Step Three

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

Leader's Share and Step Questions

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

ACTION: Surrender



~ Finish the earlier reading if you haven't as yet

~ The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions of Overeaters Anonymous - Step Three

~ Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions (Alcoholics Anonymous) - Step Three

~ Alcoholics Anonymous (the Big Book) - Chapter 5 "How It Works," from the 3rd page of the chapter, page 60, beginning from the paragraph that begins "Being convinced, we were at Step Three?", to the bottom of page 63, ending with "This was only a beginning, though if honestly and humbly made, an effect, sometimes a very great one, was felt at once."


Deep breath.
Let it out.
Connect with Higher Power.

It's been two weeks since we started this study. Being human, that is plenty of time for me to have forgotten ?the strong feelings and reasons that brought me here. Maybe I've experienced some relief of my compulsive eating, some reduction in desperation, and I may be wondering "What's the big deal.? I'm not doing that badly. I don't need to do anything this radical." This would be a good time for each of us to review her/his own responses to the first two steps.

The reading reminds us of just how badly we are doing as we try to "play god" in our lives, and reminds us that this is why our eating and our lives are unmanageable. I remember how, when I wanted something, or wanted something to happen, I tried to MAKE it happen. I tried to bend time, space, my weight and others' wills to mine. Now I have said "There's a higher power, it can handle these things, and it's not me."

So here we are, friends, at a turning point. Decision time. The OA 12 & 12 says "If we want to live free of the killing disease of compulsive eating, we accept help without reservation from a Power greater than ourselves. . . . From now on, we let go of our previous notions about what is right for us. When faced with choices, we earnestly seek guidance from our Higher Power, and when that guidance comes, we act on it. . . . Our primary purpose is to abstain from eating compulsively, and we know that in order to do so we will need help."

If this seems intimidating, consider this - the AA 12 & 12 says "Every man and woman who has joined A.A., and intends to stick has, without realizing it, made a beginning on Step Three." At the very least, we have started trying to turn over our compulsive eating problem to a power other than our self-will. As we get positive experience with this, we begin to realize we have some other living problems that have not been solved by our self-will, and we notice that we can turn these over to this other power as well.

If I've tried unsuccessfully to control my obsession with food & my compulsive urges to overeat, by using willpower and knowledge, if I've tried unsuccessfully to change my unmanageable ways of dealing with my life, my feelings, other people and situations, if I've accepted that there may be "something else" more powerful than me that can help, AM I WILLING TO TRY TO RELY ON IT?

What is the "downside"? The AA 12 and 12 talks about our fears that we may lose our independence, and that we may lose "ourselves," our uniqueness, if we rely on a higher power to guide our decisions and actions.

INDEPENDENCE vs. DEPENDENCE: I REALLY valued my independence. I was convinced that my instincts and intelligence and willpower were perfect. I just had this problem about not being able to follow through. I didn't want to be dependent on anyone or anything, because that was not safe! Other people were not strong enough. They made mistakes. As far as depending on God, that was just too "iffy." Yet my experience showed me that I was as unreliable as other people in making the right choices and keeping myself safe and happy. I was stuck in ruts of compulsive eating and reactive behavior patterns that kept me from being "my best." Since coming here, I've become convinced through my own experience that connecting with my Higher Power actually frees me from the weight of the mountain of debris I was buried under - so weighed down I couldn't reliably exercise free will and choice to act in my own and others' best interest. My own instincts and logic were being short-circuited by my self-will. By surrendering to and relying on a Higher Power for guidance I am being freed from the stranglehold of my old harmful ways.

WILL THERE BE ANY "ME" LEFT? Rest assured, that even though I lose my old unhelpful ways of thinking, feeling, reacting, eating, I am still me. My HP is just removing the barriers that kept me from my best "me."

What are some of the things that may hold me back?

