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Step Three: Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

From Sylvia:

Made a decision....

For a long time I thought that step 3 said I had to turn my life over to the care of GAWUH. It doesn't. It says "made a decision to..."

What I would like to look at is the process--- It may sound funny coming from an agnostic, but the saying goes "There are no atheists in foxholes." (WW II??) Basically, it's an acknowledgment that at some point (frequently gutter-level), we find ourselves sufficiently desperate to reach out.

How many of us have made this decision on our knees in front of the porcelain god or the law-enforcement god with the big stick, or the white draped goddess wearing the stethoscope?

The point is, it doesn't matter to whom or what we reach out, just so long as it is something outside of ourselves over which we have no control. My first H. P. was the Law of Gravity. No matter how strongly I felt nor how hard I tried, I couldn't control the fact that things fall. No amount of self-will, analysis, persuasion, begging, anger, threats, or any of the other things I tried could change that.

Dr. Harry M. Tiebout (whose monographs can be ordered from Hazelden) wrote in 1954 about "The Act of Surrender in the Therapeutic Process."

What he concluded was that the surrender of the narcissistic personality was essential for recovery. (He was working with alcoholics.) Narcissus, you might remember, was the beautiful youth who was punished by a jealous goddess by falling in love with his image in a pool of water. He died, pursuing his love.

For me, the Third Step could be rephrased thusly, "Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of a power greater than ourselves."

And that was the step I took.

Love Sylvia

...and from Chuck...

"I can't, God can, I think I'll let God!"

OA 12/12, p. 19

Step Three: Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

This is the pivotal step in all 12-step programs. As a program of action, it is precisely when I take action on the fact of my powerlessness.... and my recognition of my HP, that the miracle of recovery is possible. It is through the action of surrender...of turning over my will and my life to the care of God, that my program works. Over the month of March, a month of springtime and hope, it is so appropriate to discuss the new birth, hope and new life that the gift of acting on step three brings to us every day in our OA fellowship. This step has a lot of important parts:

-the "we" as all the steps...that it is not "me" or "I" but "we"..reminds me that "we" are a united and loving fellowship

-that we "made a decision", a deliberate act, based on honestly looking at our situation and deciding that ...we are ready to do something...a program of action!

-That we turn "our lives" and "our wills" over

-and that HP is "as we understood Him"...

We have a word...irony...that implies that things are sorta the opposite of what they say...and irony.. is surely implied in the concept of surrender. I thought of surrender as defeat, and have found it that in program it is synonymous with victory. How ironic that when I turn my life and will over to God, that I experience a freedom I never knew before. It is only through this surrender (and victory) that we are given the gift of recovery on a daily basis.

Some questions for journaling:

  1. Do I eat to live, or do I live to eat?
  2. If I accept the ability of my Higher Power to do for me those things that I am not able to do for myself, (or if I am able to act "as if", if I don't)...what changes would occur in my attitudes toward food and eating?
  3. There is a saying in program that insanity is when I keep doing the same thing and expect different results. What new things can I do by taking Step Three? Am I ready to accept the reality that these new things may produce different results?
  4. To what extent am I willing to surrender my will and my life to my Higher Power as I understand Him?
  5. Do I view the act of surrendering my will and my life to my HP as a victory or a defeat (or what?)

I'd like to just close my part of this study with a phrase that gets me through many a day..."Let go..... and Let God".

God bless,



From Sylvia....

Step 3, Part 2 - Made a decision to turn our will & our lives over to the care of GAWUH.. do I know I've done this? What does it look like?

Hi, All...

For my contribution to this part of Step 3, I would like to quote briefly from The Little Red Book [Non CAL, (Non Conference Approved Literature) published by Hazelden, and originally subtitled, "An Orthodox Approach to the 12 Steps." -- I think those of you who have come to know me, know that I'm not real good on the details.]

"Step 3 offers no compromise for reservation or delay. It calls for a decision, here and now. *How we surrender our <alcoholic> personality of no immediate concern. The important point is our willingness to try...

