A Conscious Connection With A Higher Power, Steps 5, 6, 7, 10, 11, & 12 Of The 12 Step Program with Paul and Dave

SOA 13 | 12 Step ProgramSteps 5, 6, 7, 10, 11, & 12 of the 12 Step Program will let us admit the nature of our wrongdoings. These steps help us to prepare to tell the truth to other people about the things that we do wrong. Admitting this makes us accountable for those things and we realize that we cannot do this alone. With that realization, we become ready to ask help from people who really can help change ourselves. Learn how to listen to the voice of reason in your head and how to turn up the volume of that voice.

In this episode, I will be discussing steps five, six and seven as well as steps ten, eleven and twelve of the Twelve-Step Program with my colleague, Dave. If you’re working the Twelve-Step Program with a sponsor, he or she is likely to require that you work the steps one-by-one in order. We have done three podcasts on the Twelve-Step Program, grouping steps one, two and three together in one podcast. Steps four, eight and nine together in a second podcast. All the other steps will be in this podcast. By covering all twelve steps in three podcasts, we hope to simplify the subject matter.

Listen to the podcast here:

A Conscious Connection With A Higher Power, Steps 5, 6, 7, 10, 11, & 12 Of The 12 Step Program with Paul and Dave

Here is the AA Literature for step five. “Admit to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs. It may be difficult to admit to God the exact nature of our wrongs even though we know that he will not be shocked. When we admit to ourselves, it prepares us for the more challenging task of telling another person. This sharing keeps us accountable and can help us overcome anything that is holding us back. Step five is a definite movement in the direction of a healthy attitude towards life.” The AA Literature uses the word ‘God’ in some places and uses the words ‘Higher Power’in other places. Because I personally do not believe in the traditional Christian style God, my personal belief is that God is the collective consciousness of all things. You may have your own interpretation of what is your Higher Power. In the AA Literature, they used the word ‘God’ particularly in step five and in many of the steps that we’ll be covering. You can substitute the word ‘God’ for ‘Higher Power’ and use your own concept of Higher Power. Don’t get bogged down by this concept of a traditional god or a Christian God or a Muslim or Judaish god. Use your own interpretation of what your Higher Power is and keep moving through the steps. To summarize, step five is admitting the nature of our wrongs. Hello, Dave.

Hello, Paul.

Do you have any comments to make on admitting the nature of our wrongs?

We made a moral inventory back in step four and I feel it’s an extension of that. It’s something that you don’t really tell people. It’s admitting your deepest, darkest secrets type of thing as to why we do our wrongs.

I think too myself that sometimes the wrong might be throwing a rock through a car window or stealing out of our parent’s wallet, but the nature of the wrong is selfishness or is a desire for self-satisfaction at the expense of other people. It’s the reason behind the reason. In step four, where we wrote down this long list, our moral inventory of faults as well as good points, step five is looking at the reason behind some of these faults, the reason behind the reason. Step six according to the AA Literature is, “We’re entirely ready to have God remove all of the defects of character. We know that a Higher Power can and will do anything that is for our ultimate good, if we are ready to receive his help. It is not enough merely to see that we have faults and make vague resolutions to do better. It takes definite effort to make ourselves receptive.” Dave, what can you comment on step six when we are entirely ready to have our Higher Power remove the defects of character that we have identified in step four and five?

SOA 13 | 12 Steps Program

12 Step Program: It is not enough merely to see that we have faults and make vague resolutions to do better. It takes definite effort to make ourselves receptive.

It’s like listening to that little voice in your head. You’re surrendering and you’re saying, “I need help,” and you’re willing to have your Higher Power be your help.

Do you think that asking your Higher Power to remove your faults is passing the buck?

If you were to ask your God to remove your faults is passing the buck, yeah. If you’re expecting him to just say, “Now you don’t have faults,” but it doesn’t work that way. You have to listen to that voice in your head. When you’re doing the wrong thing and you know you’re doing the wrong thing, you have to catch yourself and stop and hopefully, before you’ve done the wrong thing. It’s not necessarily, “I’m willing to let you take care of everything.”It doesn’t work that way. It’s more of a willingness to call yourself out on what you’re doing and say, “I know this is wrong. In the past I’ve done it anyway knowing it was wrong, but now I’m trying to avoid that.”

From our discussion, there’s acknowledgement that there is this voice in your head. There is a voice of reason, a voice of good. To some degree, you’ve shut it out in the past. Now, you are allowing the volume of that voice to be raised up a little higher and take notice of what it’s saying more than you used to.

It’s like you’re seeing the little angel and the devil, one on each shoulder. That’s who you’re listening to. It’s choosing the right one to listen to.

