Some say that steps 6 and 7 are the forgotten steps. I can understand why that is so. For a lot of people, having the defect of compulsive eating removed by God seems like the biggest miracle one could hope for, it seems like a lot, or even enough. But as the AA stepbook poses: what about the less glaring defects? Other defects of character erode the very quality of our day to day life as well. For many of us, it would be hard to stay abstinent if we didn't begin a life long effort to modify the operating style we established while in our addiction. For example, when I was in the food, it didn't matter that most relationships didn't progress beyond the superficial level, and often if they did, I was uncomfortable and wanted out. I was much more comfortable with food than with people. Once I became abstinent I discovered that I didn't have many of the qualities necessary to develop lasting relationships with other, qualities like tolerance, patience, forgiveness, compassion for others. So as a void in my life was created by taking out the wall of food consumption, I developed a desire to have these new qualities, so that I may experience more meaningful connections with others. Being intolerant, impatient, and judgmental were attributes I discovered while doing my 5th step. Now I had some concrete notions to go to God with. I could pray for the more constructive character traits.
So many addicts are riddled with unconstructive beliefs, outlooks, personality traits. Rather than mortify us when we discover how we’ve been behaving, it often brings us together as a fellowship, to recognize that we are all defective to some degree, and striving to be in a process of getting better at relations with others. Don’t forget, isolation is the panacea of the compulsive eater, if we just steer clear of people, we won’t fail at relationships, we won’t have to accomodate the desires of others, we won’t have to compromise, we won’t have to stand up for ourselves, or ask for what we need. We won’t have to assert ourselves, and say no, when saying yes is easier.
One of the helpful things I did was to write a list of all the behaviors that I discovered were patterns that I felt stuck in, that showed up in my inventory. That was the first column. Right next to it, in the second column, I’d write the opposite of that behavior, how I’d like to see myself behave instead. Many times I would refer to that list in my morning spiritual practice, asking God each day to help me practice the new behavior. As contrite as it sounds, that is how it worked for me. When we are attending meetings, or talking to a sponsor, or talking to other OAs, we can affirm our progress, and thank God that we’ve had a moment of grace, and strive to not repeat the same destructive pattern again. This consciousness of the desire to improve certain personality characteristics, certain character defenses, coupled with the knowledge that with God’s help, anything and everything is possible, is what practicing what step six means, it moves us forward. Changing the person you brought into the rooms of recovery is both a gift and a challenge, and it requires work. And it’s a lifelong project. And some defects go and come back again. Sometimes we are afraid to let go of certain characteristics that have defined us in the past. I myself always identified with that phrase in the AA step book about the hole in the donut. What, who will I be if I stop being old witty, cynical, defiant, sharp as a tack Nancy? Well, there is such a thing as a more loving, more productive, more honest and caring Nancy, and I’m glad I have embarked on this lifelong process to move toward that version of myself.
Questions for reflection:
Taking one counter-productive character trait that came up for you during your inventory, what would you want that replaced with, if you could have it lifted and replaced with another character trait?
Thinking back on what you learned about yourself through the inventory process, what character trait do you truly believe you could never change yourself. If God changes this for you, can you share on why God would want you to have this miracle change of character, and what life goals you might be able to achieve as a result?
Why do you think the lifting, or letting go of character defects is broken down into two parts: becoming ready, and asking God to remove them?
In loving service,
The Twelve Steps