"We should not confuse organized religion with <A.A.> We can keep our religion separate and not substitute it for <A.A.> philosophy. Honest clergy members expedite spiritual attainment but usually lack understanding of the physical and mental illness of alcoholism. If your priest, minister or rabbi is interested in <A.A.>, he or she can undoubtedly help you. Regardless of such support, join an <A.A.> group."

"Obviously, religious creeds must be dealt with outside of <A.A.> Our concept of GAWUH and our belief in a Higher Power that can restore spiritual health are all our Program requires. We find it most adequate."

"...Step Three should not confuse us. It calls for a decision to correct our character defects under spiritual supervision. The common cause of failure is time and effort spent in visualizing" a Higher Power "or vaguely trying to reach" a Higher Power " before we make a decision to surrender & change our insane, unmanageable lives.

I took Step Three in the shower...but that's another story!

Love, Sylvia

...and from Chuck....

Step 3: Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to God as we understood Him.

Hi, I'm Chuck, A grateful compulsive overeater. I am writing my section on my God as I understand Him. I apologize that this is a bit long, I've actually cut it back, so if you're busy, just skip to the second to last paragraph that starts with "...I believe that God just loves me".

If my only experience with apples were with a very sour kind, I might mistakenly think all apples were sour. The analogy may hold for a concept of God as vengeful, stern, unforgiving, punishing. I think viewing God, or apples, in this way may prevent me from appreciating how very different God (or apples) may actually be from my "understanding". When I was growing up, (I guess I'm still trying to grow up at 49) I spent 3 summers in Maine sailing up and down the coast. It always bothered me that every island (almost every rock that would stay above water at high tide) had a name. I learned quite early to read nautical charts, and believe me, we as human beings have a propensity to name EVERYTHING! Even features underwater often have a name. Every time someone invents a more powerful microscope or a stronger telescope, scientists can't wait to put names on all the new stuff that is visible. Now, I won't dispute that names do have a useful purpose, surely they do, but islands, like people are all the same ....and all different. One thing I try not to fool myself into thinking is, just because I know someone's name, that I know that person....people and islands are individually beautiful and miraculous creations that don't deserve to be classified and categorized...for our convenience. I personally find it delightful when certain species "defy convention" the mudskupper...a little catfish that refuses to stay in the water and insists on taking little strolls in the mud and trying to use it's fins for legs. Someone ought to tell the little bugger that he's a fish, damn it!! Another one is the salamander who starts out very much like a fish with gills and swims in the water, only to evolve lungs and legs and eventually become a land creature. I believe that one of the reasons that children are so open, and able to grasp new and original ideas is because they are devoid of the baggage of "already knowing" about a subject. They see things with a fresh and unencumbered perspective.

I believe that God just loves me and wants what is best for me. God holds my hand when I reach out to God. I try to be careful not to "define" my HP too closely, because I honestly don't know if this helps me to understand HP or just gets me off track. I've found it better, for me, just to accept God and not to worry about understanding. I believe that when I stop trying to define my God and allow God to define me, then I am beginning to work in a healing relationship that supports my recovery and gets me to the heart of the rest of Step Three...turning my will and my life over to my God.

So the God of my understanding is a God I don't understand....and that's OK. I don't need to understand God. I need to give my will and my life to God...that's all. All I know is that my HP loves me and loves all my brothers and sisters in recovery. I have come to understand a simple truth..... that this love is unconditional; and when I welcome God's unconditional love into my life, my life is better.

Some questions for journaling.

  1. How does my free will and God's will interact in working my program?
  2. How do I "understand God?".
  3. How much of my will and my life am I able to turn over to God, as I understand God, today.
  4. Do I tend to compartmentalize my "turning over" to just certain areas, (like food); or do I see Step Three as a comprehensive step that has the potential to heal areas of my life beyond my disease of compulsive overeating?
  5. When an old timer comments in a meeting, "I came into this program to lose weight, and the program has saved my life...I am grateful." What does this say about my ability to have the same experience?

God bless,


Step 3: Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

From Sylvia...

Dear WTS loopers:

Please forgive me if I repeat myself.

Things my sponsor taught me:

  1. You can't run after serenity.
  2. You can't chase after this program.
  3. You're exactly where you need to be at this moment.