Here’s some additional literature that’s been produced by other people that address point six. These points are simply questions that help us to process step six. This literature is saying, “Write a couple of sentences about each one of the defects that you feel when you realize that they are resurfacing again.” Another point is, “Do you have some defects of character that you enjoy having, that you feel comfortable with or that you need to function?”A lot of men carry anger around with them and they use it and aggression too to get what they want.

It doesn’t work. It’s not a good long-term solution to anything. It ends up eating you from the inside. There’s always somebody who’s bigger and better and faster. It doesn’t matter how big and fast you are, there’s somebody else who’s faster. If you use that long-term, you’re eventually going to pay a price for it. That’s a good point that this literature has raised. “The defects of character that you enjoy having, that you feel comfortable with, or that you need to function.” Somewhere in the back of your mind, you know that these are defects and you would be better off if you got rid of them. I remember thinking to myself at some point in my life how I would rather learn how to be a comedian than learn how to be a fighter, because if I could just tell my adversary a joke and make them laugh, there’d be no need to fight. I’ve actually worked a little bit on my ability to crack a joke, even bought a book on it. I’m not a particularly funny guy. I try to be every now and again. Like anything else, if you try to get better at things, you get a little bit better at it. I’m never going to be an on-stage comedian but it does interest me. It fascinates me that somebody can get on stage and make a whole audience laugh.

I do have experience with that in the ’80s. I tried it for a little while when I lived in L.A. Stand-up comic, open mic night, just little three-minute sets.

Did you get a few laughs?

Very few but it was worth a shot. It’s a hard job. The confidence I needed to do it came from a bottle because I have stage fright.

I’ve got up at open mic and played the ukulele several times. I’m not particularly good at it but I find it very, very exciting. A few more points on step six that are raised by this additional literature. Another question is, “What are your actions that show that you are willing and ready to have your Higher Power remove your defects of character? Do you want to change your behavior?” Going back to that first point, what are your actions that are showing that you are willing and ready to have your Higher Power remove your defects of character, Some actions would be that you’re meditating frequently or that you are praying frequently or that you feel more in tune with yourself or you feel more centered and that your sense of Zen is greater. These are actions or identifiable feelings that might give you the strength, position you well so that you can have your Higher Power remove your defects. If you’re doing nothing, you’re just sending an internal thought off into the cosmos. That’s not as good as doing things such as meditating regularly or going on a quiet walk where you reflect on the day or journaling in the evening on the events of the day. These are tangible actions that can help you to get ready to have these defects removed from your character.

It’s taking the time to step outside of yourself and look at what’s going on and just acknowledge and be aware.

One final point on step six that’s raised by this literature is, “What type of person do you think that you will become without the present defects of character controlling how your life is taking shape?” If you were to remove anger or selfishness or unhealthy desire to have money and material things, what kind of person would you be? For most of us, if we remove these negative points, we’ll be a better person. That can be a strong point of motivation to actually remove these negative points.

You’d be happy, is what you’ll be. Instead of letting all the negative feelings drag you down all the time, you have a sense of pride, accomplishment and self-esteem.

Happiness is something that I personally strive for as I know most people do. What I would prefer above happiness is contentment. Happiness is generally thought of as a fleeting emotion. You feel happy for a period and then it goes away, whereas feeling content can stay with you for a long period of time, weeks, months or years. Seeking activities that give you a feeling of contentment would be a better long-term goal than seeking activities that simply make you happy.

It’s acquiring a sense of peace.

Step seven according to the Literature of AA, “Humbly ask your Higher Power to remove your defects. It is likely we will continue to struggle unless we ask humbly and truthfully for our shortcomings to be removed. Most of our failings are habits we have allowed ourselves to form and keep. Although we will never be perfect, we can always strive towards improvement. To be humble does not mean to grovel. Humility is the conscious acknowledgement of the power greater than ourselves and a willingness to let that power guide our lives. In the search to release our shortcomings, permanent contact with a Higher Power is essential.” Dave, what do you have to say about this? “Humbly ask your Higher Power to remove your shortcomings.”

For me, I said it in an earlier podcast where my relationship with my Higher Power is very informal. I would suggest trying to have this being humble and having this conversation with your Higher Power informal as possible so that it’s more relaxing. It’s not stressful. It’s just, “I’m ready,” and just talk.

