Seventh Step Memo

July 18, 2009

Seventh Step Memo

Seventh Step Memo

Greetings, fellow trudgers “on the road to happy destiny.”

I was in a lively phone conversation yesterday, but in a state of exuberance and enthusiasm—excitement. I wasn’t present. A slip of the tongue, and the reaction was swift – a not-so-pleasant but helpful reminder that my sanity and serenity depends on my willingness to let go of more than just the negative stuff—compulsions, obsessions, neuroses, habitual bad behavior—I also have to give up some aspects of me I’m pretty attached to: like thinking fast, talking fast, approaching all of life with a lets-go, get-it-done attitude, instead of considering, listening—and just being.

In terms of twelve-step recovery, I used to think of Steps 4 and 9 as the tough ones, but the two short and rather innocent sounding Steps Six and Seven are, in my opinion, the ones where the rubber truly meets the road (or, as Bill Wilson wrote in the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, these “separate the men from the boys”).

One reason might be that, as I’ve heard, “there’s no help available other than perfect help.” I’m not being instructed to hand over alcoholism, addiction, or codependency, or ask a Higher Power to remove personality traits I may find temporarily unpleasant. As the saying goes, “God doesn’t need your alcohol, drugs or insanity.”

I take these steps to mean that if I want what the people who have recovered seem to have, I’m left with no option but to surrender my entire self and engage in this process fully and to the best of my ability, surrendering the whole shebang.

Happy trails!

PS  The Sixth Step reads “6. Were entirely ready to have God remove these defects of character.”

The Sixth Step Prayer reads: “Dear God, I am ready for Your help in removing from me the defects of character, which I now realize are an obstacle to my recovery. Help me to continue being honest with myself, and guide me toward spiritual and mental health.”

The Seventh Step reads “7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.”

The (actual) Seventh Step prayer 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 out from here, to do your bidding.”


July 3, 2009



Greetings, fellow trudgers “on the road of happy destiny”…

I stumbled across a reading the other day I thought notable not just for what it says, but for its author, Reinhold Neiburh. Some may recognize Nieburh as the American theologian attributed with having written the original poem from which was derived the now-legendary Serenity Prayer:

“Man, who stands at the juncture of nature and spirit, is the subject of both freedom and necessity. On the one hand, he is involved in the order of nature and is therefore bound. On the other hand, as spirit he transcends nature and himself and is therefore free. Being both bound and free, both limited and unlimited, he invariably experiences anxiety.

“To teeter at the extremes of self-love and self-loathing, to pursue perfection because we despise our imperfections—is to find neither satisfaction in successes nor wisdom in failures. We tend to sway precariously on the teeter-totter of life, running from one extreme to the other, missing the point that the only stable place to be is in the mixed-up middle. In reality, that is the only place we can be.”

The Serenity Prayer reads,

“God, grant me the Serenity
To accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
and Wisdom to know the difference.”

Happy trails!


July 2, 2009



Greetings, fellow trudgers “on the road of happy destiny”…

In the midst of a ten-round bout with isolation (and isolation was winning) I did some reading about affirmations today. I struggle to believe that they can be true for me, but I’ve heard that it doesn’t matter whether I truly believe them—it only matters that I’m willing to say them, whether in solutide, prayer, or with another.

Here’s what I read:*

“One cost of addiction and coaddiction is loss of faith in our abilities. We can learn to reprogram ourselves with positive, healthy messages. We can select from a list the affirmations that have meaning for us, or add some of our own. Each affirmation is written in the present—as if we are already accomplishing it. It may not be a reality for us today. We may need to “act as if.” It may be difficult, but we can think of it as planting a garden, with possibilities that will blossom into wonderful realities. We can put the list on the bathroom mirror and repeat them while we wash up. We can keep a copy in the car to repeat while driving. We can record these comforting words and listen to them when driving, during meals, at bedtime:

• Today I accept that the life I have known is over.

• I am entering a new and blessed phase of my time here.

• I accept pain as my teacher and problems as the key to a new existence for me.

• I seek guides in my life and understand that they may be different than I anticipate.

• I accept the messages surrounding me. Negativity is replaced with positive acceptance.

• I realize that I have had a hard life and that I deserve better.

• I let the Spirit melt the hardness of my heart.

• I comfort and nurture myself. As part of the surrender of my pride I will let others give to me as an act of faith in my value as a person.

• I appreciate that in the chaos of the now, my instinct and beliefs may work against me. My recovering friends help me sort out healthy instincts and beliefs from unhealthy ones.

• Time is transforming my loneliness into solitude, my suffering into meaning, and my relationships into intimacy.

• I do not blame or search for fault. It is not who, but how, and what happened.

• I commit to reality at all costs, knowing that is where I will find ultimate serenity.

• I accept that life is difficult and that leaning into the struggle adds to my balance.”

Happy trails.

Keep the faith.

* PS Reprinted from A Gentle Path Through the Twelve Steps, by Dr. Patrick Carnes


Standing Still

July 1, 2009

God's Hands

God's Hands

Greetings, fellow trudgers on “the road of happy destiny”…

As we walk this road, many of us face difficulty letting go of painful and repetitive—yet comfortingly familiar—patterns of thought and behavior. These might be the very same things that have kept us locked in “self-constructed prisons,” tied down in the “bondage of self,” yet we know them as old friends, and turn to them over and over.

I came across this wonderful passage:

“We found that the most healing antidote to the gnawing pain of our struggles and doubts was to turn over any questions concerning the outcome of our withdrawal to God, or to whatever Power we felt was helping us to abstain from our old patterns.

“Through all of this we became, one day at a time, available to ourselves. By the simple act of “standing still,” we inaugurated a relationship with ourselves based on growing self-honesty, trust and intimacy.

“Now we knew that our goal was to lay the foundation for a personal wholeness. How this would translate into personal relationships or careers, we did not know. But what we did know was the the externals would eventually develop around this inner foundation of wholeness, and come to reflect our inner state.”

Happy Trails!