Steps 6 and 7 of the twelve steps of Alcoholics Anonymous say:
“Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.”
“Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.”
Yesterday I met with my sponsor to go over my 6th and 7th step. This isn’t my first go around with the steps, or even my second. I believe that true recovery and spiritual fitness only comes when we continually work on ourselves, so I will keep working the steps for as long as I’m around. I know that doing step work is one of the things that helps keep me from picking up a drink and from becoming the out of control, self-loathing lunatic that I once was.
Step six is all about identifying our character defects and becoming willing to let them go. When I first got into Alcoholics Anonymous and learned about the steps, I thought that this step was a no-brainer. I wasn’t even sure why this thought warranted its own step. Of course I wanted to get rid of my shortcomings! Why wouldn’t I? It was like step three in which we decide to turn our will over to God – I wanted that too! My will had gotten me no where, and fast. I knew that it was time to let someone else run the show. Sometime later though, just like with step 3, I realized that letting go wasn’t as easy as I thought it was. No matter how negative and detrimental some of my defects are, there’s a reason that I hold on to them. They are serving some purpose for me, even if it’s hard to tell what that is. Take for example, avoidance, which I think is one of my biggest defects. I am a champion avoider! I do not like unpleasant things (I know, who does?) and I will stick my head in the sand and hide for as long as I can to avoid dealing with difficult situations. So what’s the payoff? I can list the problems that avoiding situations has caused, but understanding what I am getting out of holding onto the behavior is harder. In this case, I think that the payoff for my avoidance is not having to face my fears. If I don’t talk to someone who might say something negative, I avoid the fear of hearing what they might say. If I don’t get the mail, I avoid seeing the bills I’m afraid I can’t pay. If I don’t make a dentist appointment, I avoid my fear of the drill. The list could go on, but it all comes down to fear.
I won’t bore you with a list of my other defects (oh my, that would be a LONG post), but suffice it to say, they nearly all lead back to fear of some sort. I think that the realization that the root of my defects is fear and that I am really doing myself a disservice by holding onto them, is what the sixth step is about. Knowing those two things is what has helped me to be ready to let my defects go.
Step seven is about letting them go, and doing so humbly. It is an action step, it requires prayer:
I am now willing that you should have all of me, good & bad.
I pray that you now remove from me every single defect of character
Which stands in the way of my usefulness to you & my fellows.
Grant me strength, as I go out from here to do your bidding.
My problem with step seven is, again, like my problem with step three. I ask for God’s help, I turn things over to Him, and then at some point, I pick those things right back up again! I know that I am not alone in doing this, I hear people talk about it in the rooms all the time. We are creatures of habit, and to some extent, regression. Many times, I feel like I take three steps forward and two steps back. It’s usually just as I think that I have finally let go of something for good, that I realize I am reaching back out for it. I do this dance all the time and I need constant reminders that I don’t have to pick that stuff back up. Saying the 3rd step prayer (God, I offer myself to Thee. To build with me and 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.) has long since been one of the prayers I say daily. I’ve realized that it will help me to start praying the 7th step prayer as well.
Working the steps is like owning a home, isn’t it? The upgrading and repairing and maintenance never stop. There is a need to continually work on the home, or it will fall apart. But if we regularly repair what’s broken and maintain what’s working, we can prevent bigger, more costly problems. That’s why I keep working the steps and going to meetings; that’s my maintenance plan, what keeps me from falling apart. Before I started working the steps, I had cracks in my foundation, a homeowners worst nightmare. I had to tear everything down and start over. These days I mostly just need a little upkeep. A fresh coat of paint, clean gutters, and a new roof every now and again.
12 thoughts on “Cracks in my foundation”
Great post! Really mirrors my own thoughts and experience on those sometimes head pickling steps that are 6 & 7. Your writing gave me positive food for thought, thank you! x
Thanks so much for your kind comment! And thanks for reading my post. 🙂
I love the home analogy. Once had a carpenter tell me – do one major thing and a bunch of little things a year. I go to therapy just in the summer and she decides my big thing because I can’t see it. I don’t want to see it! I work that big thing with her untl I can’t take it anymore. About 3 sessions. Then I see her again the next summer and tell her my progress. Do you think we pick our problems back up ( even after we have given them up) is because the answer isn’t what we wanted to hear? Lori
You know, that certainly could have something to do with it, but I think it’s more about trying to be in control of everything, for me at least. It’s often more comfortable for me to hang on to things than to give them up because it feels like I’m in control. Ha ha…I know that I’m not, but it seems so hard to remember at the time! Awareness equals progress though, doesn’t it? 😉
Thanks for your comment Lori!
Reading the title of your post, I couldn’t help think of Leonard Cohen’s Anthem:
Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.
I know, that wasn’t the point you were making, I do like the analogy, and I get the need for maintenance (true in so many areas of our lives, we are never “done”). Just wanted to share because I think we can vascilate between perfectionism (where we are in a kind of uber-repair mode, which is an unwillingness to accept ourselves at hear) and despair (where we feel ourselves to be such abject failures, we don’t begin the step-by-painful-step repair process, we hope someone will come and wave a magic wand).
Admitting we are powerless is freeing, that’s what I think the song is about.
Eliza, you are so right! I know just what you mean about the roller coaster of perfectionism and despair. What a great way to put it! That is a really great song…I think I need to add it to my ipod. 🙂
Thanks so much for the comment!
I can definitely relate to this post. Steps 6 and 7 were difficult for me. Thanks for the positive thoughts!
You’re so welcome! Thanks for reading my post and for your comment.
My list all goes back to fears, too.
It’s not a fun way to live!
I love the house analogy too!
Thanks! And no, it’s not a fun way to live. I’m getting better at facing fears, but I still have a lot of work to do. Progress, not perfection though, right?
Thanks for the comment!
Great Post! I suspect fear is the main root for many of us. Once I dug through all the layers of defects and got to the root of them all as fear I started focusing on asking for courage to replace my cowardice. Fear can be a useful warning to keep us out of dangerous situations, I don’t want to be fearless. But letting fear control me has been the cause of most of my using and was the thread in nearly every single situation in my inventory. I use the Serenity Prayer a lot with seventh step work, serenity, courage and wisdom ate the natural antidotes for fear.
I couldn’t agree with you more. I let fear control just about every aspect of my life for a long, long time. It’s only been since I started trying to get sober and got into recovery that I have realized that. I love the idea of praying for courage to replace cowardice. I’m definitely going to adopt that!
Thank you so much for your thoughtful words. 🙂