The Importance of Steps 6 & 7

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ThornHe was three years “sober.” After running a hose from the tailpipe of his truck into the trailer where he lived he started the engine, laid in bed and closed his eyes. An hour later he was roused from a carbon monoxide-induced slumber by his cat scratching at his face. The thought to live flickered.

His head was throbbing, his face flushed but he straightway went to a 12-step meeting and shared what he had attempted. A kindly couple cornered him after the meeting and announced that his long, sponsor-free dry drunk was going to end. They were going to mentor him. They were going to introduce him to the steps.

There was the surrender to God. There was the soul searching of Steps 4 & 5. But then it was time to get at the heart of the matter—why did he want to die?

Sure, he hadn’t had a drink in years. But he was still a womanizer. He was inclined to take things that didn’t belong to him. He had no qualms about screwing over customer at the auto dealership where he worked.

Or was his behavior really qualm-free?

When you cut out the booze that pesky conscience has a way of perking up. It gnawed at him. The more he went against it, the more inclined he was to shut the mind down—permanently.

“How did you not take a drink for three years?,” the question came from his sponsors.

“I asked God every day to remove the compulsion,” came the honest reply.

“Why don’t you try the same approach with womanizing, stealing, cheating and whatever else troubles you?, came the reply.

So he did. One by one he tackled his faults. The approach was simple: “God, help me get through the day without (fill in the character defect here),” he prayed.

Soon he was a free man. Soon he was comfortable in his own skin.

Thirty years later he returned the favor and taught me the same approach to Steps 6 & 7.

The Big Book barely touches on these “forgotten steps.” A few paragraphs. A quick prayer. Call it good.

For all that is good about the Big Book, its treatment of these steps leaves a little to be desired. Some take the 7th Step prayer literally and just make a general request to have God remove any shortcoming that stands in the way of our usefulness in God’s plan. Not to quibble, but specific requests like “Get me through the day with stealing” have proven more effective to many.

For good measure, read Steps 6 and 7 in the 12 Steps and Twelve Traditions. Here they are covered in more substantial fashion as Bill W. had decades to reflect on the application of these steps before writing these important essays.

Big Book purists may argue that it is up to God to decide what character defects to remove. Yeah, about that… I agree that only God can remove these flaws. Will power alone has failed me a thousand times. But I am guessing that if I tried to explain to my wife that “obviously God has no issues with my womanizing as he has not removed that compulsion” I might find my little Florida on the business end of a pair of garden shears. Caitlynn Jenner might rock her new look just fine, but I don’t see gender reassignment in my future.

After all, isn’t our conscience God given? I am guessing whatever force we consider to be our Higher Power just might have a passing familiarity with right and wrong. Even if your higher power is a G.roup O.f D.runks (your home group) I am pretty sure you can get a little guidance on what your more glaring defects might be.


That’s all for now. Does that mean my long hiatus from posting is over? Well I got my graduate school routine down to a manageable amount of time each week. So yes, start checking back once a week. Love to all… RB

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