Episode 135: Steps Six and Seven with Angela and John

Angela is back to discuss the steps from a more secular point of view, and in this episode, we take a look at steps six and seven, which in their original wording read as “were entirely ready to have God remove all of these defects of character”, and “Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings. Sounds like these are steps that should be completely discarded if you are an atheist, agnostic or otherwise secular in your worldview, but when you stop and think about what is really being done here, it turns out that there’s nothing supernatural going on at all.

Transcript

John: How are you, Angela?

Angela: I’m good, how are you?

 John: I’m fine, thank you. Today, we’re going to talk about steps six and seven, and I thought that we would go ahead and combine them since they go together.

John: In the original steps, which doesn’t really require much effort since the higher power does everything. It’s like the first part of it is just becoming willing and the other part is asking God to do it, but we take a different approach when looking at it from a more secular point of view.

John: I’m interested in hearing how you look at it because you went through the steps using the Alternative 12 Steps book and I started the traditional way, though I think I always had in my mind that this step was just a continuing effort of addressing my psychological problems over the rest of my life. But tover the last four years or so, I’ve been reading a lot of different books and have learned a lot about what I think this actually involves. 

John: Why don’t we start with you? Would you go through what you think about these steps what they mean to you?

 Angela: Yeah, we can do that, but I am curious about what your first take on it was, because I think that’s what quite a few of our listeners, either might identify, or what they might be hearing in the rooms of what they have to do, and so maybe if we talk about that or what if you remember what exactly your sponsor told you to do for those steps or your understanding? 

John: My sponsor told me to pray for God to remove my defects. 

[laughter] 

Angela: That was pretty much it? 

John: Yes. 

Angela: And how… How did he determine or how did you determine when that happened? 

John: God never removes them. That’s the thing, you go to meetings and people talk about… “Well, God still hasn’t taken this away, or that away.” I honestly think that these steps, that this part of the program, call them steps if you will, aren’t really properly addressed in AA meetings. People don’t really talk about the real work that we do to change because of the fact that they were originally worded as being a supernatural thing that happens, that there’s really nothing that we ourselves can do but we have to turn to God. 

John: So yeah, when I was doing this, I read the 12 and 12 because there’s really nothing written in The Big Book about it, and we worked through that. I think that we looked at the concept of humility that was a concept that was really beaten into me almost detrimentally to a certain extent. I got myself so humble that I have to remind myself that it’s okay to be proud of something once in a while that I’ve done. It’s okay, too… So yeah, it’s just a little bit ridiculous, but… Yeah, so I think we focused on humility and we focused on how I guess that these were instincts run awry.

John: We have a natural instinct to survive or whatever and that gets out of control by being selfish, or whatever, and that alcoholics are the worst because they go to such extremes, so that’s… Yeah, that’s basically the stuff that I was taught. But the actual work of this, nothing after you do that sponsor says, “Go pray, and then for rest of your life, you’re supposed to pray about these things. 

John: Now, I see them completely different now, and I think even in retrospect as I look back on that experience, when I finish steps four and five, like we were talking about last time I started going to therapy and I think going to therapy, for me, was my step six, and seven, work basically. I always kind of saw it that way is that for me this was always about addressing the other issues in my life that needed to be addressed other than just my drinking is how I see it. It’s how I think I saw it, but yeah, the actual stuff I did was all very religious-oriented, because that’s the way it is in AA. 

Angela: Right, huh, well cool, yeah. No, I hear a lot of that in meetings too, and it just seems so strange from my personal experience. I get usually what they’re talking about when they’re trying to… But I do find it kind of funny, that steps in six and seven are not often the topic for the discussion. 

[laughter] 

Angela: Yeah, occasionally, in step study meetings. If they do them by the month, then in June and July, there’s a lot of people who are absent because not a lot to talk about with 6 and 7, but for me, like you, I found them to be the most important as far as change and acceptance of myself and I guess that release that a lot of people find, most of them say they get it after step five, sharing with somebody else. But for me, I think it was in 6 and 7, because that’s where I started to see a little bit better that I wasn’t the sum total of these behaviors or character defects, and it gave me that that grace from the part of my mind that seems to keep me accountable, or is so critical. It’s like, “Oh okay, so these are things that I’ve developed over the years to survive into cope and now I have the opportunity to see them and see how I can use them in both positive and how I was using them negatively and do something different.