The Little Red Book (see previous part of this step)says, "It is uncommon for a member to have a drastic spiritual upheaval. Spiritual Awakening or experience comes slowly, and often in strange ways. It does come, however, but so naturally we often fail to recognize it. Our job is to be ready and willing for these experiences, find incentive in the examples of fellow members who are living the <AA> program, be open-minded in our endeavor to understand God and realize the it is not made up of one big accomplishment but gained bit by bit, and remember our inspiration will be influenced by our attitude and action..."

Oh, yes, the shower story...very simple, actually. I was standing there, rub-a-dub-dubbing, thinking about higher powers and stuff like that, and the thought jumped into my mind, "What if you're wrong?" It was at that moment of awareness that I became willing.

Have a shower on me!!!

Much love,


....and, from Chuck

"When old words die out on the tongue, new melodies break forth from the heart and where the old tracks are lost, new country is revealed with its wonders"


Tagore (in "For Today for 3/11)

Hi, I'm Chuck, a grateful compulsive overeater.

The AA 12 and 12 says that one of the main differences between the first two steps and the following 10 steps is that the former are based on acceptance, and the latter are based upon action.

I accept that my I am powerless over food and my life is unmanageable.

I accept that a power greater than I can restore me to sanity.

But from here on, my program is based upon action. In Part Three I'd like to talk about actions. We are told again and again and again....willingness is the key that unlocks the door to Step Three and recovery. I have found this to be true. In my personal program, I feel that the call to action in Step Three is a call for me to evaluate how well I am working the steps and how well I am using the tools of our program of recovery.

Being willing, for me, means not just to have a program...but to follow it. Being willing is not just to be able to answer the question...what is abstinence for me, but to occasionally evaluate my abstinence. I need to be willing, open and honest about whether this is God's will for me, and be ready, willing, open and honest enough to change....if that is God's will. Sometimes I miss meetings, I need to do a better job.... make more of an effort attend both live and on-line meetings more frequently. I need to be honest about my meditations and my reading. Part of my taking action today is to pray for God to help me figure out how to find (quality) time to read and do meditations the way they need to be done. I find that I need my reading and mediation in my program. I need to find a way to do these things in a way that supports my recovery, today.

I guess what I am trying to share, is that time goes by and life is constantly changing. To honestly work my program, I need avoid taking my program and working the steps, and using the tools, for granted....but rather, I need to take a fresh look at how I use a tool, or work a step in terms of who I am today. I need to take action to keep my program vital and meaningful each day.

Questions for Journaling:

  1. Is my definition of abstinence right for me today? Do I need to re-evaluate what abstinence means today? Do I need to review my plan of eating in light of recent changes in my life?

  2. If you are like me, I "worked" really hard at being a compulsive overeater (and a compulsive person) for a lot of years. Am I willing to work just as hard, to make the effort, and take a close look at the details of my program? How well am I using the tools? How well am I working the steps?

  3. I have found that working some areas of the steps and tools are very difficult for me. I have also found that in areas where I am not particularly willing to make a change, that praying for willingness has helped. Can I be honest about things that could be improved? Can I pray for willingness to change in the areas where I stubbornly cling to my character defects?

  4. As a program of progress (rather than perfection), can I begin to accept myself as I am today, and just be happy? Am I able to surrender my will to my Higher Power today and try to make just a little progress? Can I be happy with just being me and with a few baby steps? Can I cling to the reality that a lot of baby steps strung together lead down the road to recovery, one day at a time?

-"Don't give up just before the miracle happens"


God bless,



Step 3: Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

Hi, I'm Sylvia, a Compulsive Overeater, recovering slowly, ODAAT.

I had a lover who said to me, "you are really a manipulative person." I got very upset and angry, and started to defend myself, but he stopped me by saying, "It's okay. *I* just have to remember that I'm living with a manipulative person."

Now, THAT'S acceptance!

