M(3), 6/16: Character Defects… Who, ME?!?

I am a big believer that there is no such thing as a bad 12-step meeting; something positive will always come out of the attendance of one.  That being said, not every single meeting I attend is overflowing with peace and wisdom, and so sometimes it can be challenging for me to scrape together enough of a message to transmit to my readers.

Today, I am happy to report, is not one of those days.  Today’s meeting was, hands down, one of the best in months!

First, we had an attendance of 11, which is on the high side of average, and just the right amount for a 60 minute meeting.

Second, we had the most amazing mix of people:  4 people with over a quarter century of sobriety, 4 with anywhere from 1-15 years of sobriety, 1 with less than 30 days of sobriety, 1 from out-of-state and therefore new to my meeting, and 1 at the very first 12-step meeting of his life.  For people reading with a limited understanding of our format, having this wide spectrum of sobriety enriches the meeting because it allows for wisdom and sharing of all stages of the journey, from the trials and tribulations of the early days, to the perspective that comes from living the program for many years.

A quick example to illustrate the point:  the gentleman with 28 days of sobriety shared that his sleep cycle is habitually compromised by drunk dreams (a drunk dream is when a person in recovery dreams vividly that he or she drank again.  Upon waking the person is uncertain whether he or she dreamed it or actually did it, and this uncertainty causes anxiety).  Following his revealing this concern, each person thereafter was able to share his or her experience with drunk dreams.  The people with decades of sobriety talked about how they feel gratitude after having a drunk dream, because they feel blessed to remember how horrible the guilt of drinking feels, and how grateful they are for having their sobriety intact.  This is the magic of the meetings at work… long timers helping newcomers, newcomers helping long timers by reminding them why they choose recovery, and everyone walks away a better person than when they walked in the door!

This being the third week of the month, we read and discussed Step 6 from the book Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions:

Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character

I was honest at the meeting, and I will be honest here with my readers:  this is probably my least favorite step.  I remember when first introduced to it, long before I had actually sat down with a sponsor and gone through the steps, my opinion was that it seemed like the easiest of them all.  Who wouldn’t want defects of character removed from them?

Of course, closer study reveals that it is not so simple.  As humans, we have many character defects, and many bring us perverse enjoyment, so it is not so simple as just saying, “Sure, I’d love to be a perfect person!”  For example, I can talk about procrastination being a character defect, it is very easy for me to admit, but can I say that I am entirely ready to have it removed?  Isn’t there something satisfying about having that fallback excuse for why I haven’t gotten around to organizing the filing cabinet, scheduling summer camps, and following up on the mound of paperwork sitting right next to me at this moment?

Plus there is examining all the various defects of character.  I can say I am discussing a subject with my husband because I want to share with him the things going on in my life, but is that really just a thinly veiled excuse to gossip about someone?  There are many ways to dress up, camouflage or justify our behaviors, but the bottom line is the intent, and deep down we know what we’re doing, right?

So when I’m given the opportunity to read in-depth about the various character defects I need to be entirely ready to have God remove, it can become a bit overwhelming,  Being the all-nothing person I am (who, me?), when I get overwhelmed, I prefer to run in the opposite direction (if I am not entirely ready, then forget it, I will just keep all of my character defects, dammit!).  Probably not the best way to approach step 6.

I shared as much with the group this morning, and I received two invaluable pieces of advice in response to my admission.

The first, and two different people spoke of this idea, taking the 6th step really begins way back with the 4th step.  For those unfamiliar, the 4th step is where you sit down with a pen a paper and take a personal inventory.  At the end, you have a concrete list of things you need to work on in the upcoming steps.  So step 6 does not have to be the overwhelming monster that I make it out to be… go back to the inventory, and work on the worst of the worst, and go from there.

Along those same lines, a new concept (well, new for me, anyway) popped up with respect to the inventory process.  A gentleman shared that his inventory process focused not just on character defects, but character assets as well, because a true inventory looks at debits and credits.  He said this became a very helpful tool later on, because those assets are the resources he taps into when doing things like being entirely ready to have the defects removed, making amends to people, and so on.  My fourth step inventory did not have me list assets, and I can see how that might be a valuable thing to look at if and when I do another inventory.

The second new perspective I received:  a gentleman said step 6 works in his life in the following way:  now when a situation pops up, he has two choices:  he can revert to his character defects and act out the situation as he would have pre-recovery, or he can act as if his character defect was removed.  In other words, the thought process will always be there, as we are still human beings.  But now, given this program of recovery, we see that we have options in the way we react to any situation.

This advice made me laugh out loud, and I told him I will see his face the next time one of these situations arises for me, I am just hoping that I will make the right choice!

I think I’ve rambled enough for one post, hopefully you received some of the wisdom I did from these wonderful folks!

Today’s Miracle:

We are in the home stretch of school (last day is Friday), so it is a miracle that I can sit down and write this… lots of end-of-the-year activities to enjoy this week!

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Posted on June 16, 2014, in Monday Meeting Miracles and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. I agree step 6 felt pretty intimidating if not impossible. I like those tips , particularly the one about acting as if the character defect had already been removed. That feels doable in a tough situation. Thanks!

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  2. having not gone down the AA route it is interesting to hear about your meeting, thank you. I like the thought about taking inventory of your character assets, too. too often we (I?!) focus on our weaknesses and ignore the strengths which can help us overcome them.

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    • Thanks for the comment, and I’m with you on this… listing assets was not something I was told to do. I have heard other people speak of it before, but never given a good reason until yesterday… knowing your assets so that you consciously have them as a resource. I love that idea!

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  3. That thing about acting “as if” is something that I had heard of while ago too, and pass that on to anyone else. I think it’s wonderful. Do I always do it? Of course not! lol. But it puts the onus on me. I am not making excuses. Or when I do, I feel it deep down in the core.

    You mentioned the *entirely ready* and what that entails…awesome! It very true what you say – what am I getting out of X, Y and Z when I am *not* entirely ready? I must be getting something out of it.

    The other thing about this step is that what I think is a char defect may not be one to my HP. I use my example of my introverted nature all the time, but it holds true – I tried to be outgoing and gregarious like my sponsor. I thought that perhaps my quiet nature was a char defect. So I went out there…and failed. Spectacularly. now, I have learned to speak up a bit more and I don’t jump into the pile of watermelons and guavas when someone tries to strike up a conversation at the grocery store, so I am balancing out a bit…but in the end, I am an introvert. So while I may see it as a liability, my HP might see it as a way of reaching those who are the same.

    Great post Josie – loved it!!

    Hugs
    Paul

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    • Oooh, I love that idea, that my idea of character defects may not be God’s idea… thanks for sharing that thought, I am going to take some time and reflect on that one!

      I really appreciate the time you take to respond to these posts, your input and perspective are much needed, thank you, thank you, thank you 🙂

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  4. This is a fantastic post. Tonight at my AA meeting, this guy shared that early on in his sobriety, every one around him was a character defect. We all cracked up! It’s funny how the more sobriety we have, the more we are willing to embrace our defects, improve upon them and accept them.
    Thanks for all of the great reminders in this!
    Hugs,
    Linda

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  5. It has occurred to me that some of my defects needn’t be removed right now. I cannot best serve Creator without them. I am called to be “ready” in step six and “humbly asking” in step seven. I’m not the removal crew, Creator and His team do that work. My job is to stay connected