I have a couple of points raised by this other literature that might help us get a sense of understanding on step seven, which is to humbly ask your Higher Power to remove your shortcomings. The first point this literature raises is, “Are you a defiant and rebellious person? If so, how does this affect your ability to be humble?” On being a defiant and rebellious person, being an operator of a sober living environment, which I’ve been running for three years now, and I’ve had a couple of hundred clients, there’s a percentage of the clients that are defiant and rebellious. There’s a percentage of the clients that are carrying a heavy cross which I call the ‘hard man cross’. I feel sorry for some of the guys because men are basically brought up that men don’t cry and, “Tough it out,” and, “Be a man,” and stuff like that. It’s a very heavy cross to put on any man and some men bear that cross heavier than others.

When I was reading the words, ”Are you defiant and rebellious person?” for some reasons that imagery came to my mind, which is not synonymous with being defiant and rebellious. I just say to people who are out there, who are carrying the hard man cross, that you can put that cross down. You don’t have to carry it with you throughout your whole life. It’s a heavy cross to carry. You’re carrying it yourself. You’re choosing to pick it up and carry it around with you and you might want to consider putting it down. I’ll go back to point seven, which is to humbly ask your Higher Power to remove your shortcomings. If one of your shortcomings is carrying that hard man cross, then perhaps that’s something you should be asking your Higher Power to allow you to put down.

It’s heavy and you can’t take it with you everywhere.

If you carry that cross your whole life, it just gets heavier and heavier. You’ve got to put it down.

You’ve got to put it behind you because recovery is all about forward momentum.

I want to have some sympathy for everyone that these words are resonating with. Today’s society, and possibly for all of human time, brings up the young man to carry these crosses with sports and the glorification of athletes, and from a young age, kids are running around with guns and many young men want to join the military. That works when you’re in your twenties. When you get into your 30s, you start questing it. By the time you get into your 50s, you recognize that these are testosterone-driven subject matters that at some point need to be put down. Everybody struggles with when to put them down and it’s a personal decision, but the sooner you put down the hard man cross, the better for you. Here’s another question that’s raised by this additional literature. “Why do you need to have your Higher Power remove your shortcomings? Why can’t you just stop acting on the character defects with your own willpower?” Do you have any comments on that, Dave?

It’s easier when we don’t have to do it by ourselves. That goes right back to the cross. We’re not alone. We don’t have to be alone. It’s not a ton on our shoulders. There’s help. We don’t have to do it by ourselves.

You really need humility to work this step but where’s the humility going to come from? I’m not sure where the humility is going to come from.

We all have humility. It’s just that sometimes it requires a little more soul searching to find it then.

Perhaps desperation. Perhaps humility will come from the realization that there is no alternative, that the life of addiction is just not working.

Rock bottom is extremely humbling.

I’ve had some business ventures go south and that is very humbling too. Here’s another question that relates to asking your Higher Power to remove your shortcomings. “What do all character defects and all shortcomings have in common?” My answer to that question is ego. Character defects and shortcomings basically come back to ego. Dave had a couple of other thoughts on that subject. Do you remember what they were?

I had put laziness and lack of confidence. The selfishness would also be a big part of it. As an addict and alcoholic, we’re all about instant gratification at any cost.

There are several points on step seven, how to humbly ask your Higher Power to remove your shortcomings. We’re going to jump to step ten. Step ten according to the AA Literature is, “Continue to make a personal inventory and when we are wrong, promptly admit it. Even though we have worked our way this far through the suggested steps, we remain all too human. We continue to make mistakes. Some minor, some grave. We continue to do wrong either carelessly or willfully. We need to take frequent inventory to evaluate our progress. Extra inventory in times of stress often shows us when we could have prayed quietly instead of answering angrily. Since these inventories can show us where we were wrong, the sooner we admit our mistakes the better for us. Frequent pauses for assessment keep our load light.” Dave, what comments can you throw into the pot on step ten?

SOA 13 | 12 Step Program

12 Step Program: If you’re wrong, own it. Be done with it and move on instead of trying to justify what you’ve done.

While you were reading that, what kept coming to my mind was just excuses. Stop making excuses. Promptly admit that you’re wrong. It’s like the saying, “Everything before the word ‘but’ is bullshit.”If you’re wrong, own it. Be done with it and move on instead of trying to justify what you’ve done.

When you say own it, does that involve apologizing?

If necessary, yeah. Often, just owning it is an apology. It depends on the circumstance and what the wrong is.

What do you think about saying the words, ”I’m sorry or I apologize?”

I think they’re important. Especially if you’re being honest with yourself and honest with the person you’re talking to, that’s what should be happening. If you’re wrong and you are sorry about it, say so. Be honest. Be truthful.

