Written By: Fiona Stockard
The Big Book Broken Down – Part Six
Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who help each other to recover from alcohol and drug addiction. It was founded in June of 1935, just celebrated its seventy-ninth anniversary, and boasts over two million members.
AA’s central text is the Big Book. With a sponsor and a Big Book, AA members work the twelve steps, and “recover from a seemingly hopeless state of mind and body” (title page).
Today, I’ll be breaking down steps five, six, and seven from the chapter “Into Action”
Step Five from Into Action
Into Action opens by talking about step five. It reads, “This requires action on our part, which, when completed, will mean that we have admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being, the exact nature of our wrongs” (72).
That’s the fifth step. Let’s be honest, no one wants to tell someone else everything about themselves. I didn’t. It’s about as uncomfortable a situation as can happen.
There are reasons we need to, though! Without working the fifth step, we usually don’t stay sober. Case in point, the chapter reads, “The best reason first: If we skip this vital step, we may not overcome drinking” (72).
There it is, laid out plain as anything. If we don’t get honest and tell another woman everything about ourselves, we may not be able to stay sober. That was enough to convince me. Well, that and the pain of not trying to change!
Into Action addresses this idea of emotional and mental pain, too. “[S]he is under constant fear and tension – this makes for more drinking” (73). Our actions in active alcoholism are selfish and, usually, harmful to others. This makes our lives pretty tense! I know that was the case for me.
So, to stay sober we need to do a fifth step. Or, to put it another way, to stay sober we need to get honest. What about happiness, though? Turns out we also need to be honest if we want to be happy! “We must be entirely honest with somebody if we expect to live long or happily in this world” (73-74).
So, if we want to stay sober and have any level of happiness, we need to work a fifth step. There’s good news, too! Once we share our story, 100% honestly, with another woman, we get this sense of relief.
It’s hard to describe what happens after the fifth step. The best way I can describe it is to say that, for the first time in years, I felt like I could breathe. I felt a different sort of high than I was used to. I felt free.
Into Action describes it this way, “We may have had certain spiritual beliefs, but we now begin to have a spiritual experience. The feeling that the drink problem has disappeared will often come strongly” (75).
Sounds appealing, right? Remember, though, we need to keep on doing work! After all, it says “the feeling that the drink problem has disappeared…” It doesn’t say our actual drinking problem has disappeared! That only comes after we complete all twelve of the steps!
Before we get into steps six and seven, we need to be sure we’ve completed the first five to the best of our ability. The book reads, “Returning home we find a place where we can be quiet for an hour, carefully reviewing what we have done…Carefully reading the first five proposals we ask if we have omitted anything…” (75).
Once we can say that we’ve worked the first five steps to the best of our ability, being as honest and open as possible, then we’re able to move to step six.
Step six is when we become willing to have God remove our character defects. Remember, we’ve identified a rough outline of our defects through writing a fourth step. For step six, we need to ask ourselves one simple question – “Are we now ready to let God remove from us all the things which we have admitted are objectionable?” (76).
Once we’re willing, the sixth step turns into the seventh step.
The seventh step is as simple as asking God to remove our character defects. The cool thing about this step is that we don’t have to 100% mean it when we ask God. As long as we’re willing to acknowledge we have these character defects and continue to ask God to remove them, until we do mean it, we’re good to go.
At this point, we say the seventh step prayer, or some form of it that expresses the same ideas. The seventh step prayer from the Big Book reads,
“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 from here, to do your bidding. Amen” (76).
And just like that, we’re done with the seventh step. Of course, like many parts of AA, this is just the beginning of a lifelong process.