Taking the Sixth Step in Recovery

By January 8, 2022Recovery
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A 12-Step program is often a part of the healing process of a substance use disorder (SUD). For example, Step 6 in some programs asks a person to admit they are ready to remove character defects. While calling parts of a person defective may seem harsh, try to frame the concept of being flawed as acknowledging there are aspects of behavior that require change.

Character Defects

When your client decides to commit to a 12-Step program, they must admit they are powerless, give it to a higher power, and take a moral inventory. After they complete these steps, they then disclose their harmful behavior to another person and themselves: risky behaviors or damaged relationships. If your client is working with you on their steps, once they progress to Step 6, they have laid the foundation to give up those harmful behaviors.

Often, the idea of giving up negative behaviors is uncomfortable. No one wants to acknowledge how their past behaviors affected themselves and others. After all, when people admit to incorporating dangerous acts into their lives, they also recognize the work required to fix the damage done. Your client’s past may include pain, embarrassment, and guilt. For this reason, some programs encourage or require participants to incorporate either God or a higher power into their recovery.

Higher Power Conundrum

While there are programs like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) that state a person must be ready for God to remove those defects, some clients may not feel comfortable with the idea of God. Therefore, instead of focusing on God, work with your client to cultivate a sense of inner peace. Inner peace opens the gate for your client to accept their past behaviors and the work needed to right those wrongs. Whether clients find inner peace in spiritual traditions, art, nature, or a form of exercise, the goal is to replace negative actions with positive behaviors.

An essential tenet of Step 6 in a 12-Step program is quitting alcohol or drugs. However, it is vital to address problems that continue to exist. Clients who invite a higher power into their lives also learn to lean on healthy habits in times of duress. Practices that promote health and well-being can prevent relapse. Therefore, encourage your client to seek inner peace and healthy problem-solving by using holistic therapies or a form of spirituality.

Leaving Harmful Behaviors in the Past

Replacing destructive behaviors with healthy behaviors is not easy, however, successfully working through Step 6 is possible.

  • First, ask your client to review their work during Step 4.
  • As they review what they wrote down in Step 4, guide them to discover how a specific issue makes them feel or behave.
  • Have your client complete an inventory of the effects of their behaviors on themselves or others.
  • Once they process their feelings, encourage them to imagine what life would look like without those negative behaviors.

Step 6 is another chance for your client to work on forgiving themself. The past did and can continue to affect their present, but they can control what happens once they acknowledge their destructive behavior patterns.

Mixing Beliefs and Coping Skills Together

Before your client begins to work on Step 6, they need to check their attitude. Letting go of harmful behaviors means also removing negative thoughts and attitudes. Set up a ritual that requires your client to take a moment during the day to assess and reflect on where their thoughts are leading them. Some may find comfort or focus by integrating meditation or breathwork into their daily routine. If they’re unsure how to self-guide, you can help your client find a meditation or breathwork app.

Clients who mix their spirituality with belief in themselves can also benefit by weighing self-will versus inner peace. Self-will focuses on what the individual wants, even if it means harming others. In contrast, holistic therapies shift from destructive thoughts or behaviors to healthy actions. Encourage your client to check in with you to gauge their progress in combining their inner peace beliefs with healthy coping skills.

Stop Expecting Perfection

Clients should learn that perfection isn’t necessary when working a 12-Step program. Explain to your client that perfection isn’t about having being or feeling flawless; it is about admitting to themself and others their flaws. Rather than striving for nothing less than perfection, ask them to work towards forgiveness.

When clients reach Step 6, they may think they’re “ready” to admit to their character flaws and fix them. Unfortunately, few are ready to dive deep into their weaknesses, and many take several attempts before they’re satisfied with how they addressed one harmful behavior. Discuss the possibility that Step 6 is an ongoing process that may need revisiting throughout their recovery. The emphasis isn’t on getting things perfect the first time. It is on getting things right when they’re ready to face a negative pattern.

Step 6 is part of many 12-Step programs that ask people to admit they have destructive behaviors. Once a person admits to destructive behavior patterns, many programs require the person to let God or a higher power determine the path to replacing dangerous behaviors with healthy rituals. However, some may be uncomfortable with the idea of God or a higher power and can seek inner peace through holistic therapies. Encouraging clients to find what works for them can replace hesitancy to begin Step 6. As a result, many may find comfort in accepting who they are and where they are going. Alta Centers guides their clients to take the steps necessary to reach their inner peace. We encourage our clients to find a 12-Step program that fits their needs. Additionally, they will collaborate with a therapist to ensure their recovery includes support and acceptance. To find out how we can help your client, call (888) 202-2583.