Back To The Basics Of Recovery- Steps Six and Seven

By Wally P.

Basics Of Recovery

Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.

Some A.A. pioneers refer to Steps Six and Seven as the “second surrender.” In Step Three we ask God to “take away (our) difficulties,” even though we may only have a general idea as to what they are. In Steps Six and Seven we surrender the specific items that are preventing us from tapping into the “Power greater than (ourselves) that will solve our problem.”

In the first paragraph on page 76, the “Big Book” authors provide details about this second surrender:
“. . . (W)e then look at Step Six. We have emphasized willingness as being indispensable. Are we now ready to let God remove from us all the things which we have admitted are objectionable? Can He now take them all—every one? If we still cling to something we will not let go, we ask God to help us be willing.”

Throughout the “Big Book,” the authors make clear we must be willing to take certain actions if we are to overcome our addictions and compulsive behaviors. On page 568, the authors state that, “Willingness, honesty, and open mindedness are the essentials of recovery,” and on page 124 the authors explain the importance of willingness when they write, “We grow by our willingness to face and rectify errors (our liabilities) and convert them into assets.”

Willingness implies acceptance without reluctance. We must have no reservations about giving up the liabilities we talked about in Steps Four and Five; specifically, the resentments (page 64), the fears (page 68), and the harm we have done to others because of our selfishness, dishonesty, inconsideration, jealousy, suspicion and bitterness (page 69).

As we learned in a previous article, “Healing is in the sharing, not in the writing.” During the Fourth Step, the sponsor writes down some generic names and puts some marks on a checklist. The objective is to compile an amends list, not chronicle every dastardly deed or questionable behavior the sponsee has ever engaged in.

In Step Six, we ask the God of our understanding to remove the liabilities that are blocking us. If we are unwilling to let go of some of these shortcomings, the sponsor and sponsee together pray for the willingness to have these shortcomings removed.

This prayer can be life-changing. I have personally witnessed many “psychic changes,” as the direct result of making this “petition” in the presence of the sponsee. I have seen abuse issues resolved and fear issues overcome with this simple request for willingness.

The Sixth Step question is a rewording of the third sentence in the first paragraph on page 76. It reads:

“Are you now ready to let God remove from you all the things which
you have admitted are objectionable?”

If you can answer in the affirmative, then you have taken Step Six and are ready to move on to Step Seven.

In the Seventh Step we turn our assets as well as our liabilities over to the “Power greater than ourselves.” Then, we ask the Power to give back to us only what we need “to be of maximum service to God and the people about us” (page 77, lines 3-4). According to the “Big Book” authors, being of service is our “real purpose.”

We ask the God of our understanding to remove the blocks that have been standing in the way of our recovery. We ask that these blocks be taken away, not for our own well-being, but so we can help others. We get out of ourselves by working with those who are still suffering or who have lost their way. Once we remove those things that have separated us from the Power greater than human power, we become much more efficient and effective in
our ability to carry a beneficial message.

This is a selfless program and the Seventh Step prayer exemplifies this concept of selflessness. The prayer is found in the second paragraph on page 76:

“. . . 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.”

Even though we have identified the blocks and asked “the One who has all power” to remove them, the blocks are not cleared away until we make restitution to those we’ve harmed. We do this is Steps Eight and Nine which we will cover in the next article.

Wally P. is an archivist, historian and author who, for more than twenty-three years, has been studying the origins and growth of the Twelve-step movement. He is the caretaker for the personal archives of Dr. Bob and Anne Smith. Wally conducts history presentations and recovery workshops, including “Back to the Basics of Recovery” in which he takes attendees through all Twelve Steps in four, one-hour sessions. More than 500,000 have taken the Steps using this powerful, time-tested, and highly successful “original” program of action.

On March 16, 2013, Wally will be conducting a “Back to Basics” workshop in Fort Myers, FL. For more information, please go to