The 3 A's

by Angela Benson

Recovery has many slogans and catchphrases, mnemonics really-intent on helping the recovering person remember important lessons. On the first day in Al-Anon, we are told the 3 C’s: We didn’t cause it; we can’t cure it; and we can’t control it referring to the addiction as well as the addict.  Another triple I heard from my first sponsor is the 3 A’s: Awareness, Acceptance, Action.  That one really resonated with me.  Twelve Step recovery as an action plan is essential for me personally.  In fact, I liked it so much that I began researching it and found this explanation in the U.S. National Library for Public Medicine:

The Awareness/Acceptance/Action Model (AAAM) draws on principles of mindfulness, rooted in ancient Asian traditions, and recently adapted to a range of physical and mental health interventions in Western contexts. Mindfulness techniques encourage awareness of one's current state and environment, acceptance of the implications of one's attitudes and behaviors, and the development of intentional responses rather than habitually patterned reactions.

Professionally, I can apply the 3 A’s to a variety of Twelve Step processes, however, they work perfectly with the first three Steps.

Step One asks us to admit our powerlessness, the basis of which is the awareness of our addiction as a disease.  Step Two has us believe in a restorative Power and accept that we cannot recover alone.  And Step Three moves us to make a decision to let go of self-will, an action affirmative of change.  So, Awareness, Acceptance and Action call for a change in perspective, a change in attitude and a change in behavior.

The first step in recovery requires honest objectivity about our lives and the Awareness of our powerlessness.  This objectivity is the first definitive movement towards hope in recovery.  With this movement comes freedom. Awareness lifts us from a pit of despair and gives us visibility and a vision of a future.

If Step One is the awareness we have a problem, then Step Two is the acceptance of the problem.  Acceptance is a simple statement of hopeful observation, a recognition of the reality of the moment.  Acceptance allows us to surrender and leads us to the willingness to ask for help.

“Acceptance is not submission; it is acknowledgement of the facts of a situation. Then deciding what you’re going to do about it.” 

— Kathleen Casey Theisen

In Step One we admit we have a problem.  In Step Two we ask for help, and in Step Three, the Action is where we effect a change.  It is in Step Three where we find hope in the fact that we want to change, and we begin to have faith that we can change.  Active recovery is the development of intentional responses rather than habitually patterned reactions.  In short, Steps One through Three call for an Awareness of the need for a change in perspective, Acceptance of the desire for a change in attitude, and Action that begins with a change in behavior.  The 3 A’s also touch on fundamental spiritual principles: Awareness= Honesty, Acceptance= Hope, Action= Faith

Margaret Mevers