Step Six

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

Step Six Contents:

Introduction
Part 1 and Questions for journaling
Part 2 and Questions for journaling
Part 3 and Questions for journaling
Part 4 and Questions for journaling


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Step Six ~ Introduction

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

Hi. My name is Penny, and I am a compulsive eater. Thanks for allowing me to lead this month-long WTS discussion of Step 6.

Before we start, I want to qualify and "claim my seat." I have been in OA since 1987, an OA "re-tread," having spent a few months in the rooms in 1977-1978.

Physically, I have been obese and rail thin. When I came into OA on August 17, 1987, I weighed almost 200 lbs.; and my binges were like labor pains: minutes apart and getting closer and longer. I could not imagine going 5 minutes w/out putting something in my face because the panic and terror were too horrible to bear. I've done it all with food (except purge; I didn't have the nerve). I've binged and I've starved. I've done fad diets (damn near burnt my kidneys w/the water/protein diet when I discovered I could lose more weight *without* the water), I've done starvation rations (proud of myself when I ate 400 calories a day). You know the rest: I won't bore you with the list of my nasty behaviors.

For the better part of my life, fear ruled my life, and my emotions ran me ragged: I felt, therefore I was. My existence revolved around my feelings. Feelings were not only real, they created their own reality. For example, if I failed at something, I became that failure. If someone was angry at me or something I did, I took their anger and turned it into hatred and abandonment. If I thought someone was slighting me, I felt hurt and threatened and lashed out in self-defense. If a ride home was late in picking me up, I felt scared and became absolutely convinced that the driver was either dead or had decided to leave me where I was (this started in kindergarten). If I were feeling sad or scared, I had to do something about the situation; I had to fix the problem IMMEDIATELY.

I truly believed I was worthless and that people only wanted me around for what I could give to them: a ride home from school, a gift, the answers to tests, friendship, my essence. I spent most of my life waiting for the "other shoe" to drop. If something really good happened to me, clearly something hideous was in the wings just waiting for me to get too cocky. I reveled in my resentments and fears, nursing them, loving them, babying them and nurturing them like hothouse flowers or a baby. I had to be perfect and do perfect. I had to have all the answers to absolutely everything, because I looked around and wanted to be like the other people I saw that I believed had all the answers themselves. Except that i *didn't* have all the answers ... I believed I knew nothing -- less than nothing. I was basically incompetent at everything I did because there was always someone who knew more than I did (or at least appeared to know more than I did). Being told how good I looked or how well I did something was meaningless to me; I saw the flaws and the defects and the disappointments, and I KNEW that these well-wishers were full of beans and just saying things to sound good themselves.

G-d was an old man somewhere in heaven, capriciously picking on me and waiting anxiously for me to screw up so I could get punished. G-d was someone you prayed to as in "let me lose weight" (while I was stuffing my face w/cookies) or "let me get this mortgage" (and then I'll do this or that religious ritual on a regular basis). I had a Higher Power, several in fact. My mother, my older sister, my teachers, my friends ... anyone with some power and the "truth." And I gave my power away to anyone who wanted it -- and to many who didn't.

Today, life is different. While I need to lose about 10-15 pounds (put back during relapse), right now I consider myself physically "normal." I abstain one day at a time, eating a structured food plan that eliminates my binge foods and gives me a healthy body. I have lots of feelings and emotions, and I allow myself to own them. Indeed, I am grateful for them. Thanks to my daily program, my feelings don't own me in return. I don't have all the answers, for myself or others. I *do* have a sponsor and others to whom I can turn for reality checks when my feelings and beliefs of self-debasement are rampant. I work the 12 steps in my life to the best of my ability each day, one day at a time. I write a daily 10th step. I use the tools to the best of my ability. The most important fact in my life is my relationship with my higher power. Sometime G-d and I are not on the best of terms; I challenge G-d -- G-d challenges me. Sometimes I need to "act as if" G-d really cared about me. But G-d and I are pretty close, even on those days when I want to know it all (and think I do). My career was created out of my step work; my children and husband are treated to daily doses of the 12 steps.

So that's a little about me; I guess I *do* qualify for my seat in the rooms :) Next time, we get started with Step 6: Were entirely ready to have G-d remove all these defects of character. I do my step study work w/the Big Book, the AA 12/12 and the OA 12/12, so you might recognize some of the questions and areas for discussion from these books.

See you in a few days!

Penny

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Step Six ~ Part 1

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

Hi! I'm a compulsive overeater; my name is Penny.

Part 1: What's G-d got to do with it?

Like many other OA's, I believed that G-d was way too busy to care about my problems with food and life. What did G-d care about my eating? That was *my* business Hi! I am a compulsive eater; my name is Penny.and problem, not G-d's.

When I came out of relapse a few months ago, fear was all over: I had screwed up, I had let go of abstinence, I had gotten cocky; and now G-d wasn't going to help me. What if I couldn't get abstinent again? What if I couldn't lose the weight I had gained? What if *I* couldn't fix my problem? At a meeting someone pointed out that maybe *I* didn't have to do this by myself; maybe G-d could help? Huh? G-d??? Well, I point-blank challenged G-d, daring G-d, betting that G-d couldn't and wouldn't do anything about the fact that I was totally obsessed with food. I mean, food was all I was thinking about: I was constantly hungry, worrying about when and what I would eat. Much to my surprise, the obsession and compulsion went away after two weeks.

Well, if G-d could and would remove my obsession with food, imagine what G-d could do with my other problems! As the AA 12&12 says, removal of my food compulsion/obsession is proof that G-d can/will UNDER CERTAIN CONDITIONS remove defects of character. For instance, If I am feeling fear about something happening in my life, maybe G-d can do something about this.

