Each month, we have been updating our series on fulfilling the Twelve Promises. Now that we’ve reached June, it is time for us to focus on the Sixth Promise. The Sixth Promise is about learning not to doubt ourselves. It is about learning to accept ourselves for what we are. And if we can do that, then we will often find that the Twelve Promises begin to come true in a relatively short period of time. We must simply learn how to accept the Twelve Promises as they come to us, and question them very little.
The Sixth Promise is one of many that we cannot force upon ourselves. We must wait for it to take hold, even if we often suspect that this may take more time than we would wish. Nonetheless, those of us who are willing to wait for the Sixth Promise to come true will often find that it helps us in ways we may never have previously imagined. All we have to do is maintain a level of faith, and we will benefit from the many positive experiences that await us when embracing the Sixth Promise.
We cannot force the Twelve Promises to occur. Even so, we can do quite a bit to ensure that their occurrence comes a bit easier. We will describe such things in a bit more detail below. For now, all you must know is that the Sixth Promise might occur after we complete Step Nine. But unlike some of the other promises, it is quite likely that this particular promise may occur while we are still relatively young in the program. If we can allow for this to happen, then we will be at the top of our game. All it takes is a little bit of faith, and a whole lot of positive attitude.
Fulfilling the Sixth Promise
According to the AA pamphlet on the Twelve Promises, the Sixth Promise states:
“That feeling of uselessness and self-pity will disappear.”
Those of us who struggled with alcoholism and addiction for long periods of time are already quite familiar with these feelings. Uselessness and self-pity often defined our periods of active addiction, to the point that we could scarcely imagine feeling anything else. Once we have entered recovery, we can put these feelings aside and begin living life to its fullest.
With enough work, we can begin leaving these feelings of uselessness and self-pity behind as we focus on emotions that are far more beneficial to us while in recovery. We can focus on confidence—not pride, mind you—in a way that allows us to work on our recovery while ceasing to fear that others’ approaches to us may somehow prohibit us from expressing ourselves in public. In other words, we must learn that we cannot recover in isolation, that we must have a strong and sober support network if we wish to recover to the best of our abilities.
Both uselessness and self-pity will be covered below. Remember that, while these two components may be equally responsible for some of our struggles—both in active addiction and in recovery—we must still let go of them if we wish to live to the fullest. Nobody can live a full life while hampered by negative emotions. This is a major problem that many of us face, and it is part of the reason that the Second Promise exists. The Sixth Promise is in many ways an extension of that, yet it still maintains its own rules and its own sense of importance.
Each of the below sections may be seen as part of a greater whole. The section on uselessness pertains to the manner in which we may find our purpose while in recovery. The section on self-pity relates to the manner in which we must overcome guilt and other negative emotions. Anyone who struggles with either of these sections must look inside themselves to determine the reasons for which they have been unable to move forward. If, however, we can overcome these feelings, we will be capable of just about anything. All it takes is a lot of time, a little faith, and a slight bit of understanding.
Feelings of Uselessness
It is not uncommon for us to feel useless when we first enter recovery. We look back on the many crimes we have committed, and we in turn develop very negative opinions of ourselves. The result is that we begin to think we could never do anything useful for anyone, no matter how much evidence we may possess to the contrary. The Sixth Promise indicates the moment at which we begin to feel differently. It is the moment at which we begin to realize that we can fulfill a purpose, no matter how much we may have failed to see it before.
To overcome our feelings of uselessness, we may take many precautions. The most simple (depending upon the manner in which we choose to undertake it) is to take on a commitment of service work. When we choose to work in the service of others, we give our lives a sense of purpose that we may have previously been lacking. Not only do we embrace the Fifth Tradition by ensuring that our time is put toward helping others who are still suffering, but we make life intrinsically better for those who might have previously felt as if nobody cared about their condition.
In this way, we can fulfill the Sixth Promise and allow ourselves to feel more useful. Of course, following the Ninth Step will help in this endeavor as well. This is the point at which we make amends, and we come to realize that our previous struggles with uselessness were largely due to the feeling that we could not benefit the lives of anyone we knew. Upon completing our amends, we realize that such damage is never irreversible. If we truly wish to do so, we can always learn to benefit the lives of those whom we have previously harmed.
We also learn from our efforts to fulfill the Sixth Promise that nobody, no matter how they have lived in the past, is doomed to be useless. Nobody in this world is unimportant. Even those against whom we have harbored resentments have potentially benefited our lives, if only we are willing to see things in this manner. We have the potential to affect people in the same way. We must only learn how to open our eyes and see our usefulness for what it truly is. Every time we overcome one of our character defects, we have become more useful. Step Six is a lifelong journey, but it is one we can undertake with aplomb if only we can see the manner in which we benefit from doing so.
Feelings of Self-Pity
As noted above, feelings of self-pity often cause us to question our worth. We may feel guilt, depression, anger, or any number of other negative feelings as a result of our former use. No matter which feelings with which we are struggling, the result may be that we belittle our ability to recover and become more useful members of society. If we cannot learn how to overcome these feelings, they will eat us alive. In this way, self-pity and uselessness are strongly linked to one another. Learning to overcome our self-pity is a major part of learning how to overcome our uselessness. As such, those who wish to achieve long-term sobriety are in dire need of the Sixth Promise and all it represents.
The Sixth Promise begins to come true once we realize that we have nothing to be sorry about. We are not inherently bad people. Yes, many of us may have done bad things. Even so, that does not mean that we are not good people. Even the best people may sometimes lose their way. When we fell into alcoholism and addiction, this happened to us. We lost our way. No matter how dark the path may have become over time, we can find our way again if we are willing to put in the time.
When we learn to overcome these feelings of uselessness and self-pity through the Sixth Promise, we enable ourselves to begin performing at a new level. This can be highly important to our ability to progress in our programs, and it will give a lot more weight to our relapse prevention plans. It may seem difficult at first, but the rewards are greatly worth the effort.
If you wish to learn more about Amethyst and the ways in which we help you fulfill the Sixth Promise, contact us today. It may not immediately seem easy, but it is far better than waiting in the wings and hoping that change will occur. We need never behave in such a fashion. If we are truly dedicated to the cause, change will happen quite early in recovery. Everyone who wishes to achieve long-term sobriety should embrace this concept to its fullest.
I am the editor of a local recovery newsletter in Washington DC. I would like to request permission to use part of this reflection on the sixth promise in out June edition. I will use proper attribution, of course.