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V Broaden and Deepen Your Understanding of the Twelve Steps
 
6) Step Six
Broaden and deepen your understanding of Step Six.

 
 


STEP SIX

“Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.”

1. We have already read the one paragraph in the Big Book devoted to Step Six.

2. Please remember that we don't want to convince you of anything. R.A.'s experience has been that if you do read this material, you will come to the same conclusions that we have. We want to endorse your conclusions, not convince you of ours.

4. I will now share R.A.'s experience and understanding. Please keep in mind that the Twelve Steps are a specific process that produces a specific result. It is requested that you save all questions until the end.

5. In the 12 & 12, please turn to page 63, the first page of Step Six. The second paragraph says:

“Of course, the often disputed question of whether God can—and will, under certain conditions—remove defects of character will be answered with a prompt affirmative by almost any A.A. member.”

6. If, as we look at our inventory, we recognize the SPIRITUAL nature of our defects; the Sixth Step becomes easier to understand.

7. The Sixth Step is not asking us to remove our own defects of character. It is asking us to be ready to have God remove them.

8. In the 12 & 12, on page 63 starting with the last word of the fifth line from the bottom of the page, it says:

“But when I became willing to clean house and then asked a Higher Power, God as I understood Him, to give me release, my obsession to drink vanished. It was lifted right out of me.”

9. On page 64, in the first paragraph, at the end of the fourth line, it says:

“So in a very complete and literal way, all A.A.'s have ‘become entirely ready' to have God remove the mania for alcohol from their lives. And God has proceeded to do exactly that.”

10. Some of us had a problem at this point. We said, “But I'm not free from my problems and behaviors. They haven't been lifted from me the way they say the drive to drink was lifted from them.”

11. It was at this point that we needed to recognize that we might have been trying to work the wrong program.

12. Some of us had attempted to work a program that was too general. We had tried to control the harmful extremes of our behavior by controlling the normal, necessary, nondestructive parts as well. Anything that didn't fit our ideal of how we should behave, we called a “harmful extreme,” whether it actually was or not.

13. Then there were those who seemed to work a program that might have been better named “Drinkers Anonymous.” They tried to control everything they drank, in order to control the drinking of excessive amounts of alcohol.

14. Still others had tried to work a program better called “Food Anonymous,” or “Eaters Anonymous.” They made the attempt to equate food with alcohol.

15. Others had tried to equate the normal range of emotions that are felt, or the normal chances that are taken in the course of living a normal life, with the suicidal urge to drink large amounts of alcohol. These things do not equate.

16. In the 12 & 12, on page 64, in the 3rd paragraph, it says:

“When men and women pour so much alcohol into themselves that they destroy their lives, they commit a most unnatural act. Defying their instinctive desire for self-preservation, they seem bent upon self-destruction. They work against their own deepest instinct. As they are humbled by the terrific beating administered by alcohol, the grace of God can enter them and expel their obsession. Here their powerful instinct to live can co-operate fully with their Creator's desire to give them new life. For nature and God alike abhor suicide.

“But most of our other difficulties don't fall under such a category at all. Every normal person wants, for example, to eat, to reproduce, to be somebody in the society of his fellows. And he wishes to be reasonably safe and secure as he tries to attain these things. Indeed, God made him that way. He did not design man to destroy himself by alcohol, but He did give man instincts to help him to stay alive.”

17. Drinking is a natural instinctive drive. Eating is a natural instinctive drive. Feelings are natural and instinctive. It is natural to take chances as a part of living a normal life.

18. In the 12 & 12, on page 65, the first full paragraph, says:

“It is nowhere evident, at least in this life, that our Creator expects us fully to eliminate our instinctual drives. So far as we know, it is nowhere on the record that God has completely removed from any human being all his natural drives.”

19. Our program works on harmful extremes. When we pour SO MUCH alcohol into ourselves that we destroy our lives, we are, in effect, committing suicide. When we pour so much of ANYTHING into ourselves, we are, in effect, committing suicide. When we carry ANY natural instinctive behavior to a harmful extreme, we are, in effect, committing suicide.

20. This program doesn't work on the natural instinctive drives to drink, eat, feel, or to take normal chances. But, it DOES work on the harmful, suicidal urge to carry these natural drives to an insane extreme.

21. This is a very important distinction—the distinction between reacting sanely and normally, and reacting insanely and abnormally.

22. The failure to make this distinction causes people in programs other than A.A. to say: “I have a harder program than the alcoholic. The alcoholic can just put a cork in a bottle and walk away. I have to deal with my compulsion every day.”