Angela: So when I was looking at The Alternative Steps a Secular Guide book again they do step six as a willingness to change, I think, and Step Seven, as at least the principles behind step six is a willingness to change and seven was personal responsibility and the actual involvement in change. Courage, self-discipline, and humility as well, and that’s always an interesting one, the word because, for a lot of us, it’s been used to beat us down when at the time that these were developed those guys did need a little bit of an ego a suppression. 

Angela: But these days it’s more of a trying to find that balance of self in between. I’m the greatest, and I’m the worst because I still go to that a lot that I’m either or I’m the worst or I’m the best of being the worst that kind of a thing. So yeah, so those are the things that we kind of looked at.

Anglea: So, for Step 6, I have some of my old step work here that I’ve done in the past on it, and it’s kind of hard to read because I was crazier at the time, but yeah, we would go and we would write down what the defect or the behavior, the tool or whatever was in one column and then I’d write down why it was useful to me and I talked a little bit about this in our discussions before, on form five. But then, I would write down what options I have that are outside of what I can do, so something new I can do instead to get that need met or whatever the useful thing was. So basically, like one of them was laziness and procrastination” 

Angela: I put that, and so I put that it was useful to me because it gave me time to think through ideas and that other options are that I can still pause while taking action or if I’m pausing, I can ask others for perspective, so I can be actively doing things, while not taking action rather than just procrastinate or put things off. So, it’s changing that. And then the last thing that she would have me write down is how is this new way of doing things useful to myself and others? And so, I think that’s part of the willingness to change and looking at either the humility or looking at it as a way that I can improve, not just for myself but for society as a whole. 

Angela: And so then I’d write down some sort of thing that along the lines of practicing trust that I don’t have to control everything or direct everything and sometimes my procrastinating and being lazy, was because I felt like I needed to and I couldn’t for whatever reason, or I wouldn’t be doing it right. And so, there’s a lot of things that I haven’t done because I wouldn’t be able to do it right from the start and so I put it off. And so for six it was looking at those things, and again, writing down lists like that on what each of these defects or obstacles, whatever you choose to call them were, what they meant, why I was doing them and then what I could do differently, and why I would want to do them differently. Basically, what’s another one that might be helpful? 

Angela: I guess there was one that I was doubting that I deserved unconditional love. So that was from a place of shame or something from growing up. 

Angela: So one of the things that I found from that is that I did that or that that came about as a way of protecting myself from more emotional harm that I was trying to preserve myself by doubting that other people could love me and that what I learned from this was that I’m the one who at any given time, I’m able to give myself the love that I need. I don’t have to orchestrate it or depend on my self-worth from other people or protect myself from other people, so it’s more of an opening myself up to vulnerability, and trust in abundance. 

John: You really fortunate that you had that experience, I think. Not having to… Of doing it originally from that perspective because I had to unlearn some things. Like for me, it was a new concept actually, just within the last couple of years, to see these on behaviors as what you just described as coping mechanisms that worked at one time but don’t work any longer in our sober life.

 John: I never really stopped to think of it that way. I was so entrenched in this mindset of the character defects and the need to build character and I think character building is good but it puts the focus too much I think on this idea that my character is bad and it needs to be good and I know that doesn’t really mean that, but that’s the mindset that a person is still in, but when you think about it in terms of these are coping mechanisms that I was using in my life and they served a purpose at that time and they were helping me survive in a dysfunctional household, for example, or they were helping me get through a crazy life when I was addicted to alcohol. 

John: These were mechanisms that I used to help me get through life, but now as a sober person who is trying to have normal relationships with other people, those things just don’t work anymore and I need to learn other ways, I need to grow out of those things and learn more healthy ways I guess, of behaving. 

John: I got that from a conversation I had actually with Stephanie R, I had her on a podcast and she was talking about these things as not character traits, but defense mechanisms. I never really thought about that way before, but then in Jeffrey Munn’s book the steps the original is talk about removing things and he puts the focus on adding something. So, he looks at it the same way is that these were behaviors that we engaged in, to cope and rather than trying to get rid of them, let’s focus on building more positive or healthy ways of living. 

