How to Apply Alcoholics Anonymous Step 6 in Real Life | Alcoholics Anonymous (2023)

Last Updated: November 08, 2021|Author:Sarah Morris

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) has been used for decades to help millions of people experience a fulfilling recovery from alcohol addiction. Despite how successful this support group therapy has been and continues to be, some people need help to navigate through certain steps and apply them to their current situations.

Step 6 of AA focuses on identifying any shortcomings, or “defects,” you may have so you can prevent them from triggering a relapse and interfering with your alcoholism recovery.

Here’s a closer look at what AA step 6 means, and how you can work on applying this step in your life.

In this article:

(Video) Rewriting The Story Of My Addiction | Jo Harvey Weatherford | TEDxUniversityofNevada

  • What Is Step 6 of Alcoholics Anonymous?
  • How to Prepare for Step 6 of AA
  • Actions You Can Take to Apply Step 6

What Is Step 6 of Alcoholics Anonymous?

Step 6 of AA is “Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.”1 This step requires you to identify any qualities you have that are negative and harmful and work toward changing them for the better.

Step 6 may be challenging for some AA members because it requires you to acknowledge your imperfections—including negative attitudes, behaviors, and character traits that may make you feel guilty, ashamed, or regretful. Fortunately, AA meetings give you a safe space in which to openly practice Step 6—especially given how many of your peers already have conquered this step and will pass no judgment when the time comes for you to share your thoughts and experiences.

Step 6 helps you prepare to address the root causes that may have led to your alcohol addiction in the first place. For example, if you identify that one of your “defects” was using alcohol to relieve stress, you can prepare to find new ways to manage stress that don’t involve drinking, such as going for a walk or listening to soothing music. Your AA sponsor and fellow group members may be able to give you additional pointers on how to interpret Step 6 in a way that makes the most sense to you.

How to Prepare for Step 6 of AA

You may already have made a list of your personal “defects” in Step 4 of AA. However, if you’ve learned more about yourself since completing Step 4, it may benefit you to start a new list or add items to your existing list.

Begin by writing a list of aspects about yourself that you perceive as defects. These can be defects that may have contributed to your addiction or that are preventing you from achieving long-term alcoholism recovery and better physical and mental health. Defects may be certain faults, weaknesses, or challenges that are holding you back.

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After completing your list, try to note the various ways each particular shortcoming or defect may be affecting your behavior and the effects it may have on both you and others. For example, if you identify that one of your defects is having a short temper, take note of whether your bad temper ever compelled you to drink and how it made your loved ones feel when it happened.

Then, ask yourself which feelings and emotions are associated with each particular negative trait or behavior. Using the example above, which other emotions may have been fueling your bad temper or occurring alongside your bad temper? Was your temper triggered by stress or depression? Answering these questions can often give you more insight into the root causes of your defects.

Lastly, think about how your life could be different if you did not exhibit or practice these negative behaviors. Using other more productive strategies could help you achieve your ideal or desired lifestyle.

Actions You Can Take to Apply AA Step 6

Identifying your shortcomings or “defects” is the first step you can take toward applying AA Step 6 to real life. Here are other tips and actions you can take to implement step 6 and start preparing for Step 7.

Can I Do Step 6 More Than Once?

While some find they can achieve sobriety without relapsing, recovery from alcohol addiction can often be a years-long journey. Everyone experiences recovery at their own pace—there’s no specific length of time in which you’re expected to achieve full recovery. That said, acknowledge that you may need to go through Step 6 of AA more than once to identify, address, and improve your shortcomings.

(Video) Step 6 Alcoholics Anonymous | 12-Step Recovery Sixth Step

If you feel that you have a large number of shortcomings, Step 6 may feel extremely overwhelming at first. If necessary, start with addressing one or two serious problems, then work on the rest at a later date. For example, if you think your most significant problem is not knowing how to effectively manage stress without drinking alcohol, devote your time to finding new, healthy ways to manage stress. After you’ve resolved these initial problems, you may find it easier to address the others.

