Quitting Alcohol & Staying Sober: The 6th Step

“We were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.”

We’re half way through our series on the 12 Step Program. We hope that these posts have helped you better understand each step and have reaffirmed your determination to quitting alcohol and staying sober. The Big Book of AA states that step six is the step that “separates the men from the boys.” Success with step six requires a great deal of humility, asking that we admit once again that recovery is a lifelong process. That may sound like an incredibly daunting task. Many think that with such a mountain of defects they might never conquer them all, but just remember we are all a work in progress—and nothing worthwhile comes easily. The reward, ultimately, is self-realization, acceptance and a willingness to do better.

Working Through Step 6

Before you can work the sixth step, you should have a pretty good idea of what your character defects are. It is sometimes a good exercise to go back and have a look at the inventory you created in step four. Take the time to assign a character defect to each event, resentment or negative thing on your list. Once you have this list, you’ll have a solid place to start.

Look for patterns in your actions: fear, lust, dishonesty, greed, etc. Once you’ve made your list of defects, think about how you would change each one. For instance, if you identified one of your character defects as “envy,” you might want to think about turning that to “being happy about other people’s success.” Lust can be replaced by “fidelity,” and dishonesty can become “truthfulness.” Through it all, it’s important to know what you are striving for, and to keep those goals in mind when you ask your higher power for assistance: you must always make your intention known before your higher power can respond.

Don’t Get Discouraged

Success with the sixth step requires you to dispense with all of your pre-conceived ideas of perfection and realize that your process is yours and yours alone. It is helpful to keep in mind that you are not giving something up. Instead, you are leaving something behind that wasn’t working for you anymore.

Many alcoholics suggest that writing a list of affirmations relating to each character defect is helpful. For instance, if being dishonest is the issue, you may write:

  • I strive to tell the truth, no matter what
  • I do not keep secrets from others
  • I feel better about myself when I tell the truth

In your daily meditation, repeating these affirmations may help you to feel better about the process. And when you feel better, you might feel a new willingness to complete step six. Through it all, keep an open mind and realize that you are a work in progress.

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