Angela: Yeah, yeah, no, and that’s kind of how I learned too. As I’ve mentioned before with manipulation, I learned manipulation, because sometimes you have to do it to get shit done and so… And so, it’s not something that I want to be removed from me because it is a skill and it’s something that’s actually rewarded in a lot of business and careers and stuff in order to get things done. 

Angela: What I needed to do was look at how I was using it, in ways that weren’t helpful for me, weren’t helpful for my integrity and the person that I wanted to be, and then change those and look at how I could do something differently in those situations. A lot of that was just the learning to pause and take a step back from whatever situation was happening that I was unhappy with and not just automatically go to manipulation in order to get things done, but to be able to look and see is what is the best tool for this situation. Is it just for me, or do I  step back and let whoever else is involved figure it out for themselves? Am I supposed to be the person who’s like the WISE guidance or something? Do I step back and just share some words of wisdom, or do I just keep my mouth shut? Is that the best way to get through these things? 

Angela: But yeah, it’s to recognize that this is a tool, this is where it came from. I had to manipulate in order to get my needs met and growing up and I don’t have to do that now. There are lots of other tools at my disposal, but I have these ones hardwired into my brain because of how I grew up and so yeah, so that’s how I learned to look at them. So, in meetings where they’re talking about Step 6 and 7, and things not being taken away, I always bring up a defect that I’ve used and how I used it negatively when I was drinking or in the past, and just in general and how it still can be used negatively now. But also, how it can be used positively. Why I used it and that it wasn’t necessarily bad that I was using it. So, trying to take things away from the good and bad and the evil horrible alcoholic, worst person in the world to just a person who was trying to get by and using the tools that they developed. It wasn’t like we were born and said, “I’d like this set of tools.” It’s what we grew into. 

Angela: And so, some of this I think in six and seven is un-learning, which is going through and recognizing so you have to go through and see and make the connections with your step work and your sponsor or whoever you’re doing this with. Make, the connections as and then make some decisions. You right down for us, we write down note cards and this is more of step seven where we’re trying to learn, I guess, self-discipline, and personal responsibility and stuff where we’re getting involved in our change. 

Angela: We write down on note cards, some of these traits that we would like to use better and make better choices about, and judgment or something like that, and then a little note on how we’ve used it in the past that wasn’t helpful. Then, on the other side, what some of the options are if we find ourselves sitting in judgment or being angry or whatever it is that is the sign to us that we’re judging people, or we’re in a negative form of judgment, and what we can do instead. 

Angela: And then the things on the back the things we can do, instead we kind of read over and see if any of them fit the situation that we’re in, and then we can sit and think about that or do whatever that action is. But for seven, it was really having those things so that we could practice making something different. It wasn’t it that higher power took away my judgmentalism of other people and things going on around me, that I just didn’t seem right was that I had to first learn to recognize, “Oh I’m judging that person.” And then look at what my little note card said are other things that I could do instead, and then practice that at that moment and then keep doing that. 

Angela: So, for six and seven, the way that we do them, that I’ve done them is that, yeah, you go through, you do the writing down in columns generally again and then on seven you write the stuff on the notecard and then it’s you carry that around for a few weeks working on it, and then we meet either I meet with my sponsor or sponsee or whatever the situation is, and then talk about situations where they’ve actually used them. Has it been helpful? Did they find that when they were doing it that a new idea came up of how they can use act differently in a certain situation? 

Angela: And so, it was developing that self-discipline of pausing and then trying something new and living through that experience of not just reacting to a situation. And then, rinse and repeat basically. And so that’s how I do six and seven. And why I think that they’re really pivotal for my recovery, because it’s that the practicing and oftentimes failing still acting in the negative way of manipulation or judgment or whatever it is. And then looking again at… “Oh wait, I can do this”, you know, and then trying that and then having that be the new thing that is easier to do because once you keep trying something, then that starts to be the go-to. 

Angela: And so more often than not, I can be calm in a situation instead of reactive, but I needed to know why I was being reactive, that I was being reactive, and what are my other options? It’s kind of like when somebody starts to realize that they are alcoholic or that they do have a problem, it’s like, “Well great, you recognize that, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re not going to drink ever again.” How do you not drink ever again? 

Angela: And so, six and seven for me is how do I learn to do things differently so that I’m not still behaving in the ways, that made me feel negative about myself, and like I needed to turn to a substance or some sort of thing for escape. 