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Step Six ~ Part 1: Questions

"Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character."
  1. What was my initial reaction to being told that G-d could and would remove my obsession with food? What is my reaction now?
  2. What was my part in the removal of my obsession with food?
  3. How do I see G-d's part in the removal of my obsession with food?
  4. How have I tried to remove my own defects of character? Has it worked?
  5. What do I think/feel about G-d's being able to remove my defects of character?

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Step Six ~ Part 2

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

My name is Penny, and I am a compulsive overeater.

One of the biggest Step 6 challenges for me was becoming willing to have HP remove my defects of character. In some cases, I was really scared: for instance, what would life be like without knee-jerk dishonesty (i.e., being caught in a situation and immediately trying to wriggle my way out by lying about my participation)? What about living life as a victim? Me, take personal responsibility? I don't think so. In other words, if I were to change so radically as Step 6 promised, I'd be the proverbial hole in the doughnut. In other cases as I did my Step 6 work, I discovered that I really enjoyed/got a high from some of my defects, i.e., raging, temper tantrums, worrying, biting my nails [ ;-)]. They were a part of my life and they were very useful.

My Step 6 work demanded that I examine each character defect and hold it up to the light of a HP-centered reality. What was it doing for -- and to -- me? Why was I holding on to it? Did I want to continue to allow the defect to be active in my life? What would happen if I let it go?

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Step Six ~ Part 2: Questions

"Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character."
  1. Thinking about my defects of character, what do/did they do for me?
  2. Thinking about my defects of character, what do/did they do *to* me?
  3. What are my emotional and intellectual responses to thinking about letting go of a defect of character?
  4. What would my life be like without some/all of my defects of character?
  5. Why do I cling to some/all of my defects of character?


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Step Six ~ Part 3

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

My name is Penny, and I am a compulsive eater.

The AA 12&12 speaks about our character defects as being "instincts run wild." When I began working the 12 steps of OA, I believed that feeling fear or anger was a "no-no," because to feel those things meant I was doing things wrong ... I wasn't working a strong enough program. It was so comforting to really take in the words of the AA 12&12, that "most of us are born with an abundance of natural desires."

I soon learned that the character defect was not *FEELING* something, instead one of the defects in my character was allowing the fear/anger to take over my rational judgement, which in turn caused me to behave in a variety of inappropriate ways. Or perhaps the defect was believing all sorts of negative or egotistical or inappropriate beliefs about myself and my place in the world. Some of my defects were truly instincts run wild: the instinct for security becoming the desperate need for love and attention; the "fight or flight" instinct becoming the terror of not taking a risk or standing up for myself; the instinct to be "somebody in the society of (his/her) fellows" becoming the attempt to take over the world (so to speak).

Step 6 is the beginning of my understanding the difference between instinct and character flaw ... and working to nurture one while eliminating the other. The first 5 steps taught me how to begin to separate myself from my feelings ... and then how to separate my defects of character from the underlying instinct.


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Step Six ~ Part 3: Questions

"Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character."
  1. What is the difference between an instinct/feeling and a defect of character?
  2. When/how do feelings become defects of character?
  3. How do the previous 5 steps lay the foundation for Step 6?
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Step Six ~ Part 4

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

Step 6 is a lifelong process.

New defects will always be uncovered, old ones will reassert themselves, we will forever experience new insights. This past week I became aware of an old character defect, masquerading as a new one. I chuckled to think that my Step group was in the process of studying Step 6, and I was grateful to have some of your shares as guidelines to working the Step on my situation. Now, it would have been easy for me to sit back and pout and be miserable and beat myself up for not working a good enough program (because if I had been working a good program, I wouldn't have this new defect in my life). But I remember always that we claim spiritual progress, not spiritual perfection ... and that these are steps that seem to have no top and no ending.

The AA 12/12 speaks of Step 6 this as the step that separates the "men from the boys." It says that those who work this step repeatedly to the best of their abilities are those who are truly working to move towards God's will and are growing spiritually. My experience has taught that wanting to no longer experience the downsides of my character defects is radically different from being willing to work Step 6, making myself ready to have God do God's miracles. It's like the food: I sure wanted to lose weight and to achieve freedom from the obsession, but for a long time there was no way I was willing to put the food down. There may be defects of character that I truly want to hold on to ... for many reasons (which we discussed in earlier Step 6 discussions). But somewhere in the recesses of my soul is the surrender that says that "this, too, must pass ... at some point, this, too must go." My spiritual growth is evident: As long as I am honest about myself and my defects of character ... as long as I am willing to remain open to the reality that at some point I will need to work Step 6 on even those defects I want to cling to ... as long as I am working Step 6 on a regular and repeated basis. It's not always like this; there are some defects that I will hang on to and leave claw marks on as I let go. But even this small acknowledgement is the beginning of working Step 6 ... the awareness of my own human limitations and foibles.

I want to thank you for allowing me to lead this month's discussion. I have learned a great deal about myself and my Step work and program. Thank you to all who participated in the discussion. We may have wandered off track every so often -- but such is life at F2F meetings, too. What's important is that we eventually get back on track and continue working our program of recovery together.


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Step Six ~ Part 4: Questions

"Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character."
  1. How is Step 6 a lifelong process?
  2. What does it mean when it says that "Step 6 is the Step that separates the 'men from the boys?'"
  3. How do I see myself growing spiritually from working Step 6?
  4. Some have suggested that waiting for God to remove my defects of character is a "cop out," a way to avoid taking responsibility. a. What do you think about this; and b. What's *my* part in Step 6?
  5. How is my working Step 6 the foundation for Step 7?
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