Step Six: Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
~ Finish the earlier reading if you haven't as yet
~ Alcoholics Anonymous (the Big Book) - Chapter 6 "Into Action," one paragraph only - from the top of page 76, beginning with "If we can answer to our satisfaction, we then look at Step Six," to the end of the paragraph.
~ The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions of Overeaters Anonymous - Step Six
~ Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions (Alcoholics Anonymous) - Step Six
Let it out.
Connect with Higher Power.
Hello again, Friends! When we finish step six we are half way through? the study. We are making progress!
I am reading your shares, and appreciate being with you through this experience. It is changing me. Thank you.
INSTINCTS The AA 12 & 12 has an interesting discussion about instincts. ?"When men and women pour so much alcohol into themselves that they destroy their lives, they commit a most unnatural act. Defying their instinctive desire for self-preservation, they seem bent upon self-destruction. They work against their own deepest instinct. As they were humbled by the terrific beating administered by alcohol, the grace of God can enter them and expel their obsession. Here their instinct to live can cooperate fully with their creator's desire to give them new life. For nature and God alike abhor suicide." This is where our natural instinct for pleasure morphs into a blind heedless drive to escape life. We of course did this with food. Recently I was reading online about how much of one of my red-light food substances it would take to kill a person, and I was horrified to find that I hadn't been that far from it on some occasions, and still was obsessed with food and overeating, and felt compelled to keep doing it. And then of course there was my life-threatening obesity, which I feared and hated, but couldn't do anything about. I didn't want to die, but I had hitched my wagon to addiction, and was careening downhill, heedless of the risks to life and health in my overwhelming drive to evade the situations, stresses and fears in my life.
Then the AA 12 & 12 goes on to discuss defects other than compulsive consumption of harmful substances - "natural desires and instinctual drives" that occasionally in a normal person "exceed their intended purpose." And then there is me: "...but when [natural desires and instincts] drive us blindly or we willfully demand that they supply us with more satisfaction or pleasure than are possible or due us, that is the point at which we depart from the degree of perfection that God wishes for us here on earth." My compulsive eating was the normal feeding instinct and normal pleasure instinct gone over into rampage, and trying to fill all the holes in my life. My hiding and isolating were the normal instinct for self-esteem gone into a twisted overdrive trying to protect me from exposure. And so on. These are my "defects" of character. My goal is to get back to the natural state where my instincts cooperate with God/Higher Power's guidance for my best interests. To do this I need to have God remove these defective ways of dealing with myself, my life, with others and relating to God. These old ways are not working for me any longer, if they ever did. They just drove me toward my one-size-fits-all solution to discomfort: food and compulsive eating.
NOW WHAT? In step four we identified the people, places, things, situations, and events which threaten our basic instincts which have long gone wild, and how these appear in our lives, provoking heated, unproductive, harmful overreactions - these cycles are the "character defects" or defective behavior patterns that have been running us in repetitive circles, driving us to compulsive eating, and blocking us from God/HP. We made our lists, reviewed our past and the examples of our harmful behavior. In step five we shared our findings with God and another person and began to be relieved of the shame and isolation that kept us locked in our lonely labyrinth. Now what?
WILLINGNESS The AA Big Book for step six only says we check ourselves, asking, Are we truly ready to let God remove all of these counter-productive, harmful traits and behaviors? And if there are some that we are not willing to let go of, can we simply ask God for help to be willing? In my own experience with willingness, I hear God say, "OK, you aren't willing to do X or let go of Y. What ARE you willing to do? DO THAT." The saying goes that "close doesn't count except in hand grenades and the game of horseshoes," but I've learned that close counts A LOT in my recovery. Like the quote in my signature says, a little willingness leads to more willingness. Baby steps taken repeatedly lead to grown up people walking and running and doing amazing feats.
IS THIS EASY, OR WHAT? At first blush, it seems obvious. OF COURSE I'm ready! Take all this stuff! Relieve me of this baggage - I'm sick of carrying it around! I don't want to keep doing the same things over and over and being disappointed, discouraged and disgusted with my failure to change. I don't want to continue repeating these ways of living that harm myself and others. But if it were that simple, wouldn't I already have changed years ago?
