Monday, June 8, 2009

Character Defects.

From Courage to Change, page 160:

"Step Six speaks of being entirely ready to have God remove all my defects of character. Yet I find that I often cling to my defects because they give me a certain amount of pleasure."

This reading goes on to speak of the author getting pleasure from revenge fantasies - I spent a great portion of my time doing this, when I was living with active alcoholism, and new to Al-Anon. I'd invent long complicated scenarios in which I'd emerge the victor, having sliced and diced the alcoholics with cutting remarks and my brilliant responses. (Even in my earliest days in program, I had no trouble whatsoever identifying with any suggestions that we as co-dependents have our own form of insanity.)

This reading goes on to ask:

"Are the small, temporary pleasures I get from my defects of character worth the price I am paying to keep them?"

I needed to work with my sponsor for quite some time, before I could dimly comprehend that I was the architect of my own unhappiness - I was firmly entrenched in blaming the alcoholic for all of my misery. It was his fault, if he'd just yada yada yada, life would be fine. Perfect. Marvellous.

And then my ex did quit drinking, for nine agonising months, and I had a whole new set of complaints about him and his behavior. That was my first revelation that this wasn't only about him, it was also about me, and my ability to cope with life.

If I wanted change, I had to work for it. Working for it required that I be willing to identify, and then ask for removal, of my character defects. This meant I had to become comfortable with the idea that I had some. My ego was very shaky, my self-image largely negative, so this was a frightening prospect. My sponsor encouraged me to start with the small obvious ones - impatience. I could easily admit I was impatient, because I didn't have various shaming labels and interpretations attached to that - a person could be impatient, and still be a good person.

Admitting to that allowed me to take the next step - why was I impatient? Just what was I thinking, that made it possible for me to believe that all things should arrive with lightning speed the moment I decided I wanted them? Once I had that in hand, work from there - small steps forward.

I still struggle with those of my character defects most deeply rooted. I have learned that I can stop my futile thrashing about, breathe deeply, calm myself, and ask God for help removing whatever it is.

I did this last night - I could feel myself beginning to obsess, and I couldn't stop - all my usual ways of getting off that path weren't working. I asked for help, and I received it.
Bliss, just to get relief from that ghastly mental circling.


  1. I don't like it when my mind goes into a "do loop". It's like an iterative computer program that runs over and over. I've found that saying the Serenity Prayer over and over gets me out of that dismal place. Luckily, I don't obsess much any more. I guess that I've learned to let go.

  2. Ya know when my husband finally went to AA - totally stopped drinking and began working the steps - I remember thinking, My god - I am still not happy - what the heck is wrong with me/! It was a revolution in my head that lead me to Al anon and today I am so grateful that I went - that I finally understood - I am part of the problem and I can fix my part by attending meetings, working the steps and being honest in my daily life.

  3. Our topic tonight was the 6th Step as well. I'm still kind of a voyeur at Al-Anon. I've only been attending for about 3 months and haven't truly begun to work the steps. But I do know that I've been called to the 6th Step for several years, receiving word/message/nudges from my Higher Power to "surrender." Before Al-Anon, surrender seemed to be defeat. Now I can see it as hope.