23. In R.A.'s experience, this is a rationalization. It's only a harder program if it's harder for God.

24. An alcoholic doesn't stop drinking completely, for all purposes. If an alcoholic stopped drinking everything, he would be as dead as someone who stopped eating, feeling, or taking chances.

25. An alcoholic doesn't say: “I can't drink water because I used to drink scotch and water, and a drink of water is going to set me up for a binge.”

26. An alcoholic doesn't say: “I can't have a Coke, because I used to drink rum and Coke.”

27. Having a non-alcoholic drink doesn't set up an alcoholic for a binge. Having a normal meal, feeling a normal range of emotions, or taking an everyday risk, doesn't set up someone to hurt themselves or others. Trying to equate a natural drive which is needed to survive, with alcohol when it is used to hurt someone, doesn't work.

28. However, equating alcoholism, a harmful behavior, with OVEREATING, with going to emotional EXTREMES, or with any other harmful behavior, DOES work.

29. A harmful problem or behavior does equate to a harmful problem or behavior, no matter what label that problem or behavior is given. The same solution that works for the harmful behavior of alcoholism works for any other harmful problem or behavior.

30. Please remember that we are sharing R.A.'s experience, R.A.'s understanding. Please keep in mind that the Twelve Steps are a specific process that produces a specific result.

31. An alcoholic who tried to stop the drinking of alcohol by limiting himself to three glasses of water a day, would have a slip every time he had a fourth glass of water, a Seven-up or a cup of coffee. He would be fighting a natural desire to drink.

32. A compulsive overeater who attempts to control his overeating problem by limiting EVERYTHING he eats is setting himself up for failure, because he is trying to fight a natural instinctive drive to eat.

33. A person who attempts to control an extreme range of emotions by limiting the normal, appropriate ones, is also setting himself up for failure.

34. Anyone who tries to use program to eliminate a natural instinctive drive, a normal part of living, is setting himself up to fail.

35. One of R.A.'s members shares:

I now recognize that when I tell God what I want Him to do, how I want Him to do it, and when I want it done, I'm not turning my problems or behaviors over to Him.

However, when I trust that God is deciding for me what I should do, how I should do it, and when it should be done, when I trust Him to remove the harmful aspects of my problems or behaviors, I then find the same release that the people who wrote the Big Book found.

I no longer try to control normal behaviors in an attempt to control the harmful extremes, just as alcoholics do not try to control the drinking of water to control their alcoholism.

36. This program works on the harmful EXTREMES of all the defects of character that we have: the depression, the resentment, the anger, the self-centeredness, etc.

37. If everything we perceived to be defects of character were removed in their entirety, we would no longer be human. Being human, we are going to have feelings. We may sometimes feel depressed, sometimes get angry and resentful, but these are no longer carried to the harmful extremes they once were.

38. One of R.A.'s members shares:

My emotions would often express themselves in harmful ways. Being restored to sanity doesn't mean that I no longer have emotions. I sometimes still feel angry, resentful, or impatient. The difference is that I am no longer compelled to hurt myself, or others, because of these feelings. I now react sanely and normally.

39. In the 12 & 12, on page 65, starting with the last full paragraph, it says:

“So Step Six—‘Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character'—is A.A.'s way of stating the best possible attitude one can take in order to make a beginning on this lifetime job. This does not mean that we expect all our character defects to be lifted out of us as the drive to drink was. A few of them may be, but with most of them we shall have to be content with patient improvement. The key words ‘entirely ready' underline the fact that we want to aim at the very best we know or can learn.

“How many of us have this degree of readiness? In an absolute sense practically nobody has it. The best we can do, with all the honesty that we can summon, is to try to have it. Even then the best of us will discover to our dismay that there is always a sticking point, a point at which we say, ‘No, I can't give this up yet.' And we shall often tread on even more dangerous ground when we cry, ‘This I will never give up!' Such is the power of our instincts to overreach themselves.”

40. In other words, to take this step, you don't have to be totally or completely ready to have every last one of your character defects removed right now. That's not what this step involves. It simply entails a willingness to become ready to let God remove our spiritual defects of character, instead of trying to remove them ourselves.

41. In the 12 & 12, on page 68, the second paragraph, says:

“Many will at once ask, ‘How can we accept the entire implication of Step Six? Why—that is perfection!' This sounds like a hard question, but practically speaking, it isn't. Only Step One, where we made the 100 percent admission we were powerless over alcohol, can be practiced with absolute perfection. The remaining eleven Steps state perfect ideals. They are goals toward which we look, and the measuring sticks by which we estimate our progress. Seen in this light, Step Six is still difficult, but not at all impossible. The only urgent thing is that we make a beginning, and keep trying.”

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