REALITY CHECK This is a big step. If someone presents you with a contract to sign that will change your life completely, but which will require you to live in a completely different way, will you sign it? Have you thought about what this will cost, what it will mean, what you will have to do differently? You probably have to give up many familiar ways of living that you have relied on most of your life - practices you have repeated day in, day out for many years, which are part of the fabric of your life: "...saying we're entirely ready and being entirely ready are two very different things. What we are entirely ready for, actually, is to have the difficulties our defects cause us removed while we hang on to the defects themselves." OA 12 & 12.
The OA 12 & 12 talks about some of the things that get in the way of our willingness to have our defective behavior patterns removed.
- I'M USED TO THEM! "We are comfortable with our old ways of thinking and acting, even though we know they are harmful." OA 12 & 12. I know these old approaches to living are harming me and others and don't work, but I know them, I know how to do them. It's like doing my old compulsive eating routines - I hate that I do them, they're making my life miserable, but they are tried and true and I'm accustomed to them. I've made room in my life for them; they have a place in me. But in fact when I start doing things differently through the 12 steps, that space that was taken up by the old unproductive ways is freed up for something better.
- I DON'T KNOW WHAT ELSE TO DO! We're afraid to let go of our defects "...because we've never known how to cope with life any other way." Our old ways of eating, working, our daily routines, our thinking, feeling, our ways of making decisions, reacting, relating to other people. "We admit that our old ways of relating to other people have caused pain and we want to let go of them. But how WILL we act?" We see pretty clearly how we DON'T want to act, but what is the alternative? Through the 12 step work I learn and practice new skills - a gift that keeps on giving in my life.
- THEY MAKE ME SPECIAL "...we feel we'd be less interesting as human beings without some of our defects." OA 12 & 12. The new me and my new way of living is more peaceful - but not boring! I am more and more able to act as the authentic "me" instead of feeling like I'm playing a part - often playing a part I don't want to play and wondering how I got stuck with it. I find I have plenty more to learn, and more to become, and it is fascinating.
- I ENJOY MY DEFECTS - "Say what we will about being 'completely ready' in a general way to have God removed our shortcomings, when it comes to specifics, we'd rather hang on to a few of the choice ones." OA 12 & 12. That one deserves an LOL, right?!? "...we exult in some of our defects. We really love them." AA 12 & 12 We are greedy but call it ambition or passion, resentful and angry but call it righteous. We are self-seeking, proud and think we are better than others, and call it self-esteem. We are selfish and dishonest, and call it practical, efficient, rational. And our defects provide excitement - lying, hiding, fantasizing, gossip, getting angry, venting about my resentments, criticizing and speculating about others, procrastinating and living on the edge - life with me, myself, my compulsive eating, my defects and my unmanageable life was exciting in a perverse way - a thrill ride - entertainment. The drama of my life was compelling, frightening. As it says in "Hindsight," one of the stories in the AA Big Book: "Soon I was crying in my beer, full of self-pity, and off again to a flying start toward a floundering finish." http://silkworth.net/bbstories/370.html Even though these behavior patterns were making me sick in body, mind, emotions and spirit, even though they kept me diving into bags and boxes of junk food, I still clung to them. Yet life in the peaceful lane as I practice the 12 steps and new ways of living is no less riveting, no less exciting, and much more interesting. It's no longer the predictable soap opera - now it's about learning to live effectively in a relationship with a higher power, through all the turmoil of life, without resorting to my old defective behavior patterns.
- IT'S SCARY TO LOSE THESE PARTS OF ME! Our defects "...are so much a part of us that the thought of having them suddenly removed is threatening to us." "We confront the fear that our defects are like threads woven into the very fabric of our being; if God removes them we feel we'll surely come unraveled." OA 12 & 12. Yet others in recovery have said repeatedly that what they gained is so much more valuable than what they let go of.
- POWERLESSNESS - TRYING TO "DO IT MYSELF" "The harder we try to rid ourselves of our defects, the more they control us . . . . We are powerless over each of our defects of character, just as we are powerless over the food. It will be up to a Power greater than ourselves to remove them from us; we can't do it alone." OA 12 & 12.
Just as I ran into a brick wall when I tried to stop compulsive eating "on my own," I have the same problem when I try to remove my own shortcomings - these habits of body, mind, emotions and behavior are deeply ingrained and are no longer subject to my will, if they ever were. I need to tap into a higher power and let that higher power do its work in me.
