A Study of Step 6

The 12 steps of AA and Al-Anon

AA Meeting
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The key to Step 6 is acceptance—accepting character defects exactly as they are and the willingness to let them go.

Step 6: "Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character."

After identifying shortcomings and admitting to them by working Steps 4 and 5, the next step forces members of 12-step recovery groups to ask themselves if they are really willing to give up some of those faults. After all, some of them have been around so long, they are like old friends. They have been comfortable.

But if the previous steps have been done thoroughly and honestly, many times facing the truth can bring a measure of guilt, which is a great motivation to become "entirely ready" to have those shortcomings removed. As with all the steps, the ability to become ready comes from a higher power, a power greater than yourself.

How Step 6 Relates to Alcoholism

The idea behind this phase of 12-step recovery—steps 4 through 7—is to address some of the personal issues, shortcomings and character defects that may have been a factor in your decision to begin drinking in the first place.

If you simply stop drinking and do not address some of these other issues, they could cause you to get into situations that may cause you to relapse. For example, if the way you express anger or the way you handle rejection is a problem for others around you, you could end up ruining a relationship and that could cause you to pick up a drink again.

Furthermore, if you quit drinking "only" and you don't address your other issues, you could end up what some call a "dry drunk," and end up bitter and resentful. In which case, you may be sober, but very unhappy.

Easy to Repeat Old Behaviors

There is a saying around the 12-step rooms that you can get a horse thief sober, but you still have a horse thief. Or another one, "you can take the rum out of the fruitcake, but you still have a fruitcake." What that means is, if all you do is stop drinking and you don't change some of your other behaviors, then it will be easier to slip back into your old habits, including going to the bar to drown your sorrows.

That is why Steps 4 through 7 are in the middle of the 12 steps. If you don't admit you have shortcomings and take steps to address those issues, then a spiritual awakening may never come. It's all about being honest with yourself and those around you.

Identifying your shortcomings and admitting them is not the end of the process. Becoming "entirely ready" to do something about them is a key to the solution.

Others in recovery have shared what their experience is with Step 6. Here are some of their stories:

Step 6: Getting Humble

Working step 6 is simply working the first five steps, and then getting humble. This is not easy for many alcoholics. Working the first five steps seems grueling at first, but they manage to do it. Then the "humble" part steps in.

How do you get humble? If the messages of the first five steps sink in, you find humility. If the message somehow escaped you, go back and work them again, find out what you did wrong, and then try this step again.

One AA member, Sox, relates how he often had hurt friends, family, and employers, but rationalized his behavior and blamed the one who was injured. In working the steps and accepting responsibility for the consequences of his actions and omissions he felt shame and remorse. He turned to his higher power in prayer in deep humility to remove his defects. Then he could take the road to redemption by making amends.

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