STEP SIX: Getting ready.
I am Penny, a compulsive eater and food addict and 2nd Quarter WTS leader.
Several years ago I called my sponsor from a train station before I boarded
the train home. I stood there, surrounded by people (who, fortunately, paid
absolutely no attention to me), and cried and cried. I had done something or
another, an old behavior directly related to an old belief, that was causing
me grief and pain. I thought I had prayed to God to take it (the behavior and
the attitude/belief) away. When was this going to happen? When was I going to
stop believing and doing like this? As I sobbed into the pay phone, my
sponsor calmly told me,"When you're ready."
That's Step 6: becoming entirely ready.
While I may have said I was ready, there's a big difference between saying I
was and wanting to be ready and actually *being* ready. I thought I was ready
- I mean, how many times could I do the same thing over and over, getting the
same heartbreaking results, and *not* be ready? Well, it turns out that for
whatever reason (and we'll discuss some of them below), I was hanging on to a
destructive belief and character flaw, and was clearly not yet willing to let
One of the reasons for not being willing to let our character defects go is
fear. "We have no idea what we'd do without them because we've never known
how to cope with life any other way." (OA 12&12, p. 54) Step 6 meant being
willing to look at life's circumstances from a completely different
viewpoint, and I didn't know how to do that. For instance, one of my
character defects was/is impulsiveness ... jumping in to do something without
thinking the thing through. This had caused serious family and work problems.
Step 6 asked me to be willing to not do that kind of thing ... to think
before speaking or acting. I honestly had no idea how to sit with a problem
and think it through. And I believed that the "up" side of impulsiveness - a
sense of quick creativity - was part of what made me who I was - and without
it, I'd be someone else. As the OA 12&12 says, "We admit that our old ways of
relating to other people have caused pain and we want to let go of them. But
how *will* we act?" (p. 54) What am I supposed to do other than fly off the
handle and react strongly when I perceive a hurt done to me or someone else?
I didn't want the resulting effect - poor family relations, a reputation for
being a hothead, etc.; but I didn't know how else to behave. "... if God
removes them we feel we'll surely come unraveled." (p. 54). Or as the AA 12&
12 puts it, we'll be the hole in the doughnut.
Another reason for not wanting to have the defects removed is that we enjoy
some of them too much. I love to gossip. I love the feeling of importance
that says that I know something someone else doesn't know. I love the rush,
the excitement. I hate the result. I feel cheap and vulgar when I engage in
gossip. I see the hideous results on others, and I don't want to be involved
in it. So if an attitude or an action was causing pain to us and others, we
should want to have it removed, no? Well, not necessarily. "Some of our
defects are not only family and comfortable to us, they're also enjoyable."
(OA 12&12, p. 54)
The fear and fun factor frequently lead to our rationalizing why we aren't
ready and/or ignoring Step 6 and going straight to Step 7. An example: I
think I shared at the beginning of our step study is that I would frequently
come home late at night and say a prayer on the first star asking God to keep
me from gaining weight. I wanted the result removed (the weight gain) even as
I was unwilling to look at the cause (eating and bingeing).
It's important to look at "what's whose job."
Step 6 is pretty clear that it's *God's* job to remove the defects of character. What I take from that is that I am as powerless over my defects of character as I am over the obsession with food. The more I try to remove the defects, the more they hang on; I could no more will my way out of my inclination to being prideful than I could out of thinking about food, weight, etc., 24/7. "We are powerless over each of our defects of character,
just as we are powerless over the food. It will be up to a Power greater than
ourselves to remove them from us; we can't do it alone." (OA 12&12, p. 55)
Does this mean that we just sit back and wait for God to make us pure? No. I
had to put the food down before God could come and remove the obsession.
Similarly, I cannot continue to gossip, lie and procrastinate and expect God
to clean me up. Steps 4 and 5 made us aware of our defects of character that
get us into trouble - and the resulting behaviors that make that trouble even
worse. Step 6 asks us to be even more aware of this behavior, especially
because I have control over how I behave.
Step 6 asks us to make ourselves ready for God/HP to heal us and remove our
flaws. " ... we are completely willing to recognize and let go of our defective
behavior patterns, and to let God change us as God wills. We don't set the
timetable or method for these changes. When and how our defects are removed
is entirely up to God. Our work is to what we can to make ourselves ready by
actively reaching for recovery and putting ourselves in the frame of mind to
receive God's help." (OA 12&12, p. 55)
How do we get ready? By close scrutiny and constant awareness.
"Now we ask ourselves what it is doing for us as well as what it is doing to
us. ... Each character defect we have today has been useful to us at some
point in our lives, and we need to recognize that fact." (OA 12&12, p. 55)
But we also need to hit bottom just like with food. It's only when the food
situation got really awful that I was willing to reach out for help.
Similarly, "only when we fully realize that they are costing us more than
they are giving us do we become entirely ready to be rid of our defects of
character." (OA 12&12, p. 57)
We are being asked to make yet another list, this time of our defects of
character and their corresponding benefits, liabilities, hopes of what
happens if HP takes them away, and how I can avoid the behavior so that HP
can remove the defect. I'll give you an example using gossip:
What I get: excitement, rush, feeling important, feeling part of the crowd, feeling superior.
The down side: guilt, a loss of integrity, fear of being caught, the ugly
taste in my soul from participating in nasty and harmful behavior, fear of
being on the receiving end, poor relationships with colleagues and friends, a
What I'll get: a sense of integrity, serenity, better relationships with my
friends, respect from myself and others, freedom from shame and guilt.
What can I do: leave the room when people start to gossip, shut my mouth,
keep my opinions to myself, call my sponsor/OA friend before I'm tempted to
say something, learn the difference between offering an opinion and
I do this with all my defects of character ... and I pray for the willingness
to be ready have HP/God remove them from me in God's/HP's time. Because I am
constantly growing and becoming more (and less) willing to be rid of each
defect of character, Steps 6 and 7 are ongoing processes. I may not want
*all* my defects to be removed, and I may not be ready *yet,* but as long as
I am willing to be willing to be ready (yes, there are all those "willings"
in this sentence), I am actively working Step 6.
Thoughts for journaling/sharing:
1. What's the difference between our trying to remove a defect of character
and God's/HP's doing it?
2. What's the difference between saying we are/wanting to be ready and
actually *being* ready?
3. Make a list of your character defects, what you get from them, what you
lose from them, and what you are hoping to gain from having God/HP remove
them from you.
4. Are you entirely ready to have God/HP remove each defect of character? If
so, move on to Step 7 ... if not yet, continue to pray to be made ready to
have that particular defect removed (and move on to Step 7 for the rest of
Yours in recovery,