THE PHILOSOPHY OF SELF-SUFFICIENCY - While I was in the depths of my misery, I still subscribed to the philosophy of self-sufficiency. I believed in it so certainly that I followed it to the gates of Hell, "doing it on my own." "This brave philosophy, wherein each man plays God, sounds good in the speaking, but it still has to meet the acid test: how well does it actually work? One good look in the mirror ought to be answer enough for any alcoholic." Even for "normal" people, "The philosophy of self-sufficiency is not paying off. Plainly enough, it is a bone-crushing juggernaut whose final achievement is ruin . . . . Each of us has had his own near-fatal encounter with the juggernaut of self-will and has suffered enough under its weight to be willing to look for something better." A.A. 12 & 12

WILLINGNESS - I hear myself and other people sometimes bemoan their lack of willingness, or we say "I'm waiting to be willing." I love the quote from the AA 12 & 12 about willingness which you see in my signature at the bottom of most of my emails. The AA 12 & 12 talks of willingness as the "key" to Step Three, and Step Three as the key to the rest of the Twelve Steps. "Practicing Step Three is like the opening of a door which to all appearances is still closed and locked." But we don't need HUGE willingness. Any little bit begins the process. "Fortunately, we who have tried it, and with equal misgivings, can testify that anyone, anyone at all, can begin to do it. We can further add that a beginning, even the smallest, is all that is needed." One time I had a spiritual experience about willingness. I "heard" God/HP say "OK, you're not willing to do X. What ARE you willing to do? DO THAT."

FAITH - The principle behind Step Three is Faith. This may seem intimidating. Yet the A.A. 12 & 12 says "faith of some kind, if only in A.A. itself, is possible to anyone. We don't need HUGE faith. We don't need faith in God. We just need enough faith in something - faith in the fact that others have recovered in this program, for example - just enough faith to try to follow the instructions. The practice itself shows me that it works. And then my faith increases, and my efforts grow, and my peace with food and eating and with life grow.

USING WILLPOWER CORRECTLY - Is willpower just a useless old piece of self-will? Not at all. Willpower is what gets me to make the effort to do the 12 step footwork, to do the practices that are recommended, one day at a time, and to keep coming back. In the past I used my willpower to try to obtain certain outcomes, to control others, to remake myself and the world around me as I thought they should be. Now I use my willpower to pray and meditate in the morning and bedtime, at meals, and when I am undecided, confused, or upset. I use my willpower to practice the 12 steps in my daily life, to use the tools that help me, and to keep connecting with my Higher Power. I feel like I have to keep rearranging my totem pole. In the past, my head was at the top of the pole and the world, my life and others were below. Now I keep putting God/HP at the top of the pole, and others, the world and myself below. Or sometimes I feel like I'm using an internal compass, constantly reorienting myself. In the past my compass pointed to me, myself and my wants. Now I keep turning so that it points to God/HP. When I use my willpower correctly, my eating and my life run so much more smoothly, and I am more at peace. And - surprise, surprise - other people around me seem to behave much better :-)

HOW DO I ACTUALLY "DO" THIS "TURNING OVER MY WILL AND MY LIFE? The AA 12 & 12 says "Once we have come into agreement with these ideas IT IS REALLY EASY TO BEGIN THE PRACTICE OF STEP THREE." Note that it doesn't promise that it will be easy to continue the practice, LOL! But we can begin! That's all that's needed! Just begin, and the practice itself will carry you forward. So here is a prescription for how to begin: "In all time of emotional disturbance or indecision, we can pause, ask for quiet, and in the stillness simply say: 'God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference. Thy will, not mine be done.'" AA 12 & 12

The AA Big Book gives us the 3rd step prayer as the way to take Step Three. My own preference is to change the "thee's and thy's" to "you and your," but use it however works for you. You can substitute any words you want for "God," or make your own prayer that is meaningful to you. My own version is "God I offer myself to you to build with me and do with me as you will. Relieve me of the bondage of self that I may better do your will. Take away my difficulties, that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help of your love, your grace, your guidance and your power. May I do your will always."

