ESSAYSTEP SIX QUESTIONS
The responses to Steps Four and Five were fabulous. So many of you kept with the study, and you shared such deep and moving stories. The next place we can really hit a glitch is in making amends, but that isnít as hard as it may seem, which I will explain when we get there.
For now, letís look at Step Six. Often, people who are newer to program wonder why Six and Seven are separate. It isnít to make up a mystical number of twelve. Two or three other Steps could have been split up if that were the purpose. After working the Steps, the reason for Six and Seven being as they are becomes clear.
You may remember that I have previously defined ďcharacterĒ as the sum of our learned habits. While we may have become addicted to food, compulsive eating has also become a habit. It is often the first thing that we do when confronted by our triggers in life. We all know that this is usually not even conscious to us. I suppose the worst case is that of the sleepwalking eaters. I have personally known several. They sleepwalk to the refrigerator or pantry, eat everything in sight, and go back to bed never having waked up. Iím serious. But many of us are just about as unconscious when we are in the food awake!
The only way to raise some behavior to consciousness is to look at how it has affected our lives. That is why we keep the Fourth Step for a while. As we examine our Fourth Step, we begin to see the ways that we have reacted to life with our addictís mind. We find, perhaps, that we store up our resentments, and then fly off the handle at someone we love over little or nothing. We have two bad habits here. One is letting the resentments build without examining life as it happens. The other is letting it all spew at the wrong time and place with the wrong person. I speak from my own experience.
So the first part of this Step is to raise the character issues to consciousness. We would all like for God to magically remove all our defects. This would remove many of our problems. Now, as we shall see later, God can remove defects, but we have to have first raised them to consciousness, and then we have to do something else.
That something else is to examine how our character defect has served us, and decided that we really want to replace it with another habit, a better one, we would hope. We all know how hard it is to unlearn a really ingrained habit. And then we have to replace it with something else, after that. The place where so many self help advisors fail is that they do not realize that all the habits that feed into an addiction cannot be changed by the addict alone. We have to have help from our Higher Power. And to get that help, we have to become radically honest with ourselves.
If I stop exploding at the wrong people at the wrong time, they will stop being off balance around me, and I will lose a certain kind of control and a certain way of keeping even those who love me just a little distant. Not too safe for them, is it? And not too loving for me, either.
Now, I didnít learn how to handle anger when I was growing up, since any expression of it on my part would result in a beating. I learned to keep it bottled up inside. I ate, both to stop the churning of the anger, and to ease the pain of the blows. This was a good thing. Without it I might not have survived childhood. But it has become a real problem. What was a survival set of techniques has now become something detrimental to me. I am aware of this, and every day, I ask God for help with it. But first, I had to become aware of it. And then I had to decide that this set of character defects werenít serving me very well anymore, and that I wanted to change.
Did I really want to change, or did I just say I wanted to change? Was I for real or just being polite? I canít expect God to remove these defects is I still want to cling to them in any way.
I have to become entirely ready. And that is quite enough for one Step!
Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
1. Make a list of affirmations about all the good things about yourself that you can think of. This should be a long list. This may be approached as things about yourself that you are thankful for.
STEP SIX ~ MY ANSWERS
2. Think about all the things that make you crazy. What happens in your life that sets you off, gets you going in the wrong direction.
3. Why do they do this? What function does your craziness serve for you?
4. What defects of character (bad habits) are revealed thought this process?
5. What might happen if these bad habits were removed? Is this frightening?
6. Back to Step Three: Do you think you can let go and let God? How would you know that you had sincerely done this?
7. We cannot change everything all at once. Take the things that seem to need change the most, or that seem to be easier to change, and set yourself a set of priorities here.
Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
1. I have friends and people who love me. I have stayed faithful to my wife throughout our 44 years of marriage. I have been there for family and friends when they needed me. I have generally provided for my family well enough. I am kind to people, animals, and the earth. I have some good hobbies. I go to meetings. I work the Steps. I listen well to others, I think, and often reflect back to them seriously helpful thoughts. More and more I honor my feelings. I blow up much less often, much less explosively, and now feel sorry about, rather than ďvindicated.Ē I have a deep spirituality at the core of my being. I have learned how to live with depression without being so frightened of it. I am abstinent today. There are probably others.
2. Far fewer things make me crazy now than used to. One thing that bothers me is when I donít get enough sleep. Since my depression is of the sleepless variety, this is sometimes a problem. When I donít get enough sleep, I get too tired, and likely to react poorly to the normal stresses in life. At least I donít attempt to self medicate so much anymore. I have some prescriptions that are not dangerous that help when needed, and I take them. I take my antidepressants daily. But I really have to avoid getting too tired more than anything. Thatís when I start getting crazy.
3. When I am tired, my mind stops functioning. There is a part of my mind that in normal circumstances has learned to keep me on an even keel, but when I am tired. Sometimes the old reactions come up before I know what I have done. My craziness may have served once to keep people off balance around me, so they would leave me alone. I donít think it serves any useful function now, since I donít want to run off the people who love me.
4. The old defect can still erupt at such times as noted. The thing is, what is showing is that 50 plus years of bad habits can take a long time to overcome. I have been in recovery for 16 years, and have come a long way, but I am not perfected yet, just unfolding. I have to have patience, and let my Higher Power do the work.
5. Actually, at this stage of recovery, I am quite willing to give up my defects, at least the ones Iím aware of. Intimacy one had certain fears connected from the incest in my childhood, but I think I have done pretty well, with Godís help, in dealing with all those issues as well as I can.
6. How impatient I am! Sometimes I think God is too slow. Interestingly, what God does is done well, and what I do is a mess. When there is success in getting rid of a bad habit, I know that God has done it, not me.
7. Obviously, one priority for me would be to not let myself get too tired. This is something that once in a while I cannot control. Life sometimes has emergencies. But Iím still doing better than I once did. I used to feel self righteous when I blew up Ė these people were deliberately or stupidly bothering me. Now, I am very ashamed of myself, and try to make amends at once. And it is getting rarer.