What Is “Doing The Third Step” All About?

Provocatively Authentic
4 min readJan 25, 2022


When I first got sober in Alcoholics Anonymous, I encountered steps one and two and they made a lot of sense to me. Sure, my life had become unmanageable and I was powerless to stop it. And yeh, I could most certainly come to believe that a power greater than myself could restore me to sanity because I’d always had some conception of the universal energy that binds all of us together. I definitely knew that I wasn’t that power any more. But then I’m told that I had to turn my will and my life over to the care of that universal energy or higher power?

What in the actual #%$&?

Turning Your Will & Your Life Over

For the longest time I was convinced that when people in AA meetings talked about their sobriety in terms of turning their will and their life over to the care of God as they understood God, I was baffled. I could believe in God, but wasn’t it me that was doing all the day-to-day stuff? Even if that me had been using drugs like there was no tomorrow, surely sobriety would just be a matter of rearranging that me to be a little more like those happy people I saw in the rooms?

I thought the Third Step would be some kind of bright, white light experience when all of a sudden the heavens opened up and my body became enmeshed with the angels and the spirits, and I would open my eyes to see the zeroes and ones of the Matrix.

That didn’t happen, although I did do the Third Step prayer on my knees in the rain as the evening came on while holding my sponsor’s hand and it was quite magical.

The Third Step, though, as a way of life from there on out was something different indeed.

A Program of Action

The real key to understanding the Third Step wouldn’t come for some time. Whenever I was told to give my will over, I would clench my fists and squeeze my eyes shut like a child over-dramatizing their birthday candle blow-out wish.

Sometimes I could as-if my way into believing that I had surrendered my will and my life into the caring embrace and guardianship of an ultimate creator, but it was all largely imaginative.

But then I heard someone in a meeting say:

“for me a Third Step happens whenever I choose to go to a meeting, call another alcoholic, be of service, meditate or say a prayer…whatever action, usually contrary to what I think to be in my best interest at the time, that I do which has been suggested by the Big Book or by my sponsor or another fellow…THAT is a Third Step…it’s any action directed towards my sobriety and away from the next drink or drug.”

From that moment on, I really began to understand the true meaning of the Third Step. So often is it the case, whether I am in a bad mood, over-indulging that negative voice in the back of my head telling me I’m a piece of shit, etc, that if I just activate the principles of program, I am giving my will and my life over.

That’s part of what led me to work in recovery. Being constantly of service helps me to orient my entire life towards the Third Step.

You Can Give Your Way Out Of Any Problem

One of the most effective ways of practicing the Third Step in my life looks like showing up for others in the program, which in of itself is showing up for me. When I share at a meeting about something that is going on for me, I am actively living in consultation. I am showing the other addicts in the room that I trust them enough to reveal my struggles to them, that I am committed, open-minded and willing enough to put them out there in real-time and seek their input.

Giving of oneself like that is critical to getting and staying sober. Vulnerability wins every time. But giving to others is key too.

Practicing the Seventh Tradition and donating back to the costs of the meeting or of AA as a whole used to turn my nose up and I figured, “what does a dollar really do?” But I realize that by giving, something inside of me shifts. I become a part of the whole, interdependent structure that sustains me. I show gratitude and that act of service, when sometimes all I have to give is the crumpled green note in my pocket, is the greatest manifestation of my program in action.

Saying the Third Step Prayer over and over like a mantra saved my life early in sobriety. It nourished me mostly because if I was saying that in my head I wasn’t thinking about anything else or berating myself as I so often would.

“God, I offer myself to Thee — to build with me and to do with me as Thou wilt. Relieve me of the bondage of self, that I may better do Thy will. Take away my difficulties, that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help of Thy Power, Thy Love, and Thy Way of life.”

This was long before I realized that it was the saying of it, more than its content, that was the real saving grace. It was in the action that I was really giving my will and my life over to the care of God as I understood God.

And so, if you’re walking around the streets of Venice, California, and you see someone muttering those words to themself, it’s likely me or one of the many clients of my sober living who I have happily shared this little nugget of sobriety super power with.



Provocatively Authentic

Poetry of the ordinary, mental health, sexuality, gender and identity, authenticity, provocative honesty, spirituality and sobriety.