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Another Look at Step 6 of the 12 Steps

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12-steps-step-6This is the 6th in our series of reviews of the 12-Steps addiction treatment program and how each step compares with a 12 Steps alternative approach.

We understand the 12 Steps have helped many, many people over the years, and we respect that success. We also recognize that the approach does not work for everyone.

The main purpose of this series is to present some potential limitations with the 12 Steps that you may not have considered. We want to make it easy for you to understand the differences as you go through your addiction treatment research.

What is the AA 12 Steps Addiction Treatment Program?

The AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) 12 Steps program has been in existence since 1939. It was created by an alcoholic for other alcoholics, and relies on group support and behavior modification to a very large degree. It is still the main healing protocol and approach in the vast majority of addiction treatment programs (including very expensive residential treatment centers).

Since that time though, there have been many breakthroughs in psychology, spirituality and healing, but the 12 Steps have not been updated to take advantage of these advances.

With that let’s take a look at the 6th step, 12 Steps Step 6.

Potential Limitations with 12 Steps Step 6

Step 6 of the 12 Steps program states:

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

Let’s break this down:

  1. “We are entirely ready” – this isn’t a call to action. To be willing or ready to do something is to be kinda there or kinda not. It's wishy-washy.

    “I am ready to heal” is one thing.

    “Healing" - the verb - is something totally different.

    It's a bit of grammatical semantics, but it matters because it speaks to intent. In order for successful addiction treatment to take place at the onset, it is important to get a commitment to doing the work.

    If there is no commitment or intention to get better, the participant and the therapist are wasting their time.

  2. "Remove all these defects of character" - this lingo from the 1930s is still in use today but too vague to be really useful.

    Is our character defective?

    What is our character?

    Is it our personality? Is it our thinking process? Is it our emotional makeup?

    Is it the behaviors we choose to enact? Is it our soul?

    Character needs to be defined here. We may take an educated guess and define character as our personality, which is never stable and is often fluctuating over the short and long-term.

    Our personality is formed through our heredity, our experiences, and our societal influence. If 12 Steps Step 6 refers to our personality, defective may not be the proper term.

Perhaps the wording of 12 Steps Step 6 should be:

"We will heal the underlying core mental and emotional issues causing our limiting behavior."

We suggest this is better wording because it speaks to intent - we will - and it speaks to the limiting or undesirable behavior, not bad character or bad personality or bad person. Get to those issues deep down that caused the addiction and behavior, and real long-lasting can occur.

Yoda, Empowerment and Step 6

As Yoda said in The Empire Strikes Back - "don't try, do." Not quite the same, but similar to the approach to be “willing” to do something and committing to do something.

"Willing" never gets done.

Also the part of Step 6 that asks God to correct your addiction and behavior is still not quite right.

Empowerment is the key!

Yes, we can have God there with us, but it is our efforts that are going to make an impact.

Spirit meets us at our point of action.

The patient / client / addict needs to take the first step. People can change addictive behavior no matter how difficult it seems. When broken down into tiny incremental steps, what appears to be an overwhelming task can be handled in an easy “no brainer” fashion. As we do these steps we can be grateful for God’s presence and realize that we are not alone in our efforts. Do we want God to live our life for us or do we want to live our life for God?

About The Clearing

The Clearing is a residential treatment center located on beautiful San Juan Island, Washington. We created The Clearing in response to the pervasiveness of treatment centers that focus more on luxury than modern, evidence-based therapy.

Our approach is based on healing the underlying core issues that cause addiction. If you'd like to learn more, contact us, or download our free eBook:

Free eBook Download:  Another Look at the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous


  Download eBook:  Healing Underlying Core Issues

Courtesy RecoveryShare.com

Gregg Makuch

This post was written by Gregg Makuch

Gregg helps get the word out about The Clearing. When he’s not riding his bike and enjoying the beauty of the San Juan Islands, Gregg loves to cook and spend time with his family.

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