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Alcoholics Anonymous Step 6

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If you are struggling with alcohol addiction, treatment is available to you, and it comes in many forms. One option is a 12-Step program, such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA).

AA is a group of people who unite to share strength, hope, and experiences with the common goal of recovering from alcohol use disorder (AUD).1 AA members utilize a set of principles to help maintain sobriety and live a life in recovery; these are known as the 12-Steps.1 Each step in the recovery process serves a unique purpose.

Today, we are going to take a closer look at Step 6, including what it is, myths and misunderstandings, and how to find help if you are struggling with alcohol addiction.

What Is Alcoholics Anonymous Step 6?

Step 6 is important because it focuses on being ready and willing to allow a higher power to remove personal flaws. More specifically, Step 6 states, “We’re entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.”2 The key to understanding this step is acknowledging the aspect of willingness.

Step 6 of Alcoholics Anonymous doesn’t ask that you turn over your defects to a higher power yet. It is asking that you be willing to do so when the time is right, so it may be helpful to think of it as a preparation step. The phrase “entirely ready” emphasizes the element of willingness and an acknowledgment that you are doing your best to build character, stop drinking, and keep trying.2

AA recognizes recovery as a lifetime job, and Step 6 assumes that the best possible attitude is needed to make progress throughout the lifetime process.2 Patience and contentment are also key features of this step. In Step 6, you are asked to learn to be content with self-improvement while having an open mind and acknowledging that you are not perfect.2

Keep in mind that AA acknowledges that perfection isn’t something that can be achieved; however, it asks that you work towards perfection nevertheless.2 Step 6 postulates that perfection is something to which we can only strive for, never being able to achieve and we continue to work toward it while using it as a benchmark for progress.2

Step 6 asks that you be entirely ready to strive towards moral and spiritual perfection as deemed by your higher power and not simply strive for just enough perfection that you have determined to be sufficient.2 This can be difficult for members because you are being asked to strive for something that is essentially unable to be attained.

Because perfection is unattainable, this step is about the process rather than the outcome. When identifying character defects that are difficult to let go of, Step 6 encourages you to adopt the perspective of “This I cannot give up yet” as opposed to “This I will never give up.”2

What Are Defects of Character?

According to AA, the phrase “defects of character” refers to the natural drives that exist within everyone that we have allowed to exceed their intended purpose, drive us mindlessly, and serve more pleasures than we deserve.2 As human beings, we often strive for more than what we have earned or need. When we demand that these natural drives provide excessive satisfaction and pleasure than what is due to us, we stray from the strive for perfection that our higher power desires for us.2

Defects of character include:2

  • Greed.
  • Pride.
  • Superiority.
  • Self-righteous anger.
  • Gluttony.
  • Envy.
  • Sloth.

When you identify and define your character defects, you are working toward the perfection that your higher power intended, and you adopt the best attitude possible so that you may find contentment with character building.2 AA postulates that you must “come to grips” with your worst character flaws and work toward their removal as swiftly as possible.2

When you are absolute in your denial of your defects, or you delay their removal, you risk danger.2 Defining your character defects doesn’t mean you are perfect; it means you are aware of areas of deficiency and are willing to do what needs to be done to remove these areas.

Myths and Misunderstandings About AA Step 6

To clarify, Step 6 doesn’t demand perfection from you, which is a common misconception about this step. Step 6 asks that you are willing and ready to have God remove your faults without any hesitation or reservation and that you work towards perfection with contentment and a positive attitude.2 Many AA members believe that Step 6 is an indication of your spiritual growth and that anyone who can live their life as their higher power intended has achieved significant spiritual growth.2

Regarding spirituality, Step 6 isn’t asking that you identify a religion or define your higher power. When it comes to God or a higher power, Step 6 encourages you to acknowledge that your higher power has asked that you work toward living your life as they intended.2 Step 6 doesn’t ask or mandate that you identify with a particular religion; AA does not identify with any specific religion.1

If you have questions about myths or misconceptions surrounding AA and Step 6, it should not stop you from seeking support or treatment. 12-Step programs and AA have consistently shown that they are beneficial in helping individuals recover from alcohol addiction, especially when combined with substance abuse treatment services.3

Current studies highlight the benefits of AA, which include:

  • Engagement in AA is associated with better overall health outcomes.3
  • Participation in AA is correlated with self-efficacy and healthy coping.3
  • At 1 year to 18 months follow-up, abstinence rates for those who attended AA/12-Step program are almost twice as much as those who didn’t attend said programs.4
  • Longer lengths of alcohol abstinence are correlated with higher attendance in AA meetings.4

How to Find Help for Alcohol Use Disorder

Deciding to get help for your alcohol addiction can be one of the most important decisions you can make for yourself. It is a good idea to talk to your doctor or other medical professional to explore your options and make the best treatment decisions for you and your recovery.5

The process for alcohol addiction treatment begins with an intake evaluation that addresses:5

  • Your current drinking patterns, including amount, frequency, and length of alcohol use.
  • Your overall mental and physical health.
  • An assessment of suitable medications and other interventions.

Based on your initial evaluation, a treatment plan will be created, and suitable interventions will be identified. Each treatment plan is different and individualized to each person’s unique needs and goals for recovery.

Treatment services can vary in intensity and can include:

  • Detox services, including medications, that help manage the uncomfortable symptoms of withdrawal. Keep in mind that detox should be paired with appropriate treatment services such as therapy and aftercare.6
  • Inpatient treatment, a treatment facility that provides care 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and can include services such as behavioral therapy, medication, and case management services.6
  • Outpatient treatment, which can include group, family, and individual counseling. Evidence-based behavioral therapies can include motivational interviewing and cognitive-behavioral therapy.6
  • Aftercare services that occur after you complete a treatment program. Services can include therapy, housing resources, and employment assistance.7

Benefits of substance misuse treatment include:6

  • Learning the skills necessary to stop alcohol and drug use.
  • Altering your beliefs about drugs and alcohol.
  • Increasing productivity at school, work, and in relationships.
  • Helping you establish and maintain abstinence from drugs and alcohol.

Benefits of AA and 12-Step participation include:3

  • Having a support system of peers who have shared goals.
  • Maintaining long-term sobriety from alcohol and other substances.
  • Strengthening your ability to manage stress and other life challenges.
  • Developing healthy beliefs in yourself and about the world.
  • Strengthening your self-esteem and improving self-confidence.

You can locate AA meetings online; meetings are available across the country. If you are traveling or away from your home, you can rest assured that you can find a meeting near you. If you are thinking about getting help for your alcohol addiction, don’t wait. Substance use treatment and peer support services such as AA offer many benefits to help you end your addiction.

American Addiction Centers (AAC) can help you if you are struggling with alcohol or drug addiction. AAC offers treatment programs across the country where you can take advantage of all the benefits that treatment has to offer. Call to speak with an admissions navigator who can help answer any questions you may have about the treatment process.

Locate alcohol rehab centers using the online directory. You can also instantly verify your insurance coverage. Don’t wait another day to get the help you deserve. Call AAC today.

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Senior Web Content Editor
Jennifer Fifield is a Senior Web Content Editor at American Addiction Centers and an addiction content expert for drugabuse.com and recovery.org. She holds a bachelor's degree in Broadcast Journalism and a master’s degree in Health Promotion Management. Jennifer has served as a content editor on numerous articles, web pages, and blog posts within the medical, dental, and vision industry. She has 15+ years of experience in higher education including writing/editing, administrative, and teaching positions within the health/wellness, accreditation, and health communications areas.
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