Faded drawing of man's head in profile, on old-looking, stained paper. The "brain area" is filled with gears.On the principle of starting with the most-available, easiest-to-access, demonstrably-effective tool, we usually advise even nonbelievers to try the Step fellowships. If they don’t work, there are other tools. However, the Steps may benefit from a little “re-engineering” to increase the nonbeliever’s chances of success. Here’s the next “Re-Engineered Recovery Tool,” the Sixth step:

Step Six: Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

Again, the point here is not the “g” word. It’s the crucial concept of being ready.

After so many attempts to achieve change using the formula based on intention and execution, (thus):

INTENT + ACTION = CHANGE

…it’s time to look at why that formula has failed, don’t you think?

People with the best intentions take productive action and wind up falling flat on their faces, having to start over. Again, and again, and again. Why?

They aren’t ready for change.

Read that last sentence carefully. Notice something? It says “ready for” change, not “ready to” change. The clue is in the difference. The real obstacle to lasting, positive alterations in lifestyle and behavior is the “ripple effect”: What it does to the rest of your life.

If you change a fundamental behavior, like addiction, it’s like heaving a rock into a pond. It makes waves— and they affect every part of your life. If you’re not prepared for them, it’s easy to relapse.

We hear something similar from people who have been very overweight for much of their lives, and lose a substantial amount of weight in a short time. In our culture, when you are overweight you get little positive notice. But suddenly they become slender, and no matter how much they thought they wanted to be noticed, everyone telling them how great they look, how excited they must be at all the new possibilities, etc. , provokes a lot of anxiety and confusion. They thought losing weight would solve all their problems; instead they have a whole new set of problems to deal with.

When addicts and alcoholics are unprepared for the reality of sobriety, it’s all too easy to run back to the familiar hell of addiction. For lasting change, there’s a better formula:

INTENT + READINESS + ACTION = CHANGE

Achieving readiness can be a result of experience and observation— the “hard knocks” we’re supposed to learn from. But it’s possible to bypass some of that process by putting in a little work, and anticipating, in a structured, thoughtful way, the changes recovery will bring.

“If it be not now, yet it will come—the readiness is all.” –Shakespeare’s Hamlet

Working the Sixth Step: Make an audio file or tape recording for yourself, reading these instructions in clear, quiet tones at a moderate pace (you can also listen to this meditation using the audio player below the article, and/or download the audio file from the right-hand column.):

“We’re doing a simple exercise. Sit comfortably upright, feet on the floor. Palms on thighs. Take a deep breath, let it out. Relax. Repeat a few times.” (Be sure to leave a pause of about 30 seconds in the recording.)

“Imagine a video monitor. You hold the remote control with an on/off switch, and a channel changer. On the screen is you, as you are now, sitting comfortably— you are watching yourself on the screen.

Now, change the channel: Picture yourself on the screen after one of your worst bouts of drinking or using. When you were sick, anxious, angry, depressed, or panicking about something. You remember that well.

Now, change the channel: Picture yourself after six months of sobriety. How do you imagine you will look? Much better. Pretty impressive, actually, right?

Now, change the channel: Picture yourself, sober, with your family. Having a conversation. Are there any conflicts in the relationship? Any problems? Just note what they are, we are only watching the show, for now.

Now, change the channel: Picture yourself, sober, at work, or school. Who else is in the picture? How are they acting with you? What is the dialogue you are hearing? Again, just note, and continue watching the show.

Now, change the channel: Picture yourself sober, in a location where you spend a lot of your time. A friend’s house, or the gym, or a coffee shop— wherever. Who else is with you? Are there any problems, conflicts? Anything that makes you feel anxious? Do this again, with another location. Watch, and note, what is happening with this sober you, in these places.

Now, use the remote control to switch off. Relax for a few seconds, making sure to breathe deeply. When you are ready, let your eyes open.”

Now, get a piece of paper, and make a list of how being sober might change your life, for better or worse.

Listen to the meditation:

Next: Humility Ain’t for Wimps

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