There's a terrific Hazelden pamphlet entitled King Baby. The title is based on Sigmund Freud's term "His Majesty (or Her Majesty), the Baby. to describe an inborn attitude. The author, Tom Cunningham says that we probably all have this infantile ego in our subconscious minds, and that chemically dependent people must be especially aware of King Baby characteristics, because these attitudes and behaviors can interfere with recovery. He continues, "The recognition of powerlessness is the basis of surrender, but the *act* of surrendering comes with the total acceptance of that powerlessness. Many of us who have difficulty with the First Step may recognize our powerlessness but be unwilling to accept it. In other words, we are able to see and understand it, but our need for control prevents us from committing ourselves to this very necessary act of surrender. Our egos interfere. Our immaturity demands we retain control. Our King Baby mentality insists we direct our lives and control our wills. In doing so, King Baby obstructs our healthy recovery...Our childish personality traits must be surrendered before our disease can be fully arrested. The compulsive King Baby personality can accelerate addiction or lead to relapse." He goes on to describe the personality traits of the King/Queen Baby (oh, oh.. somebody's been looking over my shoulder again...), some of the games King Baby plays, and the solution to the problem.

Guess what it is! Surrender!

"It's quite a relief to be free from trying to run the whole universe. In surrendering, we turn the job back to a Higher Power who, in turns, fills us with the warm, comfort, and serenity we've been seeking so long."

The pamphlet ends with a prayer..

"I asked for strength, that I might achieve,
I was made weak, that I might learn humbly to obey.
I asked for health, that I might do greater things.
I was given infirmity, that I might do better things.
I asked for riches, that I might be happy.
I was given poverty, that I might be wise.
I asked for power, that I might have the praise of men.
I was given weakness, that I might feel the need of a power greater than myself.
I asked for all things, that I might enjoy life.
I was given life, that I might enjoy all things.
I got nothing that I asked for, but everything I had hoped for.
Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered,
I am among all people, most richly blessed."

Keep coming back,

Love Sylvia

Hi, I'm Chuck, a grateful compulsive overeater.

"God grant me the serenity to accept the things I can not change....."

Two action issues in program that have really changed my life are both associated with the key to Step Three...willingness.

The BB tells me that when I focus on acceptance, rather than expectations, that my serenity becomes greater. I have found that when I reject my expectations and focus on acceptance, that I have discovered a vital key to surrendering my will and my life to God. Acceptance allows me to accept myself as I am today, very imperfect and very much in need of God's help. It helps me not to be disappointed with my "condition", but rather to move forward with it. Being willing to accept that God has blessed me, and not cursed me with my body, my mind and my life, as it is....accepting this helps me with many of my character defects; like being controlling, having to be a "success" in my career, being afraid to be wrong or being viewed as being wrong, having other people think less of me...all stuff that moves me toward inappropriate conduct. The fear of being thought of poorly by others has always been a major driver of my character defects. A lot of my anger and resentment in the past stemmed from unfulfilled expectations. By focusing on acceptance instead of expectations, I have begun to see how these character defects, driven by irrational fear are...INSANE!!!

So acceptance is the key to my serenity today. I try to be accepting and to give up on expectations...they can be the death of me.

The other brief, but very important area, again from the BB, is looking for solutions, not problems. I used to find and have problems with everything. Taking other people's inventory was high on my list. I know, psychologically, that I find fault with others as a defense mechanism, to protect myself from the fear of thinking that I am...what? I don't know what. But I'm highly motivated to look at problems. Then along comes the BB and suggests that when I focus on the solution the solution gets better and the problems go away. What is really, really neat is that this sucker not only works in all areas of my every day life. It works at my employment, my home, with family and friends. Such a simple thing that makes such a big difference....I haven't made any improper gestures to anyone on the beltway in over two years...and that's a miracle!

Questions for Journaling:

  1. The BB says that I am exactly as I am supposed to be today. Do I accept this simple truth?
  2. What are some specific areas in my life where acceptance of the things I cannot change might lead to greater serenity?
  3. How do irrational "expectations" , imposed upon myself and upon others, detract from the quality of my life and the life of those around me. Am I willing to consider some changes that may make these situations better?
  4. Do I use finding fault with others, or looking for problems, as a defense mechanism to "protect" some of my character defects? Am I willing to consider some changes that may make these situations better?
  5. Would focusing on solutions help me in any ways that I can think of?
"Thy will, not mine, be done.

Keep coming back, it works if you work it,
and give a lot of love."

