The Permanent Effect of the Third Step – The Big Book and Good Sponsorship

By Chris Freeman

On page 63, line 20 in the chapter, “How It Works” the text directs us with the instruction as follows:

“We thought well taking this step (the third step) making sure that we were ready; that we could at last abandon ourselves utterly to Him. (The God Idea).

What seemed to be an impossible task for me to accomplish did not seem so hard after all. It was only a matter of letting go of my old ideas, prejudice, and adopting a belief that there really is a “Power” that will solve my problem.

That one word, “Power” is mentioned 77 times in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, most often referring to the force, or entity of which most call the God concept.

As the second step of the program of recovery states,

“Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”

In the last few stories I have posted I have told the story of my process of “Coming to Believe“ and how my sponsor had guided me in preparation for the third step. He wanted me to have a clear understanding of a God Idea. This he wanted to make sure of.

He asked this question –

“Chris, why would you want to turn your entire existence, your life, and your will over to something you had no idea about. That is why the third step uses the word understood instead of understand.”

 We talked and discussed spiritual things, different terms from various beliefs, and what my thoughts were about the God Idea. He talked about the third step as being a contract, that when truly and earnestly taken to heart would have an everlasting effect, a permanent effect. He also stated the fact that this was only a contract, and that like any other contract did not mean anything unless it was successfully fulfilled by both parties. In my addiction, I had signed many contracts, car notes, legally binding agreements and the like. I also have had the experience of failing to fulfill such agreements, almost everyone.

He again referred to the book –

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.” BB How It Works, p.64

After we read the passage together he re-framed the sentence to a more positive and understandable phrase – he said,

“What this also means Chris, is that this decision, or contract, that you will enter into, can and will have a permanent effect if you follow it up with a strenuous effort to face, and to be rid of, the things in you that have been blocking you. Got it?”

Not in the prior 31 years of being exposed to the writings of Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob, specifically the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, I had not once had this concept explained to me as he had just done. Amazing! A permanent effect, WOW.

My sponsor actually has a page from the dictionary folded up in his Big Book. As he unfolded it he began to laugh.

He handed to page to me. It was from an old dictionary. Apparently copied years before as the paper was old, yellow, creased and tattered from the continuous and repetitive unfolding and folding.

Definition: lasting or to last or remain unchanged indefinitely.

Synonyms: lasting, enduring, indefinite, continuing, perpetual, everlasting, eternal, abiding, constant, irreparable, irreversible, lifelong, indissoluble, indelible, standing, perennial, unending, endless, never-ending, immutable, undying, imperishable, indestructible, ineradicable, ineliminable

He did his “pointing the finger to the words thing”, and again spoke out the prior phase he had mentioned before. This time, with the old page in his hand and with tears in his eyes, he said –

“This is it, Chris, let me put it another way. This decision, this contract that you make, when you fulfill it by strenuously facing, and being rid of, the things in you that have been blocking you. You will have a lasting, enduring, indefinite, continuing, perpetual, everlasting, eternal, constant, irreparable, irreversible, lifelong, indissoluble, indelible, standing, perennial, unending, endless, never-ending, immutable, imperishable, indestructible, ineradicable, effect that will remain unchanged indefinitely.  Is that something you really want to have? Forever?”

Of course I do, I replied with tears in my eyes welling up and running down my face. Not tears of pain but those of gratitude and love.

He without hesitation, knelt down and motioned me to do the same, grabbed my hands with his and ask me to repeat the words of the third step prayer straight from the Big Book.

“God, I offer myself to Thee

To build with me & 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 & Thy way of life.

May I do Thy will always. Amen”.

That was it. My first, real and true, third step experience.

For the first time, since my first drink, I felt hope and believed that it was very possible for me to do what my friend had shown – permanent recovery.

In my next story, I will describe the process of fulfilling the contact with the working of the remaining steps, starting with my fourth step. Thank you so much for you time today. Please if you find that you are struggling with the steps of recovery, or fighting the idea of never taking another drink or drug, please seek out someone who has permanent recovery and ask them to show you as my sponsor had done for me.

Until next time, yours’ in service 24/7 Chris Freeman.


If you or a loved one are struggling with an addiction and are seeking treatment, we would love to talk with you and see how we can help you. PLEASE CALL (855) 430-9426. Our counselors are available to guide you through the process.

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