Humbly asked God to remove our shortcomingsHow It Works...When ready, we say something like this: "My Creator, I am now willing that you should have all of me, good and bad. I pray that you now remove from me every single defect of character which stands in the way of my usefulness to you and my fellows. Grant me strength, as I go out from here, to do your bidding. Amen." We have then completed Step Seven.
-A.A. Big Book p.76 Comments from Web Sites and PublicationsStep 7 is similar to step 3. It is more specific, however, because now I have completed my personal inventory and so I have a better idea of the roots of my addictive behaviors. I do my best to not play games about these defects of character. In this step I surrender to the "surgery of God" and ask God to remove these defects of character. I do this with a sincere and humble heart, knowing that only in such a way can I find my path to true sanity and peace.
This may also mean action on my part in getting rid of sources that lead me to addictive behaviors. If it is my pride that makes me believe that I can still live with these sources of temptation, then the sources need to go along with my pride. I rid my life of those things, people or situations that are causing me to fall or stumble as far as I can do so in a responsible manner.
- From 12Step.org
The Seventh Step is where we make the change in our attitude which permits us, with humility as our guide, to move out from ourselves toward others and toward God. The whole emphasis of Step Seven is on humility. It is really saying to us that we ought to be willing to try humility in seeking the removal of our shortcomings just as we did when we admitted that we were powerless over alcohol, and came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity. If that degree of humility could enable us to find the grace by which such a deadly obsession could be banished, then there must be hope of the same result respecting any other problem we could possibly have.
- Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, p. 76
Taking Step Seven was for many of us the greatest act of authentic humility we have ever been asked to commit: to transfer control of our recovery to God...
...according to the Twelve and Twelve, humility is a clear recognition of who we are followed by a sincere attempt to become what we could be. That is, humility is seeing ourselves as we actually are, good and bad, strong and weak, and acting authentically on those truths. This is not a naieve attitude suggesting we have in some way already "arrived." It is a sincere attempt to state the positive truth that when we face the truth of our shortcomings and the fact that we are powerless to change and begin to let God take our defects away, we have entered the pathway of humility. For the reality is, only God can take away our Sin, our deeply entrenched addictions, and our lifelong character defects. It is on this pathway, where we humbly ask God to remove all these defects of character, that the tools of recovery bring the healing, happiness, adn security we have dreamed of. But once more it is only powerlessness and pain that can force us to take the seventh Step into humility.
- A Hunger for Healing, p. 116-117
Humility is as much a part of staying clean as food and water are to staying alive. As our addiction progressed, we devoted our energy toward satisfying our material desires. All other needs were beyond our reach. We always wanted gratification of our basic desires.
...The word humble applies because we approach this Power greater than ourselves to ask for the freedom to live without the limitations of our past ways. Many of us are willing to do it without reservations, on pure blind faith, because we are sick of what we have been doing and how we are feeling. Whatever works, we go all the way.
- Narcotics Anonymous Basic Text, Chapter 4/Step 7
We need humility for three reasons:
- So that we can recognize the severity of our character defects. One aspect of our addictions is that we tend to deny and minimize the pain they inflict. Therefore as we try to assess our character defects, we may, unless we take a very humble approach, underestimate their severity.
- So that we can acknowledge the limits of human power in addressing these character defects. We cannot do it on our own. We cannot do it by sheer willpower. We cannot do it by our own intellect and reasoning.
- So that we can appreciate the enormity of God's power to transform lives.
... Although Step 7 is the shortest step in terms of wording and is perhaps the least discussed in recovery groups, it is probably the most potent of the twelve. It embodies the miracle of transformation as we turn over to God our broken, defective personalities in order that He might mold them into healthy, effective instruments of His will.
- Serenity, A Companion for Twelve Step Recovery, p. 54-55
Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all Comments from Web Sites and PublicationsStep 8 is the beginning of making amends, of healing the past with others. From the inventory of Step 4, I have a good starting place for making a list of people that I have harmed. I look over my personal inventory and possibly reflect on my life again. I make a list of the people that I have harmed. I can write down thoughts beside each name about what the appropriate amends might be. I then go through the list and make sure I am willing in my heart to make the amends.
- From 12Step.org
Learning how to live in the greatest peace, partnership and brotherhood with all men and women, of whatever description, is a moving and fascinating adventure. Every A.A. has found that he can make little headway in this new adventure of living until he first backtracks and really makes an accurate and unsparing survey of the human wreckage he has left in his wake. To a degree, he has already done this when taking moral inventory, but now the time has come when he ought to redouble his efforts to see how many people he has hurt, and in what ways. This reopening of emotional wounds, some old, some perhaps forgotten, and some still painfully festering, will at first look like a purposeless and pointless piece of surgery. But if a willing start is made, then the great advantages of doing this will so quickly reveal themselves that the pain will be lessened as one obstacle after another melts away.
- Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, p. 77-78
Step Eight is a social housecleaning, just as Step Four was our personal housecleaning. In Step Eight we're setting out to clean up all the bruised relationships and the pockets of guilt, pain, fear, resentment, and sadness that are stored inside, stuck to our shameful past deeds. For this undealt-with material blocks us from loving other people, ourselves, and God in the present.
It's as if God were saying, "Okay, now you want me to take all of your character defects, fine. Then you can be free and serene and the person I want you to be. But first you must see that almost all your troubles involve other people. You've tried to control them one way or the other or fix them; you have guilty or resentful feelings about them; or you have been so preoccupied with yourself and your feelings, dreams, and plans that you have ignored them emotionally and caused them to experience some of their worst fears of being deserted. Now I want you to face what you have done and own your part in hurting each person in your life so you can move into the future I have for you unencumbered by the past and beginning to understand how not to keep repeating the mistakes of that past.
- A Hunger for Healing, p. 135-136
The Eighth Step is not easy; it demands a new kind of honesty about our relations with other people. The Eighth Step starts the procedure of forgiving others and possibly being forgiven by them, forgiving ourselves, and learning how to live in the world. By the time we reach this step, we have become ready to understand rather than to be understood. We can live and let live easier when we know the areas in which we owe amends. It seems hard now, but once we have done it, we will wonder why we did not do it long ago.
...The final difficulty in working the Eighth Step is separating it from the Ninth Step. Projecting about actually making amends can be a major obstacle both in making the list and in becoming willing. We do this step as if there were no Ninth Step. We do not even think about making the amends but just concentrate on exactly what the Eighth Step says which is to make a list and to become willing. The main thing this step does for us is to help build an awareness that, little by little, we are gaining new attitudes about ourselves and how we deal with other people.
- Narcotics Anonymous Basic Text, Chapter 4/Step 8
Step 8 is the more specific person-to-person application of the shame-reduction that was begun in Steps 4 and 5. ...
Implicit in both Steps 8 and 9 is the assumption that we carry a toxic residue of shame from virtually every incident in which we have hurt, rejected, or ignored others. Steps 8 and 9 provide us with the opportunity to reduce this guilt by setting things right again. We should be cautioned, though, that we need to work through and grieve our underlying resentment, hurt, anger, and pain before trying to make amends to those who have also offended us. Otherwise, we are putting a bandage on a festering, cancerous sore, because the toxicity is still there. Only after it has been excised can we release our resentments with a high degree of emotional integrity.
- Serenity, A Companion for Twelve Step Recovery, p. 58,59
We will know we are ready and willing for this step when we can apologize to those who hurt us, when we don't follow the philosophy of "an eye for an eye" and cross off the list those who have gotten revenge or those whom we feel "deserved" our ill treatment. This step is not about judging others. We need to pull back into out humility and learn to replace judgment with attitudes of mercy and forgiveness. Whether our "enemies" ask for it or not, it is our responsibility to forgive them in our hearts and then apologize for our wrongdoing. This is the only attitude that will lead to emotional resolution.
We need to demonstrate a spirit of good will. In this spirit, we assume that no one has harmed us on purpose, that any pain inflicted on us was an accident of circumstance. We give them the benefit of the doubt. It is not our job or our concern to mention their transgressions or faults.
Don't forget to make amends to those from whom you have borrowed money or to whom you owe money. Instead of empty apologies, make payments on your debts...
- The Twelve Step Journal, by Claudette Wassil-Grimm, p. 224-225
Reflecting on all levels of your awareness is very important to a thorough Eighth Step. When making a list of the persons you have harmed, consider the following:
- A Gentle Path Through the Twelve Steps, by Patrick Carnes, p. 159-160
- The name of the person who has been harmed...
- Memories of harm done...
- Thoughts about the harm...
- Feelings about the harm...
- Intentions you now have...
- Amends you can make for the harm caused...
Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it
Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood God, praying only for knowledge of God's will for us and the power to carry that out.
Eleventh Step Prayer
Lord, make me a channel of thy peace--that where there is hatred, I may bring love--that where there is wrong, I may bring the spirit of forgiveness--that where there is discord, I may bring harmony--that where there is error, I may bring truth--that where there is doubt, I may bring faith--that where there is despair, I may bring hope--that where there are shadows, I may bring light--that where there is sadness, I may bring joy. Lord, grant that I may seek rather to comfort than to be comforted--to understand, than to be understood--to love, than to be loved. For it is by self-forgetting that one finds. It is by forgiving that one is forgiven. It is by dying that one awakens to eternal life.
Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to other addicts, and to practice these principles in all our affairs
When we are new to sobriety we often are told not to fall in love.
Is this possible?
We in most cases need to learn to love ourselves before we can love another.
Take it easy...one day at a time.“No Intimate Relationships During the First Year of Sobriety”
Recovering addicts hear this all the time in 12-step programs. However, this sound bit of wisdom is rarely heeded. Many have a hard time accepting that a hiatus from intimate relationships is necessary. In their minds, dating and new relationships seem benign. “As long as I’m
not using and we’re
not using and are in a program, I’m safe.” Not so fast. Getting into an intimate relationship prematurely is, as my mother would say, “Ill-conceived, ill-advised and ill-consummated.”Odds are more than fifty percent of marriages will end in divorce for the general population. Want to venture a guess as to the odds for those in early recovery who test this cardinal rule?
