Sunday, November 4, 2012


Self-will is something we surrender over and over again in recovery.  I have a habit of taking it back from time to time, sometimes daily, but to stay in recovery is to surrender my will to my Higher Power or God of my understanding.  Now this surrender doesn’t mean I become a doormat.  I can still make plans, pursue goals, and try to make changes to my world.  The surrender is of the destructive self-will; where I abuse my right to make choices and decisions, where my actions are self-motivated, and there is no conscious contact with my Higher Power. 

When I started to look at self-will I was doing some step work on step 3.  In the AA Big Book on page 62 (4th ed) they refer to the active alcoholic as “an extreme example of self-will run riot”.  I believe "run riot" refers to our behaviour which we have complete lack of control over. It then continues on the same page “Above everything, we alcoholics must be rid of selfishness.  We must, or it kills us!  God makes that possible…Neither could we reduce our self-centredness much by wishing or trying on our own power.  We had to have God’s help.”  This is a simple solution to a problem which has been a pattern of living for me as long as I can remember.  This pattern has caused destruction in all areas of my life yet I continually take my will back.  The only way I have found to break this pattern is by having a program of recovery.  These are some of the suggestions I follow to keep self-will at bay:
* I have daily prayer and meditation (step 11) to seek my Higher Power’s will rather than my own.
* I remain accountable and transparent to people including my sponsor, spouse, children, sponsees, friends, and family.
* I have an open and honest relationship with my sponsor.  I can say anything and she will guide me in the spiritual principles of the 12 steps.
* I work the steps regularly to ensure I’m not in denial.  Then I can turn over any patterns of self-will or at least pray for willingness to turn it over.  Even in recovery I need to keep my self-will in check.
* Regularly complete step 10 and journal about my life so that I can watch for self will.
* I can work Step 12 by being available to newcomers and sponsees.  This keeps me accountable and reminds me of where self-will took me and will take me if left unimpeded.
In the NA Step Working Guide on page 23 there is a paragraph describing self-will creeping into our recovery: “At some point in our recovery, we may find that we have somehow shifted from trying to align our will with a Higher Powers to running on self-will.  This happens so slowly and subtly that we hardly even notice.  It seems as though we’re especially vulnerable to self-will when things are going well.  We cross the fine line that divides humble and honest pursuits of goals from subtle manipulation and forced results …We feel a quiet, almost subconscious discomfort that will alert us to this subtle shift away from recovery – if we listen.”
So it seems that the quiet of meditation and prayer will once again be part of the solution to my problem.  The 12 steps, regardless of which fellowship I am a member of, always come through for me.  There is always an answer to my problems when I apply the spiritual principles in my life.  It’s my ego that keeps getting in the way; I guess that is why recovery is a life-long process, good thing I have just enough time.  Feel the freedom of turning it over and living in your Higher Power's will.  Bonnie J


  1. I'm sorry, but I don't fully understand what this "self will" concept is as viewed by the 12 Steps. In my opinion, one should practice "self will" after thoughtful reflection if they have gone through successful treatment for their addictions and are beginning to live a new life which involves making choices going forward. Replacing one vice "12 Steps" for another " addiction" is not living your life, it is living someone else's concept of life.

    1. Then you obviously don't understand the programme and addiction.

      The 12 steps is a continuous way of life. Addiction isn't like an ailment that is cured after treatment (say, cholera). It's a chronic condition like say, diabetes, that requires constant, continuous, repetitive treatment.

      An addict has a mental disease and part of it is desire for instant gratification, to have it their way, and now. That's 'self-will'. The alternative the programme offers, in order to work, requires the recovering addict to surrender self-will. To abandon it, long-term. The moment one entertains that kind of thinking, of 'safely' returning to self-will, one opens the door for relapse. It's called a reservation.

      The 12 steps are not a vice. Quite the opposite. They are a programme for systematically replacing vice with virtue.

    2. I really got something from reading the material on self-will. My whole life has been running on self-will. As a result, it hasn't gotten me anywhere but a whole lot of pain and disappointment. Today I have given up my self will and allow my higher power direct and guide me today..

