"My Creator, I am now willing that you should have all of me, good and bad.
I pray that you now remove from me every single defect of character which stands in the way of my usefulness to you and my fellows.
Grant me strength, as I go out from here, to do your bidding.
We have now completed Step Seven.
As I thought about how to share on this step this past week, I found myself wanting to really complicate it! Really get into the nuts and bolts of what this means and what that means and blah, blah, blah! I love the AA Big Book. If I feel that information from other sources is a bit paradoxical or even conflicts with the Big Book I tend to return to my textbook for my final approach and faith. So I will keep it simple and just share what this step means to me today.I rarely prayed for anything but abstinence so I could feel better about myself for myself. It was all about me.
I want to share the story of the bamboo seed. Unlike most seeds, the bamboo seed has to be buried in the ground for 5 years in order for the very tough shell to be softened enough for the seed to sprout. Once it sprouts though, it grows 90 feet very quickly. This reminds me of Step Seven. Many times it doesn't look like anything is happening. But we are being softened and nurtured by this program and our higher power deep within. I have heard many stories about how long it took for people to become abstinent consistently. Truly, even when we think we aren't getting it, we very well may be doing the really hard working of softening in the darkness of our inner selves. Signs of resistance crop up and times of rebellion and frustration come. And it's all part of the process of softening and surrendering. That's why we hear "Don't leave before the miracle happens" in our rooms and "Keep Coming Back"!!!!
What I was like prior to ever taking this step:
I still felt very worthless most of the time but at the same time I felt "better than" alot of people. False pride.
I still thought humbly meant groveling, being humiliated, ashamed and begging.
It was about this time that I discovered I had a huge problem with "saying" prayers. I became aware that having been raised in a violent, shaming home that I had three very important rules I always had to follow: "Don't talk, Don't trust, Don't feel!"
I also began to use journaling more because I was told it would help me stay abstinent and become more aware of underlying causes and conditions. So I started writing my prayers. This was a huge turning point for me. Even though I had been told "don't talk" I was never once told not to write; or read either for that matter. So I began to use those two tools alot more.
I did pray to have my defects removed. But still, it was all about me. I wanted God to remove the ones I wanted removed when I wanted them removed and in the way I wanted them removed. This went quite slow as you can probably imagine!
Then I heard someone share the part of the prayer that states "which stands in the way of my usefulness to you and my fellows." This person shared that some of their defects actually did not stand in the way of their usefulness to God and others and that they were not removed for a long period of time. The ones that are most important to be removed as soon as possible are the ones that stand in the way of my usefulness in my recovery. Without recovery, I am an addict and my life deteriorates very rapidly. This illness affects me deeply on all 3 levels--not just physical. In fact, I believe it affects me far more spiritually, mentally, and emotionally than it does physically. I was not aware of this for a long time though. I blamed all my other problems with life on other issues!!!
What I am like now:
I am a work in progress. Probably the biggest change I have experienced is in my fear level. Usefulness has alot to do with that. I have done alot of service even when I was uncomfortable. Leading this workshop is the most current example. It was not in my plan! I do love to write, love recovery, and believe in being faithful if I accept a service position. I know it will help me more than it will help anyone else. Serving others helps me because I constantly see my defects/defenses arise as I work with others. This awareness of fear, hurt, anger, false pride, self pity, inconsistency, denial, self centeredness is so crucial to my growth. When I draw back into my comfort zone I endanger my abstinence, my healing, and my growth. I must grow. Service is the main way I keep myself on the edge of growth. It is also important that I grow in service and not just do the jobs I have always done. I need to give up those "safe" positions so that others can find the joy of serving as well and reach for something that is a little beyond my comfort zone! One of the ways this happens is that other trusted servants will ask me to do something new. My first response is--Oh, I could never do that. Isn't there someone else who would be better at that than I am? There have been a few times I have turned down opportunities because I knew I wasn't quite ready. Or, I knew it wasn't a good match for me. However, most of the time, the request comes when I most need the growth, so I accept with great fear and trepidation! So far, HP has not failed to bless me with strength and grace to do whatever I need to do to fill the commitment.
Sometimes it even helps others! The sense of usefulness is double at those times!
If I had to pick one tool, one step, and one prayer that most supports my recovery it is service, the seventh step, and the seventh step prayer. Service is a tool, is mentioned in all of our prayers, and is the thread that runs all the way through the steps. Self centeredness will eventually fall away when we do service from the correct motive--the motive to be useful to HP and our fellows.
It's not all about me. I know that now.
The part of the prayer that says "as I go out from here to do your bidding" always grabs my attention. To me, this means that "going out, reaching out, searching out, seeking to be of serice" is an important part of God's will for me. This means in recovery and everyday life I am to see what I can contribute.. Amazingly, I have discovered that sometimes what I am lead to contribute is a peaceful and strong presence. Other times I may be able to contribute wisdom or leadership at work or a positive support. Sometimes I can just "be there" and that's the main thing! Suit up and show up!
It is important to note that "going out from here" usually doesn't fit well with isolating.
For me, I need times of reflection and quiet. But it is very important that I not spend a large amount of time on meaningless pleasure such as TV, excessive reading, playing computer games obsessively, etc. I have friends who spend up to 8 hours a day in front of television. For me, this is not useful and is part of my illness and isolation. Limiting these things is very important to my recovery.
There are so many aspects of this step to explore. I am sure the assignments and questions will help us with this and as always I look forward to hearing from all of you with your insights and awarenesses! As I read your posts I often think of Roseanne's saying, "I put my hand in yours and together we can do what we could never do alone! No longer is there a sense of uselessness . . . We are altogether now . .. ."
Thank you for sharing your lives and recovery with me.
Assignments for Step Seven:
AA Big Book-- 1 page
Read and reflect on the first two paragraphs on page 76
AA 12X12--7 pages
Read the summary of step seven on page 7 in the Table of Contents
Read step seven on pages 70-76
OA 12x12--8 pages
Read Step seven on pages 59-66
Questions for reflection:
AA Big Book:
1. Write a detailed and specific response to the first paragraph on page 76 before you go on to the seventh step prayer.
2. Write a reflection on each of these segments of the prayer on paragraph two.
a.. My Creator:
b. I am now willing:
c. that you should have all of me, good and bad:
d. I pray that you now remove from me every single defect of character:
e. which stands in the way of my usefulness to you and my fellows:
f. Grant me strenth:
h. as I go out from here:
i. to do your bidding:
1. What is humility? What can it mean to us?
2. Describe how we can gain true freedom of the human spirit.
3. Why is humility and ego puncturing necessary for our survival?
4. What are some ways that failure, misery, and weakness have been transformed by humility in your life? If you have not experienced this yet, do you know someone who has? Can you share that story with us? Does this give you hope?
5. Describe how self centered fear is the main activator of our/your other defects.
1. Why do we place ourselves above other people?
2. Where does humility place us?
3. What 4 things does the OA 12x12 (page 60) say we have learned in the first six steps.
4. What two concepts do we need to understand regarding humility?
5. How do we complete step seven? (page 62-66)
6. Describe your experience with the 7th step prayer.
Optional visual journaling assignment:
Envision by imagination, meditation, picture, or word picture what you would look like, feel like, and be like with your character defects removed!
We have come a long way on our journey together. May we finish our marathon imperfectly one day at a time!