Thursday, 10 March 2016

Step Seven

"And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful 
than the risk it took to blossom."

Anaïs Nin

Before sobriety and AA, how I had been living had been causing not just me, but those around me, great pain and suffering. And yet, I stayed within that pain and suffering. I existed within my suffering. I kept myself locked in that suffering. And it didn't seem to matter the depth of my pain, I stayed there. It was comfortable, in its own screwed up way, and I was too scared to step outside the imagined safety and comfort of my illnesses and try another way, or trust another way. I think knowing how I was living wasn't even living, and knowing there was more, even if I had no faith that more was available for me, only intensified the suffering. I had experienced periods and of stability and recovery and tasted those times, days and moments. I had edged out of the old and into the new. I had taken those risks. And it was why I had healed so much in Eating Disorder recovery. I knew what was there. And yet I fell back, time and time again. Not into old eating behaviours, but old self-defeating behaviours, and most notably, old ways of thinking. Each time I hit that pain, I surrendered. But each surrender was never enough. It kept happening. Over and over. Remaining tight in the bud would bite and burn, and the risk to blossom would seem inviting because I was desperate for something other than what I was feeling. But maybe I never surrendered enough! I don't quite know. It is hard to untangle the past and especially because before AA I did have a significant chunk of recovery behind me. But the fact it never left me, and instead hovered around me, told me an awful lot about what I was holding onto, and as said above, even if I was behavioural free, my thoughts were the issue. The thoughts sent me back to behaviours and the one I never let go of was self-medicating (drink and medication). I held on to them. Tightly. Until I couldn't any longer.

Having completed Step Six: Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character, we now: Humbly asked Him to remove our short-comings.

To fully understand the meaning behind Step Seven it seems necessary to consider what the Step primarily concerns - humility. The word is mentioned within the literature and the rooms an awful lot. I had never really used the word myself... I know others write of feeling humbled but that was new vocabulary for me. And that wasn't because I was filled with arrogance or applause for myself, quite the opposite, I just didn't know what to be humbled meant.
The writer Bill Dinker writes: The quality of humility referred to a “reasonable perspective of oneself.” Bill Wilson expanded this definition when he wrote that humility was, “the clear recognition of what and who we really are, followed by a sincere attempt to be what we can be.
(For more, please reference Discovery Place)
Other ideas concerning humility offer the following insights, and these reflections seem to encompass what we are being taught in AA:

It is not for me to judge another man's life. I must judge, I must choose, I must spurn, purely for myself. For myself, alone.
Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha

On the highest throne in the world, we still sit only on our own bottom.
Michel de Montaigne, The Complete Essays

Even Albert Einstein wrote: A true genius admits that he/she knows nothing.

And maybe that is the key to working this 12 Step Program with the outcome it so promises us if we work it - realising, admitting and then accepting, we know nothing of how to live, and from now on, guidance from others and something greater than us is that which will give us something bigger and better; a life beyond your wildest dreams. If I am able to get to the rooms, stay sober, take my medication correctly and as prescribed, seek direction and guidance (and then take it not just appeasingly nod my head)  and if I stay with this, if I keep doing what I am doing, then maybe, just maybe, I stand a chance!

Even before getting to the point of working the Steps, I didn't honestly need much convincing this could work. I believe, in fact have come to know, to this day, the very act of walking into my first meeting, was the humbling experience. That didn't mean I remained humble from that day onwards at all times, it means I was defeated. I accepted powerlessness over drink and myself and how unmanageable my life had become. Again! I was humbled by the experience because it had taken a real blow to get me to that point. To accept I needed help and to reach out. It wasn't a weakness, it was a necessity.

Humility has therefore meant, essentially for me, to accept another way of being/living, that there may be a better way than my way, and accepting guidance and advice, and not rebelling against it or refusing it. It has meant dropping the barriers and defences that made me so unbearable and my life so unbearable.

Up until that point, I was using only maladaptive coping mechanisms to keep me going. Namely, avoidance and denial. Both of which of course had served some purpose! I was running on survival instincts and whilst they kept me alive, they were keeping me from living, and inevitably they backfired, putting me on a downward spiral - one that would either result in my accidentally killing myself or being so desperate I did it myself. I was doing what in AA they call the definition of insanity - doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. I was changing nothing, and expecting a magical change from no where. Change seemed daunting and overwhelming and far to much work, especially when I was already exhausted. 

Walking through the doors of AA, I felt the mass of that weight, that exhaustion, fall from me. I didn't know why at that point, I just knew I was in the right place. For those moments, the weight of unbearable living, was lifted from me. That alone, humbled me.

And I didn't have to stick around long to see the benefits. Within my first months of sobriety I stabilised in ways I had not in many many years. Daily meetings (two if I could), reaching out when I was struggling alone at home, literature to read, love to be surrounded by and the establishment of routine (I had been the polar opposite of sociable hours for many months - medicating to sleep in the day and awake through the night drinking) all began to ease me, slow me down, settle me. I was given direction and purpose again. It felt worthwhile, it felt like I was doing something that could and would make a difference. The days didn't seem wasted. They felt structured and I began to feel like I had a place in the world. What helped with that was service - making tea/coffee, washing up, setting up, helping close, welcoming others, sharing my story - which without, meetings cannot and will not run. We all have a role in keeping meetings going, and I was taking on some of those roles. As time passed I was given greater freedom and responsibility. As I have said many times, being given the keys and responsibility of opening up and setting up one of the meetings, gave me purpose. I felt needed, I felt worth something, I felt trusted, I felt honoured and I felt humbled by that gift. By late June I had been accepted on the MA course at the Writing School, and doors were opening all around me. I knew the difference sobriety was having on me. I could see the growth. I could see the changes. I could see I was in the process of becoming; spiritually evolving and transforming. I was becoming the person I am without dis-ease and without addiction. Not just a walking tornado or someone so broken I stood no chance of greater things. I was becoming me.

In Step Seven, we move out from ourselves and toward God. We are asked to repeat the Seventh Step Prayer:

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.

Further reflection on Step Seven:

I humbly offered myself to God, as I then understood Him, to do with me as He would. I placed myself unreservedly under His care and direction. I admitted for the first time that of myself I was nothing; that without Him I was lost. I ruthlessly faced my sins and became willing to have my new-found Friend take them away, root and branch.

(See a list of all prayers and reflections here at

I want to say, that with all the prayers and the use of words such as God, Lord, Him or He, it is important to see those as just words. If your concept of a Higher Power, like mine, is not in connection to God, you need see these prayers as spiritual lessons and teachings. Interpret them as ways of learning to live in a way that gives you a life and a sense of self, so open to you in recovery.)


AA is one of the greatest gifts ever given to me. And as time has passed, I see over and over how lucky I am to be alive. By admitting I was utterly lost and rampantly out of control, I have found peace and serenity I never knew existed and would never have found if it was not for this program.

For that, I am truly grateful and blessed.

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