Entirely Ready

Steps Four and Five give us a blueprint as alcoholics to take an honest and thorough look at ourselves, and to admit the exact nature of our wrongs. This can only happen after we complete several crucial beginning steps. First, we must admit that we are powerless over alcohol and that our lives are unmanageable. The statement in the First Step that we are “powerless” refers to the lack of control over our compulsion to drink, which persists despite any negative consequences we might endure as a result.

We need to recognize that only a higher power can restore us to sanity.  Once we come to believe in a higher power, we need to turn our will and our lives over to God. After coming to grips with our addiction, we then need to examine our past errors and admit them to God, to ourselves, and to another human being. Part of the purpose of the Twelve Steps is to learn how to live life with a new code of behavior.

Step Six says, “Were entirely ready to have God remove our defects of character.”

As we work on changing our character, we need to look at how we think about and talk to others. Do we curse a lot? Do we make crude remarks, or use biased or prejudiced language? Do we gossip? Are we unduly sarcastic? Are we prone to anger or violence? Do we hold grudges or engage in “paybacks.” As we take a look at these behaviors, we consider how they fit in with a spiritual approach to living. We ask ourselves what value we have as a human being. What do we have to offer to others in the way of service, wisdom, and support? Who are we becoming? How can we increase our worth as a person? How do we define ourselves?

I believe that although pride is at the top of the list of seven deadly sins, healthy pride is a necessary part of self-esteem and character growth. This is not the pride of arrogance, egotism, grandiosity or narcissism.  It will not harm our spiritual growth to feel pride when we freely admit to ourselves that our progress is not made by us alone. Humble pride acknowledges the guidance of others and a faith in God. With humility, we learn to have healthy pride in our good works. We are able to recognize the grace we have been granted by God.

Before we got into recovery, many of us wanted what others had, but we didn’t know how to get it. In fact, we were willing to take what we wanted without working for it. Now, in recovery, we are happy with the miracles we receive as we progress. We have discovered that doing is more important than having, and experiencing is more important than possessing.

It is important to put all our habits into the context of becoming entirely ready. If we overlook one little addiction, or one minute bad habit, or one small defect, are we just a “little” addictive? How can we claim abstinence if we still hold on to our bad habits or character defects? Remember, half measures avail us nothing. It is important that we realize Step Six is not just about alcohol or drugs or overeating or gambling. It is about putting our lives back in alignment. How honestly we work Step Six is in direct proportion to our willingness to take a look at everything.

In order to be entirely ready to let go of our character defects, we must have a fairly accurate idea of how we view life and how we operate. We need to be thorough about this. We cannot be deluded about our behaviors. We must take the time to closely examine our manner of living. The Twelve Steps provide us with a great opportunity to reclaim our lives. By accepting help from God and others, we learn to think clearly. We become able to honestly examine our lives, play fairly, and give generously. Our values change in recovery as we become less selfish and more useful.

We no longer seek out situations that only comfort us; we also find ways to comfort others. We find that we feel better about ourselves when we help others. We learn from the Twelve Steps that what we were searching for our whole life is wrapped up in being of comfort and aid to others. Our most valuable relationship is the one we have with God. In a way, when we reach out and help others we come closer to God. That is precisely why Matthew 25 says when we help “even the least one of these” we do it unto the Lord.

I can see now why Step Six is the one that separates the winners from the losers. It’s gut check time. Are we ready to change our way of living or not? This is not a “maybe” proposition. It’s likely that many of us approached this step in a less active manner. Odds are we may still be battling some pretty major defects of character. Step Six requires commitment and specific action. There is no better time to get to it than right now. The values we develop as a result of working the Twelve Steps look different from the ones we held while in active addiction. Every day brings a new opportunity to work on our character defects. Our values no longer change with every passing fancy. Our life now means something, and counts for things that are good.

Drop The Rock!

Seems there was this group of recovering alcoholics taking a boat ride to an island called Serenity, and it was truly a happy bunch of people. As the boat pulled away from the dock, a few on board noticed Mary running down the street trying to catch up with the boat. One member said, “Darn, she’s missed the boat.” Another said, “Maybe not. Come on, Mary! Jump in the water. Swim! Swim! You can make it. You can catch up with us.”

So Mary jumped into the water and started to swim for all she was worth. She swam for quite a while and then started to sink. The people on board, now all aware that Mary was struggling, shouted, “Come on, Mary! Don’t give up! Drop the rock!” With that encouragement, Mary started swimming again, only to start sinking shortly afterward. She was going under when she heard all those voices shouting to her, “Mary, drop the rock! Let go and drop the rock!”

Mary was vaguely aware of something around her neck, but she couldn’t quite figure out what it was. Once more, she gathered her strength and started swimming. She was doing quite well, even gaining a little on the boat, but then she felt this heaviness pulling her under again. She saw all those people on the boat holding out their hands and hollering for her to keep swimming and shouting, “Don’t be an idiot, Mary. Drop the rock.”

Then she understood when she was going down for the third time: This thing around her neck, this was why she kept sinking when she really wanted to catch the boat. This thing was the “rock” they were all shouting about: resentments, fear, dishonesty, self-pity, intolerance, and anger were just some of the things her “rock” was made of. “God help me get rid of the rock,” she prayed. “Now! Get rid of it!”

Mary managed to stay afloat long enough to untangle a few of the strings holding that rock around her neck, realizing as she did that her load was easing up. Then, with another burst of energy, she let go. She tore the other strings off and dropped the rock.

Once free of the rock, she was amazed how easy it was to swim, and she soon caught up with the boat. Those on board were cheering for her and applauding and telling her how great she was, and how it was so good having her with them again, and how now they could get on with the boat ride and have a nice time.

Mary felt great and was just about to indulge in a little rest and relaxation when she glanced back to shore. There, a ways back, she thought she saw something bobbing in the water, so she pointed it out to some others. Sure enough, someone was trying to catch the boat, swimming for dear life, but not making much headway. In fact, it looked like the person was going under.

Mary looked around and saw the concern on the faces of the others. She was the first to lean over the rail and shout, “Hey, friend! Drop the rock!”

( Excerpt from the Introduction to Drop The Rock, a Hazelden publication on Steps Six and Seven of the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, Removing Character Defects.)