HOW DO I ACTUALLY DO THIS ABOUT MY EATING? The OA 12 & 12 talks about abstinence and how it can be confusing to know what is the right abstinence definition for me. I examine my own experience objectively, without self-recrimination. What are my most troublesome eating behaviors? I consult with my sponsor, with trusted professionals. I share and listen to fellow compulsive eaters, in meetings or email groups. And always I keep taking these issues back to my Higher Power. The OA 12 & 12 also talks about intuition - my intuition actually starts working correctly when I am connecting to my Higher Power. "Intuition is supposed to be God's direct line into our minds and hearts, but our problems and our self-will have interfered with this connection. As we work the steps, the interference begins to be removed, and intuition begins to function properly, helping us focus on God's will, both for our eating and for the living of our lives." This has happened in me.

I will work out what abstinence from compulsive eating is for me - the line that God/HP shows me I must not cross. For me, that line must be simple, clear and do-able, and NOT a diet!

I will also work out what my Plan of Eating will be - the guidelines and recommendations that God/HP shows me will help me live abstinent from compulsive eating.

"As we continue abstaining, we find we can depend upon God to eliminate our yearning for the kind of eating that harms us. Much of the time, we no longer want to eat unwisely and we come to prefer foods that are good for us. This miracle of sanity is an everyday reality for thousands of recovering compulsive overeaters. We find we are seldom obsessed with eating and food, so that it is possible for us to continue eating moderate, nutritious meals, one day at a time, day after day, month after month, year after year." OA 12 & 12

WHAT ABOUT WHEN I FORGET TO DO THIS? I am not a failure when I forget to turn my will and my life over to God/HP and act in the old way. I am human. I have years of practicing the behaviors of "self will run riot." It is no surprise that it takes time and repetition of the 12 step practices to remove the debris of the old compulsive eating and self-will practices and replace them with "auto-responses" that are connected to God/HP. When I have made a mistake, lapsed back into the old ways of eating, acting, feeling, I just get back to my 12 step practices, one day at a time. As long as I am still here, still doing these practices, I am recovering. It does get better.

WHAT IF I REBEL AND REFUSE TO DO THIS? Sometimes I have "taken back my will," rebelled and refused to abstain, refused to follow my Plan of Eating. This too is human. I'm not "kicked out" of my 12 step fellowship. I'm not worthless, horrible, or doomed to live in the third circle of Hell. For me, this hasn't lasted long - certainly not like it did before coming here, when I was on the diet-and-binge rollercoaster. I've already had a taste of what it feels like to live in recovery, and I want that. Again, I just reorient myself, connect with God/HP, do my 12 step practices. "When we get off track, our Higher Power will guide us back, as long as we are sincerely trying to know and do God's will."

CAN I REALLY DO THIS FOR LIFE? I can do this today, turning over my will and my life to God/HP. I don't have to promise to do this tomorrow, or for life. When I do this today, it makes changes in me for the better. I like how it feels to live in recovery. I like how it feels to be connected with God/HP and others, and not "doing it on my own." I like how it feels to be at peace with food and eating, and living in a body that is normalizing or normal in size. And then tomorrow I do it again. Baby steps. Rinse, repeat. One day at a time. Keep coming back. "We have what we need any time we are willing to let go of self-will and humbly ask for help." OA 12 & 12

IT'S NOT A RACE! I have many times felt disappointed and frustrated at the slow pace of my recovery. But over the long haul I can see the miraculous progress I have made, Thank you, God/HP. There is no deadline. Some of us get abstinent right away, others get abstinent in fits and starts and make slower progress. But we all can and do recover, if we keep practicing the 12 step program.


1. What are the barriers or misgivings you have had in "turning my will and my life" over to God/HP?

2. Can you share one or more examples of how you have used willpower correctly, and incorrectly?

3. Please share any experience you've had in turning over your food and eating to God/HP.

4. Please share any experience you've had in "turning over my will and my life" to God/HP.

5. Any other thoughts or reactions to the reading or Step ?Three?

Attached are two little cartoons I like that relate to my Step Three? practice.

Best wishes


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