Debtors Anonymous: Step Three — Surrender your will to a greater good

I surrendered my free will to finally control my debt

Debt Diaries, Step Three: Follow direction; it’s really that simple


One woman’s 12-step path of recovery from debt addiction. Step Three involves making the decision to turn your will and your life over to the care of whatever/whomever you call God 

Before I committed to Debtors Anonymous, I and my considerable intellect had run the show. When I got into trouble, I hid and kept secrets, and then ran around trying to fix things. That hadn’t worked. I just needed to look at my life to know that.  So I decided to give myself over to this simple program.

PREVIOUS STEP:  How finding a Higher Power helped me kill my debt

In concrete terms, I wake up every day and turn my will over to something bigger than me. I call my sponsor every day. My spending was out of control, so now I don’t spend a cent without committing it first; so, if I want to spend money on groceries, I tell my sponsor I am spending $20 on groceries before I spend anything. Then the next day, I report totals spent, for example, I spent $18.98 on groceries. I read spiritual literature every day and write about it for 15 minutes; the next day, I read that writing to my sponsor. I commit to calling at least one other person in the program every day.  I go to meetings. In short, I take my formidable will and drive, and I try to reroute it. I take advice. I listen. For a defiant know-it-all like me, this is Herculean.

For Emily, a writer and editor in Cincinnati who came into the program after her car was repossessed for nonpayment, Step Three means being willing to listen to others. “Because of this program, I am now forced to let people in. I have to listen to other people’s ideas and perspective. And that has saved me.” Recently, her income dropped. A phone call with another member of the program gave her the idea to up her freelance writing and look into tutoring students. “I am very defiant and it is really hard for me to let people in,” Emily explains. “Thank God, now I have to.”

What I learned:

  • I was not used to being honest about money. I was going to have to get used to it.
  • My will is (sometimes) a little bit like a devil on my shoulder whispering seductive nonsense in my ear. It says things like: “you’re better now, you don’t have to go to meetings anymore; you can get another credit card, you’ve learned how to handle it now; you have to buy those shoes right now and they will make your life perfect.” When I hear this kind of nonsense now, I just say “Thanks for sharing, I have turned my will over to a Higher Power now.”
  • This isn’t a one-time step. I can’t just say oh, OK, I took Step Three, I’m done. Every time I reach out to someone in the program, do service, return a phone call, share in a meeting…. I’m doing Step Three. It’s kind of like going to the gym. I don’t really want to do it, but I do it anyway or my body would be a wreck. Same with Step Three. If I didn’t practice it, my life would be a wreck.

Tips on what to do:

  • Is your money behaviour making you anxious, miserable, despairing? OK. Admit the will is a powerful force. It can be used to justify all sorts of nonsense. Like getting a new credit card when you can’t make payments on the old one.
  • Understand that the will can be harnessed and redirected for good. But it’s hard to do that on your own. Again, back to step one. Are you powerless? Good. Step Two. Can you believe in something better and bigger than you that can restore you to sanity? Great. Step Three asks that you ask others, and Higher Power, for help in doing this. Don’t worry. It gets easier with practice.
  • Ask people who have serenity in this area how they use their will now. How do they “turn it over?”

What does that even mean? Write out what that would look like for you. And get ready for Step Four.

Jane Dough is a pseudonym. The writer has decided to remain anonymous

Read the full Debt Diaries series:

Step 1: ‘I was trying to fix my pain with spending
Step 2:  ‘My higher power cares about money’
Step 3:  ‘I surrendered my free will to finally control my debt’
Step 4: Stop blaming other people
Step 5: Admit what got you into this mess
Step 6: Why spending money makes you feel special 
Step 7: Ask a higher power to remove your defects
Step 8: Make a list of the people you’ve harmed
Step 9: Make amends to those you’ve hurt
Step 10: My money problems can’t be fixed by reading ‘The Wealthy Barber’
Step 11: How meditating helps me with my debt problem
Step 12: My urge to binge shop won’t go away