I sobered up in a small group in West Louisiana with six folks who were sober from 2 to 32 years and who believed that everything they needed to know to stay sober was contained in the first 164 pages of the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. They also believed that “sponsorship” was essential and they quickly assigned a woman who had been sober ten years to be my “temporary” sponsor. She remained my sponsor until she died. She told me to show up at her house every Wednesday at 2:00 p.m. and we would “work” together. I had no idea what “work” meant, but I soon discovered that “working” meant that I read the Big Book to her and when the book instructed “action,” I was to take that “action.” If I was unwilling to take the “action,” I was to leave and return when I was “willing.”
There is a lot of “action” in Chapter Six! Chapter Six contains the instructions for taking Steps Five through Eleven. Instructions for taking seven of the twelve Steps are laid out beginning on page 72 and by page 88 I am ready to go out and “help others.”
My first sponsor said that Chapter Six contained “the nuts and bolts” of the program. She called the first three Steps the “Realization” Steps, Steps Four through Nine the “Clean Up” Steps and Steps Ten, Eleven and Twelve the “Growth Steps.” My gratitude that I walked into the Harbor Group of Many, Louisiana is boundless. They told me, quite frankly, that all AA had for me were these 12 Steps and that the fellowship alone could not and would not keep me sober, but could keep me afloat until I did the “work” and that the “work” would set me free. Because they all seemed to have done “the work” and seemed “happy, joyous and free,”
I believed them and with more than a little trepidation, became willing to do the “work.”
In Step Five I deal with all the “mind debris” of my life. I find all the things that I have done that have haunted me and told me I was a “bad person.” I take all that out of my mind’s storage locker admit it to my Higher Power and myself, then tell it to “another human being.” I took my Fifth Step with that first sponsor and we discussed everything: my guilt, shame and regret. In Steps Six and Seven I became ready and willing to have all my character defects removed, I then asked my Higher Power to remove them. I learned that I do not have to pick and choose what is to be removed or when. I simply try to live in an attitude of “patience, tolerance, kindliness and love,” which, for me was a tall order. In Steps Eight and Nine I “clean up the wreckage of my past” by making a list of all I have harmed and speaking to each one, setting things right and making financial restitution where owed.
Step Ten changed my life. I learned to take a “spot” inventory. If I am at odds with anyone or anything in my life I find my part in it, ask for help and set it straight by making amends. An unfailing commitment to Step Ten enabled me to change my behavior. Step Eleven gives instructions for asking for help each morning and reviewing my actions each evening.
In one sentence: Chapter Six lays out a course of action that has given me a “life beyond my wildest dreams.”