How to Work Step Seven
Step seven is the logical continuation of step six, wherein addicts delineate their character defects and become willing to live without them. In step seven, as one might expect, addicts begin the process of actually getting rid of those shortcomings. In most respects, working step seven is a relatively straightforward procedure. You simply incorporate into your daily routine (prayer, affirmations, or whatever else it is that seems to work for you in your recovery) a request that your higher power remove your character defects. If there are shortcomings that are particularly troublesome at a given time, you specifically mention those issues.
Sometimes people get hung up on the “God” language in step seven, thinking their lack of belief will hold them back. This is not in fact the case. In reality, a belief in God is not necessary – though many recovering addicts do find having a spiritually based higher power helpful. If, however, you do not have a spiritual higher power at this point, just state aloud your request for help in reducing/eliminating your character defects as a mantra. For many people, the mere realization that these character defects exist, coupled with the contrary action of saying aloud that you would like to be rid of these defects, is enough to make significant progress.
It must be noted that asking for one’s shortcomings to be removed does not automatically make them go away. It is up to you to be aware of your shortcomings on an ongoing basis, to pay attention when they crop up, and to quickly self-correct whenever that occurs. That said, many people find that their higher power can and does remove their character shortcomings when asked. The problem is that your higher power can and will return those defects, without charge, any time you decide to re-engage with them. In this way step seven is a prime example of the much-used 12-step adage: progress not perfection. Sometimes that progress occurs in leaps and bounds; other times it is so incremental as to hardly be noticeable. Either way, the primary goal is that your character defects will become less of a problem over time.
In many ways, step seven is about achieving humility. Humility is a word that is often misunderstood, and because of that it is often something that people think they don’t want. Essentially, the word is confused with humiliation, which is nearly always unpleasant to experience. And while humiliation sometimes does lead to humility, this is not necessarily or always the case. In reality, humility is simply seeing the truth of one’s life and one’s place in the world. It is the art of being “right sized,” neither too big (self-entitled, grandiose, etc.) nor too small (ashamed, unworthy, defective, etc.)
For addicts entering recovery, developing a sense of humility (seeing and accepting reality) begins with step one. The mere act of admitting that you are powerless over alcohol, drugs, or an addictive behavior is a giant leap toward humility in that you, perhaps for the first time, have finally begun to see and admit the reality of your addiction – the lack of control, the directly related negative life consequences, etc.
Interestingly, admitting powerlessness and unmanageability – that very first act toward humility – creates in nearly all recovering addicts a sense of peace (even if that sensation is only temporary). Working step seven, a much more comprehensive act toward humility, typically results in an even greater (and much longer-lasting) sense of peace. It is at this point that recovering addicts realize humility is not a condition of groveling despair, but a state of peace, serenity, and acceptance of life on life’s terms. For people who’ve heretofore known only depression, anxiety, and fear, this newfound sense of serenity is a priceless gift. It is also an incredibly powerful motivator for continued sobriety and further step-work.