The Pain of 6 & 7

The Pain of 6 and 7

I’ve never experienced more pain in sobriety than by working steps 6 and 7.

I’ve never experienced more pain in sobriety than by failing to work steps 6 and 7.

6 and 7 are bizarre steps in that they only receive a paragraph each in the Big Book. Seeing as every other step gets multiple pages, one would think you’d see at least the same devoted here.

Thankfully we have the 12 and 12, which goes much more in depth. There are books like Drop the Rock that go deeper. My experience with these steps is that, unfortunately, they’re skipped over too often when in fact they’re probably the most important steps in the book for anyone seeking long-term sobriety.

After all, aren’t character defects what led us to our spiritual emptiness in the first place?

The Beginning of the Disease

If we’re on board with the idea that alcoholism and drug addiction is not just a disease of the mind and the body but also a disease of the spirit, then we have to wonder where that spiritual void came from in the first place.

We hear people talk about feeling different from a young age all the time in meetings. We hear people talk about lying and cheating and stealing and doing more horrible things.

We hear this, and anyone with an ounce of logic in their head is going to wonder about that. Is going to wonder about where these feelings and actions come from. Is going to wonder if there’s a connection between these things and drinking and getting high.

In my experience, there is.

I started lying as a kid. I would cheat at cards with my dad and brothers. I was greedy and angry at the age of four and five.

Where that came from is irrelevant. What matters is that the actions and feelings we all agree are a source of spiritual void began well before the disease.

Does getting sober make them go away?

Hell no.

Which means that, if these things are not removed, or at the very least blunted, then that void is unlikely to go away.

Which means the drinking and drugging should return eventually.

They may have been the beginnings of the disease, but in my experience, they were the cause of my last relapse.

I didn’t want to change when I came into the program. I didn’t want to stop living the life I was living entirely.

I just wanted to stop getting high. I wanted to stop hurting, but I didn’t give a damn about continuing to hurt other people.

Unsurprisingly, I ended up getting high as a direct result of the character defects that didn’t go away because I had no interest in them going away.

Causing Harm

We all know how the story goes.

A guy or girl comes into the rooms. They’re newly sober but still screwed up mentally and spiritually.

They’re maybe working the steps, maybe not, but it doesn’t really matter because they’re causing harm in the rooms.

They’re sleeping with people’s boyfriends and girlfriends. They’re lying to people, stealing, shoplifting, yet still sober.

Then they get a call. A text.

“Yo, I got those bars come through”

“Theres nothin but chicks over here man. Can’t you come over and have a drink?”

Or they just see someone having a beer at the table next to them, and suddenly they’re ordering one, and suddenly they’re drunk, and they can’t quite figure out how it happened.

As the Big Book says, they have failed to enlarge their spiritual life.

This was me, minus the stealing. The harm I was causing was a particular type of insanity because I was hurting the very people who wanted to help me.

My short term sobriety was torpedoed by my refusal to stop being dishonest, to stop womanizing.

But what about the long haul? I’ve been sober 9 years now. I’ve seen people with years or decades continue these same behaviors.

A lot of them don’t stay sober.

But a lot of them do.

I can’t imagine the pain this must cause them because I know the pain it caused when I barely had a couple months sober.

But I can imagine living with the pain of character defects.

And I know intimately the pain of dealing with them

Death by a Thousand Amends

In my experience, character defects that are not dealt with at best lead to tons of amends.

I remember gossiping in a group about a guy I hated there. I was obsessed with hurting him because he had told things to others that I’d told him in confidence.

I prayed about it and felt a great deal of guilt the next day.

I had maybe a year sober.

Given how clearly I remembered the pain I was caused by my worse character defects, I resolved to deal with this the way the program recommends—by making amends.

I called every single person who was there to make an amend for spreading gossip.

It was a pain in the ass, and it was painful, and it wasn’t the last time I had to do that.

Working steps 6 and 7 was painful. And I still gossip sometimes. And it’s still painful to recognize and deal with it when it happens.

And in this same way, not working on character defects has been deeply painful. I’m stubborn and a workaholic. I refuse to do the things I need to do to just relax and take it easy. At this moment, I’m blogging on a beach instead of living in the moment.

Oh how painful it would be to just let myself breathe. To let the work sit. To trust that all will be okay.

My stubbornness kept me from taking my mental health meds for years. I suffered from a deep depression I couldn’t even see, not to mention anger and anxiety and OCD and a host of other issues.

Because I was too stubborn to admit I needed help.

It hurts to grow. It hurts worse to wither.

Which Do You Choose?

I have a choice every day.

I can work on my character defects.

Or I can let them make me miserable.

You have the same choice.

What will you choose today?

About Adam Fout

Adam Fout is an addiction / recovery / mental health blogger and a speculative fiction / nonfiction writer in North Texas. He’s a graduate of the 2020 Odyssey Writing Workshop, and his work appears or is forthcoming in december, J Journal, The Doctor T. J. Eckleburg Review, Another Chicago Magazine, Pulp Literature, and DreamForge. Read more of his posts at his blog,