I remember a school headmaster when I was in junior school gave a little talk at the school meeting. He said, “The three most important words in your life are ‘please’ and ‘thank you.'” For some reason, I still remember those. ‘I’m sorry’ and ‘I apologize’ would be a couple more words that this particular headmaster would add to his speech. Here’s the additional literature on step ten, which is, “We continue to take a personal inventory and when we are wrong, we promptly admit it.” “Do I have a hard time promptly admitting when I’m wrong? What areas of my life do I need to get more balance in today? Am I obsessing, compulsing or totally self-centered about anything today? What are some of the things I put in my daily inventory journal?” Let’s talk about doing a daily journal. Is that something that you do, Dave?

I’m not a journal-type of person.

Have you ever been?

No. My mom and my wife are both English teachers and I hate writing. I do write some things down but for myself. Journaling, my words just don’t flow on the paper that well.

I’ve used a journal at different points in my life. I don’t journal today, although I do make to-do lists on the computer. I have kept my journals. In truth, I have not been back and read them but those journals are very valuable to me and they always will be. Journaling is a good habit to get into. It helps you to stay centered, to stay balanced, to be in tune with your Higher Power. Journaling is a concrete action that people can take that will help them to get a sense of balance in their life.

If you are journaling, you have the opportunity to go back and read it. You can see where your head was at that point. It helps if your memory isn’t that great. It can jog your memory.

With the AA Literature on step eleven, “Seek through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with our Higher Power as we understand him, praying only for knowledge of his will for us and the power to carry that out. A conscious effort to place ourselves in tune with our Higher Power comes little by little. In quiet times, we stretch our minds and hearts to see things as a whole. We are often too apt to measure things infinite with a finite yardstick. The important thing is to constantly strive to be close to a Higher Power. Human error and human failure will probably keep us from understanding God’s will completely. We don’t need to understand it completely to follow it.” I like the last sentence. “We don’t need to understand, our Higher Power’s will to follow it.” That means to me that a person can tune in to their Higher Power and get direction from tuning into that Higher Power and not fully understand all the reasons behind what they feel they’re learning from the Higher Power.

It is a constant learning process. It’s not going to stop. I don’t believe that anyone is going to figure outall of it. It has to be just an ongoing process.

Figuring it out shouldn’t be the goal because if you want to figure out these things that nobody else in humanity has been able to figure out, you’re climbing a tall mountain and you’re probably not going to get to the top of it.

Failure is going to bring some heartache and that’s going to take us down the wrong road.

Just be at peace with the fact that you can’t figure out everything but you will tune in to your Higher Power and to the degree that you can, you’re going to follow what that voice seems to be telling you to do. Step eleven is, “We seek through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understand him, praying only for his knowledge and the power to carry that out. Today, what are the tools I use to communicate to my Higher Power? Today, why is a conscious contact with God important to my recovery? How do I pray? How do I meditate?” Let’s talk about praying and meditating because people can do this in different ways. Some people want to go to a church and get down on their knees on a bench and pray. That’s the classical example of prayer. That’s not necessary. I’m not saying that’s not a good way to pray. That’s a good way to pray. Any way to pray is a good way to pray but you can be walking down the street eating an ice cream and pray at the same time. It’s your way of praying. The point is that you do it whatever your way of doing it is. It’s the same with meditating. Meditating is maybe a more conscious effort where you try to get into a state of Zen and you become aware of your breathing and aware of the thought patterns that are running through your head. Typically, it’s done in a yoga studio but it doesn’t have to be. You can go and sit on the grass under a tree and have some form of meditation that’s self-imposed. The important thing is that you do these things, not how you do them.

It’s just a matter of you taking the time. Set aside some time. You can pray while you’re driving to work. That’s what I do. I just talk to my Higher Power like he’s sitting in the chair next to me. Go sit under a tree. Take the time, meditate, go somewhere quiet where you can just be alone with your thoughts and not distracted.

Get in tune with whatever works for you. You don’t have to do it somebody else’s way. You can come up with your own ways of doing it. Here are a few more questions that are raised by this extra literature. “Why is it necessary that I pray for knowledge of God’s will for me instead of praying for what I think I want? Today, how do I know what God’s will is for me? What happens when I neglect prayer in my life? What are some of the things that stops God’s power from working in my life? What happens to me today when I spend time with my loving and caring God?” All of these questions prompt thoughts on the subject matter of seeking a more conscious contact with your Higher Power through prayer and meditation. There is no definitive answer but I’m hoping that some of these points will help you to get an understanding of what step eleven is.

