Steps 6 and 7

As ever I’ll start with my disclaimer that this is a supplement and not a replacement for any program literature. I’ll rely heavily on the assumption that you’ve read AAs 12 x 12 on step 6 or an equivalent study.

Step 6 is worded as it is very much on purpose. It is about motivation and desire. Just as taking the second step ensures we have the necessary confidence in our program or process of recovery; Step 6 also ensures we are in the right place emotionally and morally to continue the process. This time the preparedness is concerning our recently inventoried defects.

As I was confronted with my defects I was made aware of a troubling reality; Some of my defects were not distinct and independently correctable actions. Instead they were woven into the fabric of my personality and some were even tied to my core motivations and values.

And this is where my humanism really had to start ramping up. The group was not enough to handle all this stuff I had to broaden my spiritual horizon. The first step of this, for me, was getting comfortable with something humans don’t like and is perhaps even why every human culture has some version of religion. I had to get used to not knowing.

This is one of those things that sounds simple but I found putting it into practise to be highly difficult. I found I was fighting my own emotions constantly. I soon learned I was fighting a primary need humans share. We like to feel like we have a handle on things. Knowing “God is going to take care of us” is a good method in that it is effective. It achieves the freedom from busying oneself with chaotic thoughts about things we can’t control anyway and provides the soothing balm of emotional peace that comes from “knowing” you’re being taken care of.

This was not an option for me. I had to come to terms with the fact that this process of changing myself was not going to go the way I usually choose. Namely it would be; 1. Slow 2. Imperfect 3. Unpredictable 4. I would have to depend on others or help.

And this has been largely true as my life has gone. Work on these steps has included giving up on a failing career even though I didn’t want to. It was so familiar and comfortable that it took me years to get over it. Even though the lifestyle it had me in was killing me in sobriety. I knew it was the right decision but my identity was also wrapped up in that job. My low self worth made it difficult for me to exist without doing that particular job.

So I had to start noticing what did and did not feel right. If I continued to do things that didn’t feel right there was a cost. I’d either act out in secondary addictions, unhealthy coping strategies, feeling exhausted or good old fashioned neurotic behaviour.

Now my choice in this would be to just stop and move on to being a whole, unafflicted person that always does the right thing. For me this was not possible. I would require a lot of acceptance of myself and the reality that this was a process. The 12 steps as I understand them are not a trip for instant wellness. The word ‘trudge’ was not chosen by accident.

Step 7

Here’s a weird one for us without theistic higher powers. The temptation can be to skip it or ignore it as it seems trifling even to a believer. How can simply asking do anything? I believe in the mind of a believer this can trigger the simulation to switch to a state that convinces the unconscious mind that they are already healed. Once again we see the belief dragging the alcoholic mind forward from the shadows of the subconscious.

As non-believers we have our work cut out for us. I certainly did. I had to go to work unwrapping this box and again, for quite some time. I had to keep moving forward fighting a lot of depression and afflictive thoughts because I was again required to gain comfort and acceptance with a big blank space. Not some far off distant, “who created the universe” question that doesn’t really affect my life in any real way. A pressing immediate question about my life that cannot be ignored. Among other things I was changing careers on this step. I as going into a job that seemed a lot less luxurious, had far less esteem. Yet things were changing for the better and I wasn’t sure why at the time. I was going home and not feeling depressed as often. I certainly wasn’t feeling drained. I wasn’t spending as much money I didn’t have on retail therapy. With the stress of trying to be something I deep down didn’t really care to be I freed up some space and energy to start being me.

The central theme of step 7 and what it means to an atheist is that I simply have to trust that I’m not sure exactly how I’m going to work all these things out. Even the ones that seem insurmountable by me, or any future version of me. I need to find a good footing where I can take what comes and change what I can with what my life events unfold as.

For me (and maybe only for me) it’s important to keep the idea central in my mind that I am not special. I am not guaranteed my life, my health (mental or otherwise) or my livelihood. I must learn my limitations without succumbing to false humility or demoralization. And learn my capabilities and potential without ego or pride bringing me to ruin.

Above all I must accept that this will take time.

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