And now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for. (or girding for, as the case may be)
Finally, an action that we can take to deal with the persistent character defects that have fueled our compulsive eating and inspired our less-than-attractive behaviors.
Hopefully, we’ve all become more aware of the diminishing benefits of each of our character defects, and what they’re actually costing us, and found in that evaluation the motivation to make a start on leaving them behind, one day at a time.
As we’ve gained momentum over the last few weeks, we’ve been given what we need to start making new choices in old situations, and begin to become more like the person that we always wanted to be.
The process of self-evaluation and disclosure in steps four and five, followed by that awkward period of helplessly witnessing our inability to override our defects by sheer effort or force of will, positions us to rely more fully on our Higher Power, knowing that the only real enduring solution to our problem will come from a spiritual place.
In taking our 5th step, we experienced a new closeness to another person and to our Higher Power. By disclosing these very personal revelations, we overcame a major impediment and cleared the way to more fully enjoy experience sincere honesty, trust and intimacy, maybe for the first time in our lives.
Step Seven is about converting that sincerity and optimism into Humility.
Try as I might, I was never able to “get humble”. It had to come as a secondary benefit of taking actions that led to an alteration in my perspective.
Humility has been a lens through which I saw myself objectively, accepting who I became with some regret, but without shame or guilt. I began to see alternatives to people-pleasing & approval seeking, dominating or being intimidated by others. I saw that I could live my life motivated by something entirely new - becoming useful… and unconditionally giving.
Humility is about forgiving yourself for past mistakes and preparing for the ensuing steps. Humility turns adversity into opportunity. To see God’s hand in sending the people who cross my path …as if their words were specifically meant for me at that moment.
The OA 12+12 tells us that we need to begin asking God – in the form of a prayer – to remove the defect.
The Big Book’s 7th step prayer (Page 76) goes like this:
"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. Amen."
A beautiful prayer in the OA 12 +12 captures the spirit of this step quite succinctly:
“I am this way, and only with your help can I change” – Simple, honest, humble.
As time went on, I became better able to see the fear, the expectation of a negative outcome, the competitiveness or the manipulative neediness – and ask for increased willingness to make NEW choices when presented with old triggering situations.
I started to compose scripts in my head to counter difficult situations or deal with difficult relationships. Having a cue or an “exit line” alleviated a lot of my anxiety.
If my wife began to press me to talk about something that I didn’t feel ready to, I could gently say “Do you mind if we talk about that a little later?” Or if I’d been irritable or inattentive to say “I just want you to know that I’m really not having a great day today” instead of expecting her to read my mind as I act badly with her.
Sometimes, when I feel a bit cornered by someone who wants something of me, I can say “I’m not really prepared to talk about that right now…let’s find another time soon when I can give you my undivided attention” and prepare myself for that conversation.
As time went on, I focused my prayers more on building up the corresponding asset than the removal of the defect. With my more persistent defects, (particularly impulsiveness) I now choose to think that maybe God made me this way so that I would have constant reminders to seek out His help…and as I humbly ask for it, He grants it.
One of the unexpected consequences – and most empowering incentives to continue this path -- is when a loved one, employer or someone in my life notices the change in me to be so conspicuous that they feel obliged to mention it when they see the new me
The release of a defect is a miracle. As much a miracle as my first day of abstinence.
And part of humility for me is asking…praying… every day… that I not fall into the trap of believing that I have become so ”recovered” (I hate that word) that I have outgrown the need to rightfully credit each and every day of abstinence as the truest barometer of my progress and my spiritual condition. If I am eating compulsively, I am selfishly removing myself from any chance of being joyfully useful, and therefore am not maintaining my spiritual condition.
I encounter so many people who are actively eating who claim spiritual recovery. But my connection with other people IS my recovery, and nothing diminishes the size of my world than my compulsive behaviors
I must continue to be willing to go to any lengths on the defect removal stage of the recovery, just as I did in my early prayers for a day of abstinence. It is exactly the same .
We are rapidly approaching a time where the fruits of our efforts in working the steps are becoming more apparent. We will increasingly be asked to give back to OA…. to lead meetings, to sponsor, to attend intergroup…to be more useful and unselfish.
We can choose to see each request as an invitation to move beyond our comfort zone, just as we have over the last 3 or 4 weeks. It’s important to keep moving forward, and not squander the recovery currency that we’ve deposited in our spiritual bank account.
So, in summary
1) We continue to improve our understanding of our defects – in order to “see them coming”
2) We use this information not to berate ourselves, but to remember that our defects were forged from low-self esteem which separates us from our Higher Power.
3) We ask God to remove our defects from us
4) We imagine new ways to respond to old situations
5) We seek harmony with others, and try to be unconditionally useful
6) And most importantly, we see the direct connection between our daily abstinence and our ability to move forward in this process.
Read step seven in the OA 12+12. Write a personal seventh step prayer, or use the one from the Big Book – integrate that prayer into your morning spiritual practices.
Continue to imagine what your life would be like with your most troublesome defects largely removed
Feel free to share postings about your 7th step prayer or your vision for the new you.
Make three phone calls this week and talk to about what form Step Seven has taken for them, and for you.
As usual – here is your weekly multiple choice question, the answer to which I’d like you all to include in your posting.
1) I have made an effort to work the tools this week, but I could do much better.
2) I’m working the tools each day. It’s a regular part of my program and my abstinence.
3) I really have difficulty finding time to work the tools, but I’m cleanly abstinent.
4) I really have difficulty finding time to work the tools and I cannot stay/get abstinent.
The Twelve Steps