    3. They have no self trust its hocus-pocus

    4. I live by the steps of Recovery.
      Isn't it Ego speaking when one disagrees with you.
      Isn't competition one of the main problems.
      I was taught to identify vs comparing.
      Acceptance is the answers.
      I'm powerless over people, places, and things.
      Basically, accept others for their beliefs.
      Who made anyone of us the Almighty? Food for thought

  2. I ran across this blog as I was searching for the topic, self-will, for a meeting. The definition is "stubborn or willful adherence to one's own desires or ideas" and in the biblical sense, "especially in opposition to wisdom or the wishes of others". In the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions on pg 42 describes this God given instinct taken to extreme, far beyond its proper function. So when I manipulate others & situations to go my way, it is for selfish reasons. The proper use/exercise of the will, Big Book pg.85, is when I can say, "How can I best serve Thee--Thy will (not mine) be done." Big Book pg68, Why do I have fears? Because self-reliance has failed me. It didn't full solve the fear problem, or any other... Step Three-"Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him."

    1. Everything reverts back to self will. My way does not work.
      Now, Trust: try really using step three.
      9 years later, I was caught off guard and under the right set of circumstances, I took my will back. It took me almost a year to realize how my addictions are just the basic problem. I didn't act out in addition yet my self will caused just as much damage.
      I'm a firm believer when Bill W states that addiction is the basic problem. A personality/character change is required to stay stopped. I can identify clearly with that statement. That's how cunning, baffling, and insidious, the disease of Addiction is.
      It's only an escape. A temporary fix.
      The real problem is me.
      Take a good long look in the mirror, that should answer our question.
      For me, it takes my infatuation with my self-will inorder for me to get out of denial and heal. HOW? Exactly! The first 3 steps is the foundation and the my solution to my defects which are all based on self-centered fears.
      Fears: feelings every addict rejects
      It's scary how I can cause just as much pain being complacent with my recovery because somehow my ego thought I graduated

    2. In step 3 the most important words that I can identify with are, this step is extremely difficult. Step 7 reminds that if I place Self Reliance first than a genuine reliance on a God is out of the question.
      A lifetime geared towards self-centeredness cannot be reversed all at once. Another reminder of the power of self will in Step 7. Humility is the only spiritual principle in every step that deflates the super Ego
      10,11,12 help me maintain the character that I'm working on changing one day at a time.
      I thought the elders were joking when they mentioned others who did their step 4 + 5 and thought they graduated.
      By the Grace of God, Go I

    3. Fear and Faith have the same thing in common: a belief.
      A step four clearly explained my fears and how they are behind every defect.
      Social acceptance and fear of rejection are a human beings most dominant instinct.
      That's basically how our personalities developed.
      In Recovery, I aim to feed my faith plus action vs my fears.
      Which ever belief you feed more will continue to get stronger

    4. Patti in Arizona, thanks for sharing BB page numbers for grounding your thoughts. Helpful post!

  3. I'm having such a horrible time with this. I feel completely incapable of turning my will and life over to the care of God that I DO NOT UNDERSTAND.

    1. Don't let other people decide who you are.

  4. The insincerity of telling myself that the Spirit of the Universe is ALL goodness does not work for me. Hidden in my mind is the knowledge that there is enormous power for cruelty, greed, destruction... inside and outside myself.
    So, am I going to escape reality once more? As told in the tale of the eternal fight between the good and the bad wolf. When the youngster asked the old man "Who wins the battle at the end?", the reply was: "the one wolf whom you feed most often" That works for me.

  5. There is a power greater than not only me but everyone.when I think of the planets and gravity etc I say this was not formed by humankind. So therefore a higher power of some description.i have some self will but normally keep it in check.i don't know many people so am not involved in controversy as such. I've attended AA meeting for 17 years now and I feel confident about the future. I'm 66 years in not a well off person materially but I have the supreme gift which is ongoing sobriety..

  6. Scott in Arizona. 205 days sober. I’m learning ( with the help of my sponsor) to me conscious of my self will. So that I can practice being less full of self will. It’s not easy but I’m seeing how my self will has blocked me from my HP. The 12*12 states that we can’t film achieve our HP potential when in self will. I’m a work in progress. But I can say that when Im practicing this my life runs soooo much more smoothly. I’m learning������

  7. Dies ths mean I shouldn't have dreams

  8. Also, thx to the author of the original post. Your def/descrip of self-will was very helpful, as was you list for keeping aligned w HP!

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Thank you for your comments. I welcome comments as it is a way for me to learn and grow. Thanks for keeping the comments 'PG' as this is a public site. Blessings and Love <3 Bonnie