God bless,



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

Dear WTSers...

When Chuck & I first decided to work this step together, it was in joyful recognition of our differences. Those of you who have followed our individual shares over the months know that Chuck has a close and loving relationship with a personal God, and I am a dyed-in-the-wool atheist 3 days a week. (The other 4 days a week I'm an agnostic of the Jewish variety.) What has become apparent to me, and quite possibly to you as well, is that our differences pale in the light of our similarities. Each of us has arrived at the same conclusion via a different path...If we are to move forward on the road to recovery, it must be with the acceptance that we do not sit at the hub of the universe. The fact is, that it really doesn't matter what my conception of a higher power is. Neither does it matter what yours is. The only thing that really matters is that we know it isn't us, and that there are people, places, and situations over which we have no control. If ever you have any doubts about this, try predicting the weather for more than 3 days into the future. With all the technology, universities, computers, conventional wisdom, and satellites at the disposal of homo sapiens we still can't do it with any degree of certainty. We can put a man on the moon, but we don't know if it's going to rain the day of the picnic.

I'd like to take this opportunity to thank the people who allowed me to volunteer for this step, especially Chuck, who let me ride his coattails. He's the one who did all the work!

Much love, Sylvia

Hi, I'm Chuck, a grateful, compulsive overeater...recovering one day at a time.

At the risk of sounding like a mutual admiration society, I want to thank Sylvia and all of our WTS fellowship for the genuine love and recovery that we have been privileged to share during this adventure. Thank you, Sylvia, you are a very special and very wonderful partner and friend. I have been honored to be able to share this forum of love and recovery with you.

"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."

--Third Step Prayer

The simple reality of step three is that I must continue on a day to day basis to recognize that I am powerless over food, that my life has become unmanageable and that I cannot overcome my disease of compulsive overeating. Every day I say the prayer above, which, for me captures in such a beautiful way the essence of working my program.

"God, I offer myself to Thee, to build with me and to with me as Thou wilt...." is the simple (but often difficult) act of surrendering my life and will to God. The more unconditional this letting go and letting God, the more I am able to experience the joy of serenity; and to gratefully receive the gifts of recovery and freedom from compulsive overeating on a daily basis. When I sincerely open my heart to God and allow God to guide my life, I find freedom and happiness. The other side of this coin is that when I resist, when I cling to my character defects...when I pull back and choose things that I know are not in harmony with God's life can go in a negative direction in a very big hurry. Thank God this is a "one day at a time" program. Thank God every day is a new day. One of the things I like most about the Third Step Prayer is that it asks me to give it away, it doesn't stop with me, me ME!!!! starts with, God and ends with God and it emphasizes how I can be an instrument in His plan, a "witness" to God's power, love and way of life.

I'd like to conclude with just a few lines from the Prayer of St. Francis, which is quoted in the AA 12 & 12 (p99):

"Lord, make me a channel of Thy peace-that where there is hatred, I may bring love..."

Questions for journaling:

"Nothing short of continuous action upon these (steps) as a way of life can bring the much-desired result."...AA 12 & 12 p.40. These words tell me that I have a lifetime disease that requires a lifetime of turning my will and my life over to God as I understand Him.

  1. What does that mean for me today?
  2. What does this mean about my yearning for results quickly?
  3. What does this mean about my willingness to be open to God's will in the long term?
  4. What is my "much desired result"?

    The OA 12 and 12 says that when we become willing to turn our wills and our lives over to God, we have taken Step 3.

  5. Am I willing to go to any length to find recovery in OA?
  6. Am I willing to surrender my will and my life?

Thank you, my good friends for allowing me to share with you.

Bob, who will be sharing Step 4 with us in April, asked that we share this passage from "How It Works", from the AABB:

...."Next we launched out on a course of vigorous action, the first step of which is a personal housecleaning, which many of us had never attempted. Though our decision was a vital and crucial step, it could have little permanent effect unless at once followed by a strenuous effort to face, and to be rid of, the things in ourselves which had been blocking us. Our liquor (compulsive overeating) was but a symptom. So we had to get down to causes and conditions." -AABB p. 63-64.

God bless,


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