Maintain a Positive Attitude

Having a positive attitude is key to having the ability to change any harmful behaviors. If you’re not in a positive place mentally, you may lack the motivation and passion to change your behaviors, and any changes you do make may not stick or last long-term. Though changing certain behaviors may seem difficult and near-impossible, understand that change is possible with the right attitude.

For example, many people in recovery from addiction become discouraged when they relapse when, in fact, research indicates that relapse rates for substance use disorders are between 40% and 60%.2 Relapse doesn’t mean that treatment has failed, but that additional treatment may be needed. Even if you relapse, maintaining a positive attitude can eventually help you achieve long-term sobriety.

Practice Humility

Applying AA Step 6 to your life often requires you to practice humility.3 Humility allows you to acknowledge that you have done things to hurt yourself and others. It also allows you to accept responsibility for the consequences of your actions.

Practicing humility is an essential step toward healing yourself and your relationships with others. Recognizing your flaws and talking about them with peers is one way to practice humility. For example, if you perceive one of your flaws as bragging about various skills you may have, accept and admit that you are not the best at everything despite what you may have said or thought in the past.

(Video) 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous.

Stop Striving for Perfection

Nobody will ever be perfect—including those who appear to be incredibly healthy, happy, successful, and on track with where they want their lives to be. Understand that you are on a journey to improve your health and livelihood and that you are not perfect. It also helps to know that your higher power does not expect you to be perfect, either.

The sooner you stop striving for perfection, the sooner you can be happy with yourself and with what you’ve accomplished thus far. Take time to celebrate and reward yourself for every victory, no matter how small. For example, if you love coffee, treat yourself to a fresh, gourmet coffee or cappuccino at the end of every week you’re sober.

Develop Healthy Coping Strategies

AA and alcohol rehab programs will often help you discover healthy ways to cope with difficult situations and emotions without having to turn to alcohol. Some methods may work better for you than others, which is why it’s important to try a wide range of various coping methods.

Here are common, effective coping methods:

  • Exercising regularly
  • Practicing mindfulness meditation
  • Practicing gratitude
  • Practicing yoga
  • Doing deep breathing exercises
  • Going for a long drive or walk
  • Painting, drawing, and practicing other forms of art
  • Writing or journaling
  • Singing, dancing, or playing an instrument
  • Playing your favorite music
  • Taking a warm, relaxing bath
  • Reading inspirational books or passages
  • Rewarding yourself when meeting recovery milestones
  • Stepping outside for fresh air
  • Attending AA support group meetings

Many of these coping methods are also extremely helpful at reducing your risk for relapse and making you feel better when times are tough. If you’re not entirely sure how or where to begin Step 6 of AA, these coping methods may help refresh your mind and perspective and inspire you to start making healthy changes. Many of these activities can also help you heal and remove any “defects of character” naturally and gradually with time.

(Video) Step 6 AA | 6th Step Character Defects

Work With Your AA Sponsor Or Therapist

Your AA sponsor has worked through each of the 12 Steps and can give you personal guidance on how to work this step into your own life. If you have completed or are currently in an alcohol rehab program, your therapist may also help you work through Step 6 as it relates to changing harmful behaviors and attitudes. Many addiction treatment centers use cognitive-behavioral therapy to help patients modify behaviors contributing to their substance use disorders.

Talking to someone else about your problems and shortcomings can often shed light on specific aspects of your life that can benefit from a change. AA sponsors and therapists have experience working with people in alcoholism recovery and can provide you with constructive feedback, given you are open to receiving it. When approaching your sponsor or therapist, be honest about your difficulties with AA Step 6 so you can tackle it head-on.

Call 800-839-1686Who Answers? to speak to a treatment specialist about your rehab options if you are struggling with alcohol use disorder and need help. Our specialists can answer any questions you may have about available addiction treatments and help you locate a nearby rehab center.