Step twelve, the final step in the Twelve-Step Program, as per the AA Literature reads like this, “Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps, we try to carry this message to others and to practice these principles in all our affairs. A spiritual awakening can mean a gradual change of attitude as a result of these steps. Each step grows out of the one before. To help others, we must first make the steps a part of ourselves. We can never give to somebody else what we don’t already have. Carrying the message to others is one of the greatest rewards of the AA Program. To help another person progress from despair to hope and love blesses us in turn. If we focus on bringing this program into each phase of our lives, our spiritual growth can be unlimited and our rewards endless.” I agree with that point that by carrying this message to other suffering addicts, we help to embed the message in ourselves and we help another person. Helping another person makes us feel good about ourselves. It just creates a cycle that is self-feeding and we need to be part of the cycle. We should all be actively wanting to carry this message to other people because it just puts us into the cycle in a stronger and stronger way. We’re helping other people and we’re helping ourselves and it makes the cycle stronger. An important part of the Twelve-Step Program is to carry this message to other people. Do you have any comments on it, Dave?

You don’t have to save the world. If you can help one person, then it’s worth it. If that one can help one person, it’s a snowball effect. It just makes it so much easier for everyone. It’s noticeable. People see that in you. I don’t want to call it charitable but you’re being that way. You’re giving of yourself. You’re giving of your time. It’ll always come back to just that one person.

Here are a couple of points raised by this additional literature. “Did I undergo a profound personality change for the better as a result of this spiritual awakening? What is the message of AA and what is my perception of it? Why is it important to my recovery to carry this message to addicts? On a daily basis, what are some of the many ways I can carry this message to addicts other than sponsorship? What do I experience by practicing the principles of working with other addicts through sponsorship? How do I prepare myself to be the best sponsor I can be?” Most recovering addicts look for a sponsor. Most recovering addicts will go to AA or NA meetings and at some point, they will ask people to be their sponsor. A sponsor is like a best buddy who you can call late at night if need be. The relationship is mostly centered around recovery. That’s the idea as a sponsor on the subject matter of recovery. Often, the sponsor will have the sponsee work the Twelve-Step Program. They’ll work the steps together as part of the sponsorship agreement. What are your thoughts on getting a sponsor and having a sponsor?

I see extreme value in a sponsor. It’s always someone that has more time than yourself. They’ve been working the steps. It’s another part of not being alone. There’s someone there to help you. I did want to mention also that when people go out and find a sponsor, that’s not your sponsor forever, that one person. If your personalities don’t jive, if you just don’t have that feeling, it’s okay to get another sponsor. There are a lot of people that are out there willing to help. Sponsors that are in that position understand that not everybody is a match.

SOA 13 | 12 Steps Program

12 Steps Program: There’s extreme value in a sponsor. It’s always someone that has more time than yourself.

I certainly agree with getting a sponsor also. Here are a few final points on step twelve, which are, “Do I have resistance or lack of willingness to take what I have learned inside of AA and practice it outside of the meetings? What different areas of my life do I apply these spiritual principles today? How do I monitor and nurture my recovery to ensure the practice of these principles in all my affairs? What positive results have I seen in myself, addicts and others as I’ve learned to achieve spiritual growth by daily practicing these principles in all of my affairs?” Those are all very valid questions and they’re there to help you to get a concept and understanding of having a spiritual awakening and carrying this message of the Twelve-Step Program to other suffering addicts.

I’m hoping that the three episodes of this podcast that have covered the Twelve Steps are helpful to people. I’m thinking that people who are in recovery or wanting to be in recovery might not have a good understanding of what this Twelve-Step Program is all about. By doing some podcasts on the Twelve-Step Program, we might have demystified some of the process. To end off the show, what I’m going to do is just summarize all twelve steps so that you get some sense of what they are. Steps one, two, and three are admitting that you are powerless over drugs or alcohol, believing in a power greater than yourself and turning your life over to that Higher Power. Step four is making a moral inventory of yourself. Steps five, six and seven are admitting the nature of your wrongs, ridding yourself for your Higher Power to remove your defects and restoring your wrongs. Steps eight and nine are making a list of people we have harmed and making amends with those people. Steps ten, eleven and twelve are when we were wrong, we promptly admit it, being conscious of our Higher Power, and carrying this message to other addicts.

It’s a pretty simple Twelve-Step Program. It’s nothing overly complicated. It’s highly suggested that you work the Twelve-Step Program if you’re recovering from drug addiction or alcoholism. It’s also highly suggested that you get a sponsor to work these twelve steps with you. I recommend that you journal throughout this process, that you develop your own concept of a Higher Power, that you meditate and pray on a daily basis, and that you listen to the voice of reason and good within you. Let that voice help you to make decisions so that you make the right decisions. With that, I hope you stay happy and stay sober.

 

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