Despite one’s best laid plans or intentions to not re-enact the same dysfunction and failures of previous relationships, the odds are overwhelmingly against the relationship -- doomed to be dysfunctional or have a shortened life expectancy.
Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule, but assuming that we would not want our emotional and mental well-being to hinge on a miracle, is it worth the risk? But this is not what the recovering addict is thinking about. When it comes to delaying gratification, when it comes to ‘choosing’ between ‘one step at a time’ versus ‘all at once,’ thinking in terms of gradual and taking time to develop and being objective and realistic are not how addicts are wired. There is no point of reference. Most recovering addicts don’t realize that admitting to being out of control and surrendering to their powerlessness, as having done so in Steps I and II, also apply to their emotions when dating and in early stage relationships.
The problem is not the relationship or the intimacy. It’s the sex. Sex tends to increase one’s level of emotional involvement and intensity of feelings, especially for women. Men tend to cope by splitting off from their feelings; that is, are more likely to engage in sexual relationships while remaining emotionally divorced or superficial. Sex is a trigger for emotional over-involvement or under-involvement relative to the stage of relationship. Either way, each one’s inability to manage his/her own emotional needs and provide self-nourishment will eventually jeopardize the developing relationship.
What often happens is that sex, exciting enough as it is, often leads to an infusion of romantic feelings, which can further heighten the excitement, which then awakens the “sleeping giant” -- the backlog of unmet emotional needs from previous relationships. The “giant” awakens (emotionally) ravenous and is not aware of the extent his/her hunger drives the relationship. Our unmet emotional needs reside in our unconscious and are sealed off from our awareness.
It’s during the first year of recovery that the addict is to learn how to break the cycle of addiction. A year of sobriety and ‘relationship abstinence’ is meant to allow a sufficient amount of time to deal with one’s own emotions without having to resort to his/her addiction, to build self-awareness and to become responsible for one’s own emotional care. Rather than relying on an external source for relief or emotional gain, which is what s/he is accustomed to do, s/he begins to look internally, to rely on oneself as a source of emotional nourishment.
“The most important relationship is with oneself” poses a complete paradigm shift to the recovering addict. If the necessary amount of time to grow the relationship with oneself hasn’t lapsed, chances are the recovering addict will do what they’ve been accustomed to do all of their lives; that is to look outside of oneself for relief or to make up for what is missing emotionally.
When unmet emotional needs begin to get played out in the relationship, the relationship can become an addictive or dysfunctional one, which further perpetuates the cycle of addiction. There may be excitement and hope at the beginning, but it’s only be a matter of time before increasing strife, stress and dysfunction lead to the relationship’s demise. An additional factor of concern is that dysfunctional and failed relationships dramatically increase the risk of relapse.
At the 5 month point of a sustained period of ‘relationship abstinence,’ Linda, a recovering alcoholic, proceeded to date a man, Jack, whom she met at a 12-Step meeting. Jack had been sober 10 years.
After approximately 5 dates during 3 weeks of dating him, the “writing was on the wall.” Linda had sex with him on the third date, which felt like quite an accomplishment that she was able to wait “so long.” When I asked her to assess the level of her emotional involvement, she thought about it awhile before saying in a tone of wonderment, “Not too much I hope. Noticed myself checking my phone messages more frequently than usual. That’s all.” She was referring his anticipated return from being out of town for several days. She didn’t want to fret about whether he would call her upon his return, but she did. She didn’t want to end up calling him before he called her, but she just couldn’t wait.
There were other indications of emotional over-involvement. When Linda talked about how she reacted when a couple of overtures she had made to him, i.e. expressing a desire to celebrate his birthday together and a dinner invitation, he suggested they “play it by ear,” she noticed herself getting angry and responding sarcastically to him.
It was apparent that Linda was looking for assurances that he is still interested. When his assurances weren’t forthcoming, she reacted as if he wasn’t being truthful, that he really wasn’t interested in her or the relationship, which wasn’t the case. He might have been taken aback by the edge in her voice. Linda couldn’t see that she was reacting from wounds of past relationships, from a place of insecurity, and the extent her mental and emotional well being hinged on how he responded to her.
The challenge for Linda remains the same as for any other recovering addict; taking the time -- how ever long the process of self-reclamation takes, before entering into a sexually, intimate relationship.
“No intimate relationships during the first year of sobriety” is merely a reminder that it takes a year or so of rigorous participation in a program that is sobriety and
self-based before one is emotionally ready to get sexually involved. If entering into such a relationship prematurely, the recovering person, and anyone else for that matter, runs the risk of unresolved dependency issues tainting the newly developing relationship. This is also the time to gain experience in a (platonic) intimate relationship.
Taye B. Corby NEW! Addiction recovery relationship blog http://www.sober.com/blogs/relationship_recovery/