For me, I can’t discuss step three without discussing steps one and two as well. Steps one, two, & three are like a cornerstone, and you can’t complete the rest of the steps without them. First I have to admit that there is a problem and that I cannot always trust my own judgement (Step One), that there is something out there whose judgement I can trust, whether it is God or the group consensus (Step Two), and lastly, I must choose to listen to what is being said and take that into myself (Step Three).
Having grown up in a Christian faith, my Higher Power is God, but I also understand that the concept of God can be aversive to others. The idea to this, I think, is to realize that we’re not God, and that we don’t have to have control over everything. In fact, our efforts to control our environment are what have made our lives so out of control. A slogan that I think exemplifies this step very well is “Let go and let God.” This means that we do our part and then let it go. For instance, if a loved one is behaving in a destructive manner, we can take a minute or two and say briefly to them that we are concerned, but then we have to let it go instead of nagging, because the other person has to make their own choice. In the end, the only person we can control is ourselves.
Secondly, this step allows us to get out of our heads, which sometimes can be the most dangerous place we can go. I don’t know about you, but when I am at my worst, I have tapes that run through my head, repeating the same things over and over about how awful I am, how I’ll never measure up, how I should just give up. By surrendering my thoughts to my higher power, I begin to replace those thoughts with more positive ones. For someone who doesn’t believe in God, this can involve calling an Al-anon friend or going to a meeting and listening to what others say about ourselves and our situation. Just FYI, sometimes my higher power directs me to do those same things anyway–I just look at my God as the higher power rather than the group, but it still works either way. That’s the great thing about Al-anon–it’s a flexible program, and there is no right or wrong way to work the program as long as you show up and do the work.