Step 6 in the twelve steps of Alcoholics Anonymous reads as the following:
“Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.”
This step is the halfway point along the 12-step journey. Step 4 asked participants to make a moral, and step 5 asked them to admit to their faults. When a recovering alcoholic reaches step 6, he or she will be required to look to a higher power to help them overcome their failings.
Preparing for the Battle
It is important to notice what Step 6 does not say. It does not require people to change their lives, but, instead, it asks them to appeal for some relief. This is one of the primary differences between AA and other programs. AA doesn’t demand that people change using sheer willpower alone.
Yes, people must be ready to discard old routines and unhealthy thoughts, but the burden isn’t entirely on them. Instead, they will request help from a higher power to provide them with the strength they need to transform their lives.
Step 6 also does not yet ask a person to abandon their bad habits altogether. The words must be read carefully: “were ready.” In other words, a person must be willing and motivated to evoke changes.
AA will ask members to turn their lives and their trespasses over to a higher power, but not until they are wholly prepared to do so. With step 6, alcoholics do not even address the need to take substantial action. They must be contented with altering their expectations and attitude.
Step 6 AA: Overcoming Faults Using a Higher Power
At this stage of recovery, people prepare themselves for things to come. This qualification includes relinquishing control—not merely over alcoholism—but also the negative feelings and behaviors that have resulted in ruin and hopelessness.
Seizing Control by Surrendering
Honesty requires that recovering alcoholics make at least one admission: that patterns of thoughts and actions and the accumulated habits of years or decades control them. To relinquish control of these deficits to a higher power is to reclaim control in some sense, not lose it.
Unfortunately, people tend to hold on to their negative behaviors and feelings as if they were necessary companions. Feelings of pride, bitterness, and anger all seem to serve some sort of purpose. For some people, these feelings are believed to form a fundamental part of their personality. In other words, one might ask: “Who am I if I do not experience these feelings?”
Others erroneously believe that it is not possible to overcome intensely held emotions and behaviors. Freedom is only possible when the alcoholic finally understands that, in truth, such compulsions weaken their independence and impede their path to recovery.
Taking It One Step at a Time
When a person begins their path to recovery, they also begin the process of regaining control by surrendering. But this is not the first step—or the last. The important thing is not rushing through these steps, but taking them day by day, one at a time. It is not like waiting for an acute injury to heal. A disease, by nature, is chronic, and the treatment is ongoing.
Indeed, most experts now believe that addiction is a life-long condition, and there is no way to hurry it along. It will always be there, and progress takes time and requires tremendous patience. It also demands courage in the face of barriers and setbacks.
So, yes, it is often better to take baby steps. Rather than abandoning everything all at once, some people prefer to work on their faults one at a time. Others tend to dive in headfirst and never look back. Regardless of the approach, it is vital to speak with a counselor or sponsor. When people reach out for specialized help, they are far more likely to achieve their goals.
Finding Your “Higher Power”
The concept of a higher power can be interpreted in different ways. For this reason, no one else can tell you what this means to you. Some may say it must be a god or something spiritual and literally more powerful than ourselves.
Others say it could be someone—or something—that can help you change your life. An example might be something tangible, such as a career or a family. It may also be something a little more abstract or distant, such as “love,” “nature,” or just “reality.”
Some people find themselves conflicted over the concept of a “higher power,” especially those that do not associate with any religion or believe in a god. Many people in AA wrestle with this dilemma, but there are also countless who work through the twelve steps without compromising their own personal beliefs.
The most important thing to remember is that you have the ability to determine your own higher power. No one else can do this for you, and there are no restrictions on who or what you choose to identify as your higher power.
While there is no pre-defined “higher power” in AA, the concept of looking to a higher power in addiction recovery is fundamental. For people who believe in a god, it’s often easiest to give up control to that god. They will trust that this entity will help them confront the many difficulties and obstacles that come with achieving long-term recovery.
Conversely, for those who do believe in a God, accepting the concept of a higher power and finding one may be more challenging. While it may be tempting just to avoid the whole higher power thing altogether, understand that spirituality is actually a vital part of a person’s recovery.
Research shows that elements of spirituality are associated with positive outcomes. Fostering a healthy spirituality may create meaning and a purpose for life, and help individuals cope with severe life stressors, trauma, and all sorts of ups and downs.
If nothing comes to you, realize that, at least temporarily, you don’t even have to be spiritual, per se. However, it is an excellent idea to abandon nihilism as soon as possible and cultivate some sense of a more infinite and absolute truth.
If you are still struggling to find your own higher power, give it time. Talk to other people in recovery about how they found their own. You may find that, as you continue on your journey, your higher power eventually makes itself known to you.
Treatment for Substance Abuse and Addiction
For decades, Alcoholics Anonymous has been helping people maintain sobriety through peer support and accountability. Some have been able to use AA to recover on their own, while for others, professional treatment is needed.
Recovery By The Sea features comprehensive, evidence-based programs and services specially designed for the treatment of addiction and co-occurring mental health conditions. We employ therapeutic modalities clinically proven to be vital to the process of recovery. These include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy
- Individual counseling
- Family counseling
- Peer group support
- Health and wellness programs
- Substance abuse education
- Art and music therapy
- Medication-assisted treatment
- Aftercare planning
If you are struggling to reclaim your life from alcoholism, contact us today. We are dedicated to helping those who need it most achieve sobriety, prevent relapse, and experience the long-lasting, happy lives they deserve!
READ THIS NEXT: Step 7 of Alcoholics Anonymous