  1. Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc. Step Six. Alcoholics Anonymous.
  2. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2020). Drugs, Brains, and Behavior: The Science of Addiction Treatment and Recovery.
  3. Greenfield, B.L., & Tonigan, J.S. (2013). The General Alcoholics Anonymous Tools of Recovery: The Adoption of 12-Step Practices and Beliefs. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 27(3), 553–561.


Is AA the only way? ›

Is AA The Only Way To Stay Sober? No, you can take many pathways to long-term sobriety. Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) remains one of the most common support groups for long-term sobriety. AA inspired additional 12-Step programs, like Narcotics Anonymous (NA), for those struggling with other types of substance abuse.

What to do If you have a drug problem? ›

Support organizations, professional help. In the U.S.: Use the Substance Abuse Treatment Facility Locator , call the SAMHSA helpline at 1-800-662-4357, Get One-on-One Help to Address Your Child's Substance Use, or call the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids helpline at 1-855-378-4373.

What is the basic concept of a 12-step program? ›

The basic premise of the 12-Step model is that people can help one another achieve and maintain abstinence from the substances or behaviors to which they are addicted.

Is Eminem an AA? ›

No, the rapstar doesn't make traditional AA meetings (“people were asking for autographs,” he said, “and that made me shut down”), but he does make meetings.

Do I have to stay in AA forever? ›

You may wonder, “How long can I keep going to AA meetings?” The answer is simple: you can continue attending AA meetings for as long as you choose. Mandatory exit dates don't exist. In fact, continued AA attendance can actually benefit you on your recovery journey.

What is Step 6 in the 12 steps of AA? ›

Each of the 12 steps of recovery outlined by Alcoholics Anonymous is focused on helping people with an alcohol use disorder work toward long-term recovery. Step 6 is focused on acceptance, which involves accepting character defects exactly as they are and then being willing to let them go.

What are the 3 rules of addiction? ›

It's often been said that there are three rules when it comes to addiction in the family: Don't speak, don't trust and don't feel. At Vertava Health, we believe there is one additional rule: Don't move. The following explains how these rules come into play in an addictive household: Don't Speak.

What are the 5 phases of recovery? ›

The five stages of addiction recovery are precontemplation, contemplation, preparation, action and maintenance.

What personality traits are associated with addiction? ›

Impulsive and Risk-Taking

Personality traits such as impulsive behavior, a desire to seek sensation, and difficulty delaying gratification can contribute to an addiction.

What are warning signs that someone has a drug problem? ›

Physical warning signs of drug abuse
  • Bloodshot eyes, pupils larger or smaller than usual.
  • Changes in appetite, sleep patterns, physical appearance.
  • Unusual smells on breath, body, or clothing, or impaired coordination.

How do you know if you're addicted? ›

General signs of addiction are: lack of control, or inability to stay away from a substance or behavior. decreased socialization, like abandoning commitments or ignoring relationships. ignoring risk factors, like sharing needles despite potential consequences.

Can an atheist be in AA? ›

Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous don't require you to believe in a certain way. “Most people in AA are very welcoming and open to agnostics and atheists.

Can AA be without religion? ›

You should know that regardless of your religious affiliations or no affiliations or god belief, you are welcome in AA and NA. The only requirement for membership is the desire to stop drinking or using. If you don't like 12-step groups, there are other groups available.

What percentage of success does AA have? ›

A New York Times article stated that AA claims that up to 75% of its members stay abstinent. Alcoholics Anonymous' Big Book touts about a 50% success rate, stating that another 25% remain sober after some relapses.

How many times a week should you go to AA? ›

How Often Should I Go to AA Meetings? There is no set number of meetings you should attend. Some people go every day, while other people only go when they feel like they need to. It all depends on you and what you think you need.

Can you get kicked out of AA? ›

These Traditions provide for the unity of the group and, therefore, ultimately protect each member's sobriety. So, while no one who says they are a member of A.A. can be kicked out of A.A., someone can be asked to leave a meeting for the sake of the common welfare of the group.

