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12 Steps of Recovery | Step 6 - It's About Attitude

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

In the last 12-Step article I explained Step 5 and the freeing power that follows from completely revealing the once missing pages of our life journey. A good book takes the reader from beginning to end. If, while enjoying a favorite read, you noticed that many detail laden pages were missing throughout the book, then, both the scenery and character descriptions would feel disjointed and the story suffers. For those in recovery, when we do not reveal the hidden pages, the story is not only disjointed, but we suffer on an individual level. The goal is not to reveal every page for the whole world to read, rather, the goal is to be honest with someone who is empathetic to what is revealed. Once revealed, then, the story becomes whole, the once hidden details are freed, and the weight from hiding those details is lifted.

After revealing our full story, we shelve the work completed in steps 4 and 5. In the future we will have a chance to retrieve our story from the shelf again when sharing in the 12-Steps with others, but before jumping to Step 12, we bring our attention to Step 6. Step 6 appears to be a prima facie example of Step 3 by definition, however, Step 3 is about taking action and having the willingness to do so whereas Step 6 is more about elevating our attitude through a process of letting go. According to the big book Step 6 is, "AA's way of stating, the best possible attitude one can take in order to make a beginning on this lifetime job."

Having a willingness to change our behavior is the minimal attitude necessary to begin the new behaviors within our newly founded sober lives. The reason Step 6 is required among the steps is due to the fact, that, although behaviors are externally viewable for all to see, we have the potential for behaving one way while still harboring a terrible attitude from within. For example, showing up to AA meetings is a valued behavior, but having the internal mindset that it is a waste of time while attending the meeting would be acting contrary to Step 6. The above attitude is defective and Step 6 requires that we are ready to abandon both our defective behaviors and attitudes, entirely, by letting go and allowing God to remove our character defects.

A defective attitude worth abandoning is, for example, envy. When we are discontented or resentful about the qualities or possessions of others we rob ourselves of the present moment. The present is where sobriety happens and if we are longing over the past or future moments in other's lives we, then, become vulnerable to relapse. Having a willing attitude starts our journey in recovery, but what keeps our recovery going requires an abandoning of all our negative attitudes and, thus, forming the ultimate attitude one can have which is our readiness to have God remove all our character defects.

Forming the ultimate attitude, however, should not come with the expectation that all our defects will be immediately removed because that would conflict with the prior steps of having faith. The Big Book says that this Step separates the "boys from the men" or, in less gender specific terms, Step 6 separates the "young from the mature". Better stated, Step 6 is the difference between "striving for a self-determined objective and for the perfect objective which is God." The ultimate attitude may not always be obtainable nor will all defects be removed immediately. The path to recovery is not a light switch in which all defects are immediately turned off, but the ultimate attitude is worth attaining and is a measurement by which we can estimate our progress.

As the Big Book says, we may be obliged in some cases to think, "I cannot give this (attitude) up yet…," but we should not say to ourselves, "I can never give this (attitude) up…". As cliché as it may sound, attitude is everything and your attitude is the difference between long term sobriety and relapsing. Given the execrable outcomes resulting from negative attitudes within treatment, Step 6 is a wonderful supplement to long term sobriety.

Continue reading our series on a 12 Step Recovery | Step 7