John: You know, I did seek outside resources beyond myself or AA. So that was like, I guess my substitute for the higher power is seeking professional health therapy and so forth. That was me, but again, we talked about this before, I do recommend it. That’s what really helped get me into another level because when I was able to talk to another person about… 

John: when I go to my therapist, in other words, I wouldn’t have a list of my character defects or a list of things that I was wanting to change, but I had them in my head. I knew what I learned and I would talk about these things and I just talk about was going on in my life, and then I would learn different ways, even have a different way of even perceiving it, because sometimes the way that I would perceive something wasn’t like… there could be another way of looking at it. 

John: Like the whole procrastination thing sometimes I need to just do something, I need to pay that bill just do it, but other times, I need to stop and pause and think like you were saying if I’m working on something, some project, at work and I just can’t get it done. But, what’s happening, what’s really going on there is I’m thinking it through. I’m thinking it through, I’m thinking about how I am going to really get this project done. And then eventually, it does flow and it comes and of course, you do have deadlines and stuff at work, but a lot of times I think that I’m putting something off when in reality, I’m really in thinking it over, trying to understand how I want to get this thing done. 

Angela: Right, yeah, it’s kind of the story that we tell ourselves about whatever is happening or emotion or the meaning that we give to it and a lot of us have different meanings that we’ve applied to our behavior. And sometimes it’s correct and sometimes it isn’t. 

John: I used to think I was a terrible procrastinator, and I remember as a younger person going to meetings, and I would be talking about that a lot, like, “Oh bad me, bad me, procrastinate, procrastinate.” Especially like on step four, when we were doing that and then later in hindsight, I look back on it, I thought, “Well you know what during that time when I was procrastinating step four and being myself up about it, and my sponsor was giving me a hard time about it, actually, I was kind of trying to understand what the hell is going to do. 

John: It was a period of time of reflection that was actually part of working a step it was kind of preparing myself for what I was going to… What I was going to be doing, I didn’t take it, I didn’t do it lightly I took it pretty seriously. So yeah, it’s nice to be able to have someone who can give you another way of looking at things sometimes. I think that was really helpful for me. 

Angela: As we’ve said before, therapy is invaluable, and I suggest it to anybody who can get it as soon as possible in recovery because there’s a lot of stuff that AA isn’t a good fit for everyone. Some would say anyone, but there are some good things which is why we do this podcast. And we were still involved, is trying to help people that need the help where they’re at. Because when I got sober, I didn’t have the resources for quality therapy, and I just was fortunate that I was in a place in, in a city and at a time where I met somebody who was doing the steps this way, and who was willing to do this step this way. She already did them a little bit differently than most people from because of her Buddhist perspective, but she had never actually done it using The Alternative 12 steps: A Secular Guide and so she was willing to do that with me because I had that book and… Yeah, and so because of that I understand them and do a program that’s a little bit different than the mainstream, but that has really worked well for me. 

Angela: So another thing I was thinking about what I learned from six and seven I think one of the things that came out of the step work that I was looking at earlier was, I was frustrated this was after I had done some step work, and stuff, but I was meeting with my sponsor and I was frustrated because I was having trouble at work, I was having trouble getting up and going to work, and so I hadn’t set my alarm, or I had slipped through my alarm like three times that week… 

Angela: And so, what I was frustrated with is why I’m being so lazy inconsistent again and things like that. And so, we talked about… So, what does this behavior that I’m doing, of not getting up with my alarm and what are the feelings that it’s created? And I was frustrated with myself. I was in fear of being late for work that I could lose my job and I was embarrassed about being late, but the real issues that were behind all of that is that I was feeling loathing for myself that I can’t seem to get it together and shame that I have a regular job, instead of creating my own destiny, or whatever it is that I had in my mind, that I didn’t like this job, because of… And that not getting up was actually be acting out these emotions and these feelings and things that I created. 

Angela: So, what we did was created a plan of how I would like to take care of this differently. And so we did some practical things like try to set my alarm earlier and then we wrote down for me to research employment or career options or things that I would be interested in that would have hours or flexible schedule or something along those lines, and then what are the next steps that I can take to set me on a path to be doing that instead? 

