Step of the Month: Step 7, Independence Day

  1. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.

What better occasion to talk about step 7 than Independence Day weekend! That’s because step 7 is where we gain true freedom in recovery.

We learned a lot about how broken our thinking and conduct were as we wrote our 4th step inventory. We discovered new attitudes of humility and trust as we read that inventory aloud in step 5. Now understanding how our disease and our own minds enslave us in the bondage of self, in step 6, we became ready to be changed by our Higher Power. Now, finally, in step 7 we ask God to get rid of all the crap that’s kept us shackled to compulsive eating and to a way of life that doesn’t work and that is ultimately futile and fatal.

We recently compared steps 4 and 5 to a thorough house cleaning. To refresh and extend the metaphor:

  • Step 3: We call God and ask God to bring a dump truck that will take all our junk to the dump so we can be free of it.
  • Step 4: We carefully make a list of everything that can go.
  • Step 5: We show the list to a friend and God, and after God backs the dump truck up to the house, our friend and God help us put all the trash in the hopper of the truck.
  • Step 6: We take one last look and ask ourselves if we’re ready to let God drive the refuse away.
  • Step 7: We tell God to drive it away, please.

Once the junk is gone, we can walk back into our house and see the beauty of our lives again. Instead of goat trails full of dark reminders of our past piled floor to ceiling like old newspapers, we see the spaciousness of our lives, the pictures of family and/or friends on the walls that had been obscured by the piles of junk. We feel gratitude for the soundness of the construction of our home—and for that matter for our home itself. From here, from this now repaired home base, we can return to our daily lives free of the encumbrances of our past.

Will everything be perfect? Nah. Some of the walls will need repainting, or the plaster may have cracked behind all those old newspapers and junk. But we’ll be up to it. Will we be reminded of the bad old times? Of course, but the burning pain of them has been taken away and replaced with perspective. Will some new junk pile up? It could, but we’ll have the means to deal with it through OA’s twelve steps, twelve traditions, and nine tools.

And what truly comes of the 7th step? But freedom from is just one half the story. When our HP gives us freedom from compulsive eating, we gain freedom to eat sanely and safely. When we are granted freedom from our past, we gain the freedom to move on, to draw a line in the sand between our old selves and our new selves. The freedom to help others comes when we gain freedom from “helping” others in order to stanch the aching need for acceptance or validation. When we feel freedom from sticky enmeshment with others, we get the freedom to be in honest, two-sided relationships based on trust and love. As OA’s Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions tells us, once we have worked step 7,

When we make a mistake, we acknowledge that fact without claiming that we ourselves are mistake. From now on, we cease telling ourselves we are always going to be dishonest, selfish, abusive, stupid, or bad people. Instead, we repeatedly affirm to ourselves the truth about ourselves—that we are becoming honest, caring, nurturing, wise, and effective human beings as we practice our new behaviors, day by day. (64)

The day we first complete step 7 is our independence day. It is the day when we officially let God change us. As we do step 7, we step out of the drivers seat and let God into it. We get out of the way and stop trying to life our way. In return, we are given the freedom we’ve longed for from the broken thinking that has led us to hopeless compulsive eating.