We canít have control because we simply never had control in the first place. We only thought we did. We will have ways forward with a positive Higher Power that we never had with our personal limitations. We decide to free ourselves from the pain of control and the misery of being our own prisoner, locked in by our fears and disbelief.

Pain and awareness of the dead end that we have reached helps create our desire for change. This desire, not the pain, is the basis of recovery. As long as we are looking, listening, and trying we will continuously find ways to grow. When we feel that we have no further need for divine love to support and guide us, we have begun to relapse. This is why our interdependent personal contact in N.A. fellowship is so important. It provides people who can catch us before we go too far. These people cannot keep us clean but they can help us keep the flame of desire burning.


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Reprinted from the 
Narcotics Anonymous Way of Life, 
Traditions War: a pathway to peace,
The Spirit of NA 
or NA Twenty Plus

being edited on this site.

Copyright © December 1998
Victor Hugo Sewell, Jr.

NA Foundation Group
6685 Bobby John Road Atlanta, GA 30349 USA


All rights reserved. This draft may be copied by members of Narcotics Anonymous for the purpose of writing input for future drafts, enhancing the recovery of NA members and for the general welfare of the Narcotics Anonymous Fellowship as a whole. The use of an individual name is simply a registration requirement of the Library of Congress and not a departure from the spirit or letter of the Pledge, Preface or Introduction of this book. Any reproduction by individuals or organizations outside the Fellowship of Narcotics Anonymous is prohibited. Any reproduction of this document for personal or corporate monetary gain is prohibited.