Can you drink at all in AA? ›

As noted in the Twelve Traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous, the only requirement to attend AA meetings is “a desire to stop drinking.”2 Strictly speaking, you can attend AA meetings if you are still using alcohol.

Is there something other than AA? ›

Some common alternatives to 12-step programs include: Self-Management and Recovery Training (SMART) Recovery. Women for Sobriety. Secular Organizations for Sobriety (S.O.S.).

Does AA have a low success rate? ›

Although AA has been criticized by some sources for having a low success rate, the rate likely isn't 5% like some say it is. Addiction specialists cite success rates slightly higher, between 8% and 12%. A New York Times article stated that AA claims that up to 75% of its members stay abstinent.

What does AA mean in slang? ›

"Alcoholics Anonymous" is the most common definition for AA on Snapchat, WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok.

Is AA only for drinking? ›

Anyone may attend open AA meetings. But only those with a drinking problem may attend closed meetings or become AA members. People with problems other than alcoholism are eligible for AA membership only if they have a drinking problem.

Is there an AA that is not religious? ›

Yes, there are non-religious AA meetings. Although it is a commonly held belief that AA is a religious based organization, it does not have to be. 12 step, AA meetings are often modified for those who do not want a religious form of treatment. The popular criticism of AA being strictly religions is untrue.

Is the AA declining? ›

Americans and AA members have maintained the same pace over the last 31 years (AAs being 32% older that the average American in both 1983 and 2014). So it looks like we're getting older, but so is everyone.

Can an atheist go to AA? ›

Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous don't require you to believe in a certain way. “Most people in AA are very welcoming and open to agnostics and atheists.

Which AA step is the hardest? ›

Whether you're working the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), Narcotics Anonymous (NA), Al-Anon, or any other program, the most difficult of all the steps probably step 5. This is the one that asks us to admit "our wrongs" and to do so in front of our higher power and another person.

What are the disadvantages of AA? ›

What are the Cons of AA?
  • Members are encouraged, although not required to rely on a “higher power” as the most effective means of recovery.
  • Lack of concrete evidence associated with outcomes.
  • Emphasis on complete abstinence.
  • Reliance on a higher power presents religious undertones, a problem sometimes for atheists.

What is the highest AA status? ›

You made it to the top – now make the most of it

*To be eligible, qualify for AAdvantage Platinum Pro® by meeting the standard qualification requirements and fly a minimum of 30 qualifying segments. Choices include systemwide upgrades, Admirals Club® access, bonus miles and more.

What is no BB? ›

BB is often used on online dating sites, as well as in text messages and on chat forums, with the meaning "Bareback" to refer to having sexual intercourse without a condom.

What does Pigeon mean in AA? ›

Page 1. Trivia: Why were some sponsees called pigeons in early AA(because pigeons carry messages). What did they call it in early AA when a person got their first Sponsee (they called it “getting your feather”) You were not considered fully in AA until you had gotten your feather.

What does AAA mean in texting? ›

"Blockbuster Game" is the most common definition for AAA in gaming and on Snapchat, WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. AAA. Definition: Blockbuster Game.

Is AA a selfish program? ›

Alcoholics Anonymous is not a selfish program. At it's core, it is quite the opposite. Selfishness is the root of our troubles, and we must be rid of it and practice selflessness at every opportunity if we are to remain happy, joyous, and free in sobriety.

What does white chip mean in AA? ›

One of the chips may be called a “white chip,” “surrender chip,” or “24-hour chip.” This chip is for anyone new or returning to A.A. interested in giving sobriety a chance for 24 hours. The meeting may also leave time to see who is available to sponsor by a show of hands.

Can you go with a friend to AA? ›

Your friends and family are welcome at some AA meetings. You even are encouraged to bring your partner and friends to these meetings, especially if you are new to AA. Inviting your loved ones to AA meetings can involve your friends and family in your recovery.


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