Step 3 – Make a Decision to Change Our Thoughts & Actions

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Third Step

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

Third Step Summarized

The Third Step is making a decision to utilize the higher power we discovered in Step Two to continue our path of transformation. We turn our will — our thoughts and actions — over to the care of that power. This means we no longer run our own lives. Rather, we accept the guidance and direction of our Higher Power and the 12 Step program. Our decision to turn over our will also means we decide to proceed forward with working the Steps.
Into the Steps by Guardian Recovery is a series of articles that dives into each one of the 12 Steps, which have been shown to be a highly effective treatment for addiction.

Into the Steps

Into the Steps is a series of articles that dives deep into each of the 12 Steps. While Guardian Recovery is not affiliated with Alcoholics Anonymous, we have been utilizing the 12-Step process in a treatment setting for more than 15 years. We have found that the steps, especially in combination with our clinical therapy offerings, are a powerful tool for  helping individuals transform their lives and find lasting freedom from addiction. 

It is highly encouraged that you do not attempt to take these steps alone, but rather with a trusted guide called a sponsor who can walk you through them and be your support. Or, you can come work them at a Guardian Recovery treatment program. Unlike many other treatment centers, we don’t just teach individuals about the steps, we actively work them. Find a facility here.

Steps Recap

In Step One, we learn that we are truly powerless over our addiction because we have a tricky mind that will always convince us it is ok to take the first drink or drug, and an allergic body that responds by compelling us to continue drinking or using once we start. This double-edged sword — the sick mind and allergic body — dooms us to repeat our active addiction over and over and over again unless we can find a power to help us fix the condition.

In Step Two, we came to believe that there must be some sort of power that helps seemingly hopeless addicts and alcoholics achieve sobriety because the evidence is all around us — countless individuals that have found lasting recovery through the 12-Step program. While we might not understand exactly what that power is — where it comes from, or why it works — we admit that the power must be working for the sober people we meet in our 12 Step groups. We begin to believe that there is hope for us too. With the help of that power, we believe we too can rebuild our lives and be free from active addiction.

Step Three

Step Three says that we make “a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood him.

The phrase “as we understood him” is underlined because it is of extreme importance. The “God” that Step Three is referring to is the power that we came to believe in in Step Two. That power could be completely vague and undefined, or a specific conception of God that resonates with us personally. It could be the collective energy inherent in 12 Step groups; it could be the unseen power that underlies nature; it could be the universal mind; or a traditional religious conception of God. It does not matter what power we believe in, or that we know exactly what it is. It only matters that we believe that power can help us. We then make a decision to turn our will and life over to the care of that power.

What does that mean — turn our will and our life over? A clear way to define our “will” is our thoughts and actions. In Step Three we decide to turn our thoughts and actions over to the care of that power. It is interesting to note the language: “to the care of.” This means that whatever power you’ve chosen to believe in cares about your wellbeing and life.

In our lives before recovery, most of us relied entirely on ourselves. We were self-sufficient. Our thoughts and actions were based solely on what was best for us (or at least what we thought was best for us). We used our own mind to judge our choices, and our own mind to choose our path. But how did this work out for us?

Our thoughts and actions clearly brought us to a disaster zone. So why now would we want to trust our own thoughts or choose our actions? We shouldn’t. We should let someone or something else choose our path. In Step Three, we decide that we are not going to run our own lives anymore — rather we are going to listen to the wisdom and guidance of a caring Higher Power to make our decisions for us.

Practically speaking, what does this look like? It could be relying on the advice of our sponsor to make our decisions for us; it could be praying to our Higher Power and listening for an answer; it could be asking Mother Nature to show us signs along our path; and it could be following the direction given to us by our 12 Step groups. The point is that we are no longer going to steer our own ship — rather we are going to ask for guidance, and follow direction. This also means that we are going to use the map that already lies before us — the 12 Steps.

When we wholeheartedly take Step Three, we are making a commitment to move forward with the rest of the 12 Steps. The A.A. Big Book says that once we take Step Three, we “launch into a rigorous course of action.” The word launch implies that we energetically and quickly progress from our Third Step to our Fourth Step.

Guardian Recovery & the Third Step

The Third Step asks us to change our thoughts and our actions. Sometimes this is easier said than done. At Guardian Recovery, in addition to working the 12 Steps, we teach a number of therapeutic methods that help individuals learn to control their thinking patterns, break cycles of behavior and stabilize their moods. These include cognitive behavioral therapydialectical behavior therapy and mindfulness meditation.

At Guardian Recovery, we also recognize that for certain individuals, working the 12 Steps in a structured, supportive and professional environment can greatly increase the individual’s chances of success in recovery. By establishing healthy practices while in a treatment setting, an individual is better able to then apply those habits in the world-at-large. If you or someone you love might benefit from working the Steps in a treatment environment, contact us any time. Our compassionate Treatment Advisors are available 24/7 to help you craft a plan for long-term recovery.

Integrated, Holistic Care

At Guardian Recovery we believe in taking an integrated approach to addiction treatment, meaning that we simultaneously focus on physical, mental, emotional and spiritual healing. We take a “whole person” approach to recovery, which allows for the development of vital relapse prevention and life skills. Clients learn how to work through uncomfortable feelings and emotions and engage in self-care as they navigate early recovery and transition back into independent living. To learn more about our integrated approach to recovery, or to learn more about the importance of mindfulness and meditation, contact us today.

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Reviewed professionally for accuracy by:

Ryan Soave

L.M.H.C.

Ryan Soave brings deep experience as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, certified trauma therapist, program developer, and research consultant for Huberman Lab at Stanford University Department of Neurobiology. Post-graduation from Wake Forest University, Ryan quickly discovered his acumen for the business world. After almost a decade of successful entrepreneurship and world traveling, he encountered a wave of personal and spiritual challenges; he felt a calling for something more. Ryan returned to school and completed his Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling. When he started working with those suffering from addiction and PTSD, he found his passion. He has never looked back.

Written by:

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Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark grew up in Santa Barbara, CA and graduated from UCLA with a degree in playwriting. Since then she has been writing on addiction recovery and psychology full-time, and has found a home as part of the Guardian Recovery team.

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