My Dearest Companions on the Journey of Recovery,
Thanks, once again, for your diligent recovery work. I appreciate all who continue to work the program, even if you have fallen a bit behind. Keep on keeping on! It will keep you abstinent, serene, and sane.
Many positive experiences of giving away the inventory were shared. I just wanted to add a brief anecdote. My sponsor likes to tease me about my 5th Step because when I shared my inventory with her, I saved all I was most ashamed of for the tail end. I guess I was summoning up the courage to say out loud that which had remained unspoken my entire life. I now realize I should have saved it for the middle when she was nodding off! I am not terminally unique! I share my defects with the human race. Step 6 will lead us in the direction of healing them. Proceed!
Step Six —Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
Step Six is very simple. Only one page in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous is dedicated to it. But like so many elements of the 12 Step Program of Overeaters Anonymous, it is simple, but not easy.
The Sixth Step requires us to be entirely ready to have HP remove our defects of character. Our character defects are easily identified in our Fourth Step inventory under the Character Traits column. There are generally themes that keep cropping up in various circumstances. Just as we became open to HP relieving us of our food obsession, we must now prepare our hearts for the removal of that which prevents us from enjoying the fullness of life.
We are often not ready to release our defects of character until they have caused us enough pain. Just as we had to be motivated and psychically prepared to do all the demanding work of physical recovery from our addiction, now it seems that our character defects must push us to the wall to burst through the wall of denial surrounding our hearts and opening us to transformation. It often takes greater agony to provoke readiness to have our character defects removed than it does for us to be prepared to put down the fork.
The reason for this is described well in the 12 Steps and 12 Traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous. It explains that alcohol [excess food] gives us a thrashing by which we are humbled. This allows the grace of HP to enter and relieve the [food] obsession. It then engages a powerful instinct to collaborate fully with our Creator’s desire for wholeness for us. But most of our struggles caused by our character defects do not qualify for this grace-filled healing because they do not cause us enough grief. The removal of our defects of character requires greater willingness, patience, and perseverance.
About a year after I affiliated with OA and became abstinent, a torrent of emotions flooded my being and sent me spinning. It was then that I knew at a gut level what it is that food did for me. My behavior, fueled by my rampaging emotions, was erratic and unpredictable. It began to cause a terrific strain in my relationships and great interior anguish. I had hit my second bottom and was faced with returning to compulsive overeating hell to quell my tumultuous interior life, or to enter a deeper stage of recovery in my journey toward health and wholeness.
Fortunately, I chose the latter. It was then that I discovered that I am just as powerless over my character defects as I am over food. I cannot remove my own defects of character. Only a power greater than them will overcome them. The more I rail and thrash against my defects, the more control they have over me. Clearly, surrender is called for once again. (Sigh!)
Now don’t forget that surrender is NOT passive, apathetic, or hopeless! Remember that we rely on HP, but row toward shore. The 12 Steps and 12 Traditions of Overeater’s Anonymous says it very well, “Our work is to do 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.” How is this done? Through prayer, working the Steps, using the tools of recovery, and opening our hearts to transformation. Simple, but not easy.
This process, of course, is a lifetime journey. It is here that the 12-Step slogan Progress, not perfection is most applicable. (Some people erroneously try to justify overeating by applying this slogan to their food plan, which reflects a misguided and potentially dangerous misunderstanding. Have you ever heard of a recovering alcoholic drinking a beer and proclaiming, “Progress, not perfection!?”) WILLINGNESS is the principle behind the 6th Step. Once we are aware of our defects of character, our task is to be willing to do the footwork of the program and keep ourselves open and willing to the metamorphosis that HP will facilitate in our lives.
One more issue involved in the Sixth Step is who we will be once our defects of character are removed. Something I have learned is that which is defective in me is often the flip side of a positive characteristic. For example, I am extremely sensitive and easily hurt. You can imagine what havoc that creates in my relationships. But when I am operating from my whole and redeemed self, when I allow HP to work in and through my life, my oversensitivity is transformed into healthy caring and empathy for others.
Below is a list of character defects and their positive counterparts. It will useful to you as you move into Step 7. It is extensive, but not exhaustive. You may be able to add some of your own.
Interest in others
Humility/Seeking God’s will
Questions for Reflection and Sharing
- How much pain have my character defects caused me? Do I feel I have hit bottom with them?
- How will I rely on HP, but row toward shore?
- What does Progress not perfection mean to me?
- What are some of my character defects and their positive counterpart?
- Am I willing to open myself and keep myself ready for the transformation my Higher Power wants to bring about in me? Please explain.
- Alcoholics Anonymous (Big Book, 4th Ed.) Page 76, 1st paragraph
- The 12 Steps and 12 Traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous - Step 6
- The 12 Steps and 12 Traditions of Overeaters Anonymous - Step 6
The Twelve Steps