Society sees the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous as the Bible for anyone looking to recover from an addiction. The program has an estimated success rate of between 8% and 12% according to addiction specialists, and AA has approximately 2 million members worldwide. Nonetheless, regardless of your thoughts on the program there are valuable lessons we can learn from their text. Above all, each step offers a different gift to an addict. In this series we take a subjective look explaining the benefit each step brings. Step Two available here.
The Gift of Faith
Step Three offers a number of benefits the greatest of which is faith. The step reads, “we made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him”. In Step One we accept that our lives have become unmanageable and find hope in the notion that a higher power can restore our sanity. Step Three is the first that requires action.
If you’re a textbook addict you’ve lost your will. The paradox of addiction arises when we lose the capacity to enact our will. Our free will is replaced by the desire to consume, the will of the disease. In this step we begin to understand the importance of self-awareness. We look at the impact living a life governed by our will has had on those around us. One of the most important pieces behind the concept of a Higher Power is that it requires self-actualization. In addition, focusing our attention on a Higher Power’s will forces us to see we’re not the center of the world.
What this Teaches
Faith is interesting because it’s not something we feel or experience, we have faith, as though it’s a possession. What does it mean to have faith? According to the dictionary faith means, “complete trust or confidence in someone or something”. The step can create a problem for non-religious people, which is what makes the wording so important. What a “God as we understood Him” means is that your Higher Power doesn’t have to be a ”God” in the traditional religious sense. It can also be:
- A Collective Consciousness
- The Recovery Process
- Medical Professionals
- Your System of Support
- The Fellowship
As you can see the definition of a “Higher Power” varies from person to person. What’s important is that it’s something external, that’s greater than yourself, where your faith can be placed. The reason for this is essentially helping people develop an outward mindset, to look beyond themselves, so they are less likely to give into their disease.
Why This is Important
Our will dissipates over time, the progression into going from use as a choice to a need explains the development of the disease. The most important word in this step is decision because it implies free will and action. Faith teaches us to be curious and not afraid. In addition, it breaks us free from the boundaries we set around ourselves. We make the decision to turn over our will based on faith.
Above all, this step (for me) represented making a decision to give up a level of control, to acknowledge I didn’t have all the answers, and accept life on life’s terms. It’s ironic that addiction epitomizes a lack of control while one of the keys to returning to sanity is accepting a lack of our control. Through the recognition of a will greater than that of the individual we learn the gift of faith.
Step Four Available here