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Recovery the Sixth Step

Recovery: Step Six

By the time you reach Step 6 of the famous—or infamous—12 steps, you will have three to six months’ recovery time under your belt. Recovery is not a quick or easy process; if you’re in a residential treatment center, you know by now that people never stop working on their recovery.

In the first three steps, you recognized your inability to control your life and your decision to relinquish control of it to a higher power. Remember, that higher power does not have to be the traditional God of the Christian religion; it is whatever force you believe keeps the universe running.  Whatever your higher power is, you came to the realization that you needed help beyond what you could give yourself in order to stop using drugs. In the fourth and fifth steps, you made a searching and fearless inventory of your morals and personality traits, and you confessed those wrongs to that all-important power.

Now you’re ready to learn about Step 6. It says:

  • Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

Here, you are expressing to your creator or to your life energy force that you are willing to change. It means you are willing to make your recovery a priority, even if it means putting other things on the back burner.

Well, that sounds easy enough right?  Years ago, there was a television show at the top of the charts called Taxi, starring Judd Hirsch and Danny DeVito, among others. In one episode, Danny DeVito’s character, the obnoxious dispatcher Louie, promises God he is going to be the best person he can. His attempt goes shamefully awry, he does something horrible to another person, and at the end of the episode he wails about his failure to Judd Hirsch’s Alex. Alex replies to him, “You said you would be the best person you could be. And for you, this was the best person you could be. So you should be satisfied with that.”

Let’s hope we can all succeed at doing a little better than Louie’s best. But this story applies to Step 6, because you are saying that you are going to do the best you can to work on your recovery. You are promising your higher power that you will be the best person you can be.

It feels good to note, as part of your Step 6 work, that you don’t have to kneel shamed before God or your fellow man and self-flagellate. Step 6 does not say that you are punishing yourself for the defects or moral imperfections that you counted up in Steps 4 and 5. Step 6 is a cleansing of the spirit. You are not berating yourself for failing as a father, daughter, or sibling. You are not saying that you will never have another temper tantrum or interrupt somebody in mid-conversation. You are saying that you want to open yourself up to being the best person you can be.

Most people go through a real spiritual awakening during the work of Steps 4 and 5. When they reach Step 6, they begin to see the world around them in a new light. As overwhelmed as you may feel by the challenges of recovery, you will begin to see a new wonder in the world around you. The character defects that you are releasing will eventually be replaced by strengths, including peace, love, and hope.

Are you read this, you may have completed your work in the residential treatment center. You may be in an extended care facility or in aftercare. Remember that you are only halfway through the steps, but your journey is well worth the work. Keep moving forward!

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