- I'M NOT ENTIRELY READY! The AA 12 & 12 says that we really only do step one "perfectly," and the rest are ideals we aim toward. Step six "...is AA's way of stating the best possible attitude one can take in order to make a beginning on this lifetime job. . . . The key words 'entirely ready' underline the fact that we want to aim at the very best we know or can learn. . . . How many of us have this degree of readiness? In an absolute sense practically nobody has it. The best we can do, with all the honesty we can summon, is to try to have it." I take the readiness I have, and work with that. My readiness grows as I practice the steps and see the results.
- "STICKING POINTS" AND "NO, NEVER!" The AA 12 & 12 talks about "sticking points" where we say "No, I can't give this up yet," or even the dreaded "This I will never give up!" AA 12 & 12. I know I have had my sticking points. I have convinced myself to try to let them go, and allow God to remove them. I couldn't give up diet soda, but I was willing to keep asking for help and trying, and it's been gone from my life for years. I couldn't, wouldn't give up my favorite "staying up late watching TV alone" despite the fact that it was almost always an occasion for compulsive eating, and erratic sleep was harming my body and undermining my effectiveness during the day. I essentially threw an 8-1/2 year tantrum over that one. But I also kept an open mind because my experience kept showing that I couldn't do this and have the life I wanted. Similar sticking points have been over letting go of certain foods, eating between meals, impulse eating, grazing, eating out of large packages, yet God kept showing me how these were harming me, not working for me, and I became willing to let go of them sometimes, and then more often, and now finding they are disappearing from my life. I also believed that "righteous anger" was good for me, and procrastinating brought out the best in me. I believed I needed to hide my mistakes and weaknesses. I didn't think I could live another way. Yet I did work through these issues by practicing the steps and am finding a new way of living that is much more effective. "Looking again at those defects we are still unwilling to give up, we ought to erase the hard and fast lines that we have drawn. Perhaps we shall be obliged to say, 'This I cannot give up yet...,' but we should not say to ourselves, 'This I will never give up!' . . . . The moment we say 'No, never!' our minds close against the grace of God." AA 12 & 12.
- SETTLING We have readiness to let go of a few of our defects - enough to pull ourselves part way out of the pit, so we're no longer in total misery - and then we find ourselves rebelling against continuing: "...we want to settle for only as much perfection as will get us by in life..." AA 12 & 12. But the "promises" of the steps - peace, freedom from obsession, compulsion and enslavement to old unworkable ways of living - really come when we are diligent, when we continue day after day with the steps, keep aiming at perfection and accepting patient improvement in our living skills. I have spent my life trying to limit my "I want" only as much as absolutely necessary to avoid disaster. That didn't work. Pulling half way out of the pit and stopping means I start slipping back down the slippery slope. My "I want" always exceeded my best interests. Now I am letting go of more so that God can fill me with much better things. "This is the exact point at which we abandon limited objectives, and move toward God's will for us." AA 12 & 12.
HOW TO GET MORE "ENTIRELY READY" TO HAVE MY DEFECTS REMOVED The OA 12 & 12 suggests that we scrutinize each defect, including looking at what it is doing for us as well as what it is doing to us. Why have we hung onto these behaviors that are clearly not working for us? "Only when we fully realize that they are costing us more than they are giving us do we become entirely ready to be rid of our defects of character." We take each character defect through the first three steps: We admit we are powerless over this defective behavior, that it is making our lives unmanageable, that a higher power can restore us to sanity with regard to this defect, and we make a decision to turn our will and our lives and this defect and our reactions and behaviors, over to the care of God/HP. "I'm powerless to rid myself of this trait. I can't, but God can, and I'll let God take it." OA 12 & 12.
CONCLUSION "What we are asked to do in step six is to become entirely ready for this miracle of release to happen to us, no matter what it may cost us, no matter what in our lives may change . . . . we dedicate ourselves to a lifetime of growth and change . . . . and to let God change us as God will. . . . A willingness to change is the essence of step six. Change is always frightening, even when it's a much-needed and long-overdue change for the better. . . . we recognize and acknowledge our human fear of change. Then, because we are willing to go to any length for recovery from compulsive eating, we move ahead with this step anyhow. No longer will we allow fear to keep us from doing what is best for us." OA 12 & 12.
FOR YOUR REFLECTION AND COMMENT:
1. What concerns, difficulties or obstacles do you have as you work step six?
2. How do you feel about being "entirely ready" to have God remove all these defects of character?
3. What might be "a few choice shortcomings" you enjoy and would rather hang onto? What are they doing for you, and what are they doing to you?
4. What are some "sticking points" you have as you work step six?
5. Any other thoughts or reactions to the reading or step six?
The Twelve Steps