Angela: That was part of doing it a six and seven on behavior that I didn’t necessarily write down when I first went through the steps. I think I had laziness or procrastination, but this was a very specific incident and behavior that I needed to work on. So, we worked basically kind of a six and seven the way that we do them and it was helpful to me. 

Angela: So, basically, yeah, with the “defect, and I always do the air quotes when I do them. We look at how it was useful to me.  What are other ways that I can take care of this need or what is it trying to tell me about a need I have? And then what are the positive actions, that are healthy or specific that I can do instead of these use the outdated resource or use the resource in a way that’s not helpful? 

John: And this really is a lifelong process, and sometimes it’s like two steps forward, and one step back. You know a couple of years ago, maybe it was two, three years ago, I had a crisis going on at work where they wrote me up and they were getting ready to fire me and they gave me a list of reasons of the things that I wasn’t doing right, and some of it was true, some of it wasn’t, but I took a look at, I took a look at what they told me and I reflected on my behavior at work and I knew that there were some things that I could change and I set about doing that. 

John: I think I was looking at it as steps four and five. I wasn’t going thinking specifically about 6 and 7, but there were some specific behaviors that I changed. And one of those things really was just to make my boss a little bit more serious. So, in other words, if my boss wants something done a certain way, I should do it that way. It sounds kind of silly, but for whatever reason, I just wasn’t doing that. I don’t know what was wrong, but I just kind of slid into this behavior where, “yeah, these are things that you want me to do, but I’m going to do it this way and this should work.” It was kind of not good. 

John: So, I do things the way she wants now I try to do it and she’s a decent person, she’ll listen to me. If I have an idea to do something a different way, a lot of times, she’ll do it that way. She’s totally fine, with that, but I was just working totally independently and not really thinking about having conversations with her about how we can do something different. 

John: So yeah, it’s changed things totally but that’s just an example of how, even after many years of sobriety, I can engage in behaviors that are pretty unhealthy, and dangerous and could impact my security, but I do have, I do have a way now of dealing with them. I mean, the whole thing about just recognizing there’s a problem getting honest about it, looking at my part in it, putting the stuff the fears and the BS aside and just looking at the facts, what’s really happening and that’s what I think… That’s what I think the program is about really the practical part of the program is looking at the facts and not attaching a judgment to it, but looking at, “Hey, this is what this is what I do.” These are behaviors I have; I understand why I have them, that they’re not really working out so well. I really need to work on a different way of handling these things. 

Angela: Yeah, yeah, and the learning not to identify with it, which is the hardest part for me is if somebody calls me on something that they think that I’m not doing right or whatever, my past was always like at jobs I’d quit jobs. I think I’ve told before about that at one of them, they asked me where in an email, where a certain file was, and I got so pissed because it’s like, “What you don’t think? You don’t think I know where files are supposed to go, you think I lost the file, how dare you! I don’t have to put up with this.” They just asked me where a file was, but I took it as a personal insult to my integrity as a worker in America or something. 

[laughter]

 Angela: And so, yeah, that was one that my sponsor and I like to laugh about because I was, I was ready to quit, and by that time, in my sobriety, I had made a deal with my sponsor that I would not quit a job without calling her first. I was like that, that was my reactivity, to any sort of criticism or perceived criticism. As I said, this wasn’t actual criticism, my boss was just looking for a file. I just read it as a criticism. 

Angela: And so yeah, so I did not quit my job over that, but that was my MO that’s how I operated on things. And so now, when stuff like that happens sometimes that part of me does still pop up and the fear that they think I’m not doing something right or that I didn’t do something right or whatever but I practiced enough, now to know that okay, I can take some deep breaths, and ask some questions to find out what is really going on here. 

Angela: Is it that I goofed up and if I did is that I didn’t understand what they wanted from me or is it that I understood, but thought that I knew better, and it turns out I don’t? And that I need to change the way I’m doing things to better match the group that I’m in, but it’s not as much of a well as a defective character is an attack on my character. Whereas it felt like, in most work settings, and in relationships and friendships and stuff, that it was an attack on my character, anything that was not right and that I would generally leave retreat or do some sort of action that was uncalled for the situation because I couldn’t see it correctly. 

Angela: So, doing this step work gave me options on how I could start looking at things in a different light and so that’s why I still do, I guess some people would call it a 10th Step, but if I’m struggling with something and I don’t have the ability for whatever reason to talk to somebody else, or I don’t think it’s an appropriate thing to talk to somebody else about at the moment, I can go through and write columns and do what I think that the situation is about at the moment

Angela: And then by doing that, it has changed, I guess, in my brain, so that I can actually do the column on what’s my part in it, but it helps me to write it out in that way because I know that even if I write my part in it that it doesn’t mean that I’m a bad person where it’s usually going into it, my brains still spiraling on how I was wronged in this situation and how this person is wrong, and these people need to do this and blah, blah, blah. But when I write it out in this way, I’ve learned that I can be open to having a part in it, and that when I write that down, it takes a lot of the power and the juice away from whatever it is that’s bothering me or causing me to spin and I was much more Zen and nothing got to me, and I was open to all criticism and would consider it thoughtfully, but that’s not the person that I am. I’m definitely better than I was, but I have to do a lot of this work in order to be a balanced person. 

John: Writing is incredibly helpful to me and it always has been from the time I was a little kid, I would write to try to understand what I was feeling, what I was angry about or whatever. And to this day, when I am having a serious life problem, I always start addressing it by writing. 

Angela: Definitely, that makes me think of my niece when she was only two, she would get a notepad, and she would just Put little marks on it, and then she’d tear off the paper and hand it to us and so she had all these notes for us and yeah, I got into journaling in a very young age, when she didn’t even know what letters were or how to read, and I always thought that was cute, and to this day, she loves to read and journal and stuff so it… 

John: I’ll never forget. When I was 12 years old, I wrote a Declaration of Independence from my parents and posted it all over the house, about what tyrants, my parents were, and I was declaring my independence from them. 

Anglea: That’s great. 

John: It’s like Thomas Jefferson, he was actually writing out his grievances about the King. I did the same thing, it’s like, “I’m really pissed at my parents.” 

Angela: That’s awesome, I love it. 

[laughter] 

John: Writing has always been important and something that you said that I caught on to also is how interesting it is that a lot of the problems that we seem to get into boil down to communication. It’s like we perceive something one way. They asked you for the file, and you perceived it a whole different way than they intended it to be perceived, but that was your reality. 

John: I deal with that now and it’s usually the workplace, where I have these things. I’m a manager, I’ve got these people that work for me, and they do what I did to my boss, they don’t do things the way I want them done right? I’m thinking, “Oh man, they just don’t respect me blah, blah.” Now I’m falling into this morass of anger and frustration and everything, but if I really stop and think, “Okay this is just how I feel.” But if I ask the person in a way that isn’t confrontational or anything, but just kind of get down to the facts, of what’s going on, I find out it’s really not personal. I always take things personally, I think that’s probably natural to take it personal, but then I get down to it, and it’s like, “Oh no, you’re just doing what I was doing to my boss.” 

Angela: Right, right, yeah, yeah. One of the things that my first sponsor gave me, which was helpful was the book Nonviolent Communication. In it, there are actually scripts written out on how to ask questions when you’re in a situation that is strife or you’re uncertain or whatever. And that was really helpful to me because I would ask questions sometimes, but I would ask direct questions, or they would be loaded questions or that kind of a thing, and I try to even use “I” statements, but then it was… I was hurt by you being a jerk or something like that. 

Angela: And so, this book has these prompts. I mean, it talks about a lot of other things too, but what I found the most helpful was the actual prompts on how to ask questions because sometimes they really did have an issue with me and I had to learn how to receive that without freaking out, and that does not come naturally to me. 

John: That sounds like a really good book. That communication piece is really important. Another thing that I learned is in AA, I learned somewhere along the lines that if you tell somebody how you feel they can’t really argue your feelings. Well that’s kind of true, I guess, but that’s not always the best way to address something is to say, I feel like you don’t respect me, whatever, because the person will still look at it like, “Oh you’re… You think that I… “, it just doesn’t always work and it’s got to be another way of doing it, sometimes you have to, sometimes when you tell somebody that you feel a certain way, it’s putting it on them to make me feel different, it’s just like, you can sometimes just leave that out. Sometimes I think it’s appropriate to talk about how you feel, but sometimes it’s not so appropriate maybe. I’m just kind of figuring that out myself this whole communication thing. 

John: I should probably read that book. 

Angela: Yeah, it was helpful for me because it was my first sponsor and so it was still in my early recovery, where I was making friends within the recovery community and trying to build solid friendships instead of just people that I drank with at the bar and stuff, and those were with other recovering alcoholics. So, what could go wrong? 

Angela: And so there was one where a friend I had met, and we become good friends who went to different meetings and stuff, but I met her through another boy an AA that I was dating at the time, and so then him and I stopped dating and that was a little bit awkward because they were friends and so she had made some sort of comment while we were hanging out that I interpreted as that she was friends with him first and so for whatever the situation was that I would be second or something along those lines. 

Angela: And so I was super upset and I was not going to talk to her or I was going to talk to her and tell her exactly how she made me feel, and blah blah blah, and when I thought about that and how he talked to my sponsor and she suggested I go and look at that book. And so, what it suggested was that I get with her and say, when we had this conversation, this is what I heard. And is that what you meant, because… Yeah, and then she was able to say No… What I don’t recall saying it like that. And if I did, I wasn’t choosing my words very specifically, but that wasn’t what I intended at all, and so then it was able to resolve without a whole lot of stuff. It was just that I asked this is what I heard. Is that what you intended? And then she could clarify, and if it was what she intended then we’d go from there, but it changed my feeling of the relationship within moments, which I had been stewing over for at least probably two days by the time that we got to that because I’m good at that, so… Yeah, so I found it really helpful and enlightening that, “Oh, I can hear things or people can say things and do things and they don’t have the intention or the meaning that I hear or take from it.” 

John: I like that, because you’re actually asking for clarity, you’re actually asking to make sure that you understand what was going on. 

Angela: Right, and it causes me to be more generous to them too, because in general, I would be like, “they did this, they don’t like me they hurt my feelings, they whatever was them bad. So by changing it to giving them the benefit that they didn’t intend it that way, or give them the opportunity to have clarity than that too shows an open-“mindedness and a willingness, and then hopefully they will bestow that back to me, when I say something stupid or do something that hurts their feelings, because that’s how humans work, and so that then creates a deeper relationship or friendship because we both know that if there’s something that one says or does, that the other finds hurtful that that person can come and talk to the other person about it, and have that open-mindedness to clear up the situation. 

John: That’s interesting, the idea of communication and healthy communication is really interesting. I think it really does apply with these steps too because when you’re thinking about these steps in terms of how I’m going to change going forward throughout my life, the communication part is really, really important. So yeah, I think that book is something I definitely will check out because it’s something I’ve been thinking about more and more. We’ve been talking about it at our meeting about communication and being assertive and all this kind of different stuff, and I find it very interesting, it is a very interesting topic, and I think that it’s something that I really haven’t addressed a whole lot in my life. 

John: I think that I’m still not always communicating right. I think I recognize it easier with email because so often times you’ll get an email and you read into it something that the sender honestly, didn’t mean, or you don’t read it all the way through or something like that. Well, I think the same thing does actually happen in verbal communications too, that we don’t always… We think we’re hearing one thing, but we’re really not. It’s not the message that was interactive anyway.

 Angela: Exactly.

 John: Well, I think that we had a pretty good discussion about steps six and seven. Boiling it down, I think it’s all about changing behaviors. I think we had these coping mechanisms that we used throughout our life that were working at one time, that maybe don’t work so well now is that we’re adults and sober adults. 

Yeah, and then the steps for me where I get to practice doing things differently and get to have that feeling of, “Okay I survived doing this differently and the world didn’t end, so maybe I can do it again. Kind of like when you go through your first Thanksgiving sober, you’re like, “okay I survived that one, so maybe I can survive the next holiday sober.” 

John: It’s a positive thing too because you can actually see progress and you, you can actually enjoy your learning, something to you get to practice that. So yeah, it’s really the core of recovery, I think when you get to have to it. 

Angela: Right, it’s surviving the scary stuff of doing things differently in having different results and being able to make those changes, which we need to do as adults in life. 

John: Alright, well, thank you, Angela, thank you very much. The next steps are eight and nine. Do you think we should combine those two? 

Angela: Oh yeah, I definitely. 

John: Okay, we’ll combine those two.

John: Alright, well, you have a nice day.

 Angela: You, too. Bye.


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Maurice Powers-turner
Maurice Powers-turner
9 months ago

Thank you!