Personalizing Step 6

Step 6In previous steps we started identifying mental and moral qualities we wish were better in our relationships within ourselves and with others. How do we improve these?

Step 6 in the book of Alcoholics Anonymous is a brief statement of what Bill W and the first 100 did: “Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character”. Sounds pretty straightforward and easy … just prepare yourself (without mental reservation) for God to remove these “defects”. Seems more like a half step: just get ready for some change.

If I am “entirely ready” to make changes in my character, how do these changes come about? Do these changes come from outside me, for example, from God? What if I am “entirely ready” for change, but I need something less ethereal than God plucking it out of me?

There are actions we can take to make the changes we want and need. Defects of character? How about some common words or phrases to say what some of these are. Here are but a few …

Hate
Jealousy
Lying
Arrogance
Negativity
Distrust
Meanness

Problems we direct inwardly include …

Resentment
Self condemnation
Being undisciplined
Fear

Whether we call these “character defects” or, with a more positive spin, “areas in need of improvement”, Step 6 is simply getting in a frame of mind — readiness — to accept that these need improvement or correction. We identify these sometimes in ourselves without help from others. We identify some of these when we do Step 5 with another person. And we continue to identify others throughout our lives. These won’t be “taken from us” by God or another person; the work is ours and ours alone. Guidance can come from others (including professional).

Let’s look at some examples of personalizing Step 6 from “The Little Book” compiled by Roger C.

⁃ Became entirely ready to work at transforming ourselves
(a Buddhist’s Non-Theist 12 Steps)
⁃ Became entirely open to change
(Personalized template by Neil F)
⁃ Were entirely ready to listen to wise counsel and seek that still small
voice within, guiding us to change behaviors harmful to us.
(The Twelve Step Journal)

Results from the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health

from: Behavioral health trends in the United States: Results from the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health,(HHS Publication No. SMA 15-4927, NSDUH Series H-50)
from: Behavioral health trends in the United States: Results from the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health,(HHS Publication No. SMA 15-4927, NSDUH Series H-50)

The most recent report on US substance abuse indicates that some things haven’t changed dramatically.

Overall, substance abuse was 92% in those 12 and older. Among all substances, alcohol abuse has declined somewhat for those under 26 years old, but for those above 26 the numbers haven’t changed much in recent years.

What does this mean for 12-step recovery programs and those “in the rooms” of support groups? The need remains unchanging: we must continue to be available for all who abuse substances. There is a continuing stream of those needing support, both newcomers and many thousands already in recovery.

Recovery must be freely available without limits. The recent workshop “Widening the Gateway” in Olympia, WA showed there are those who still feel “less than” in our meetings. This is unacceptable for those of us who believe the responsibility statement in AA:

I am responsible. When anyone reaches out for help, I want the hand of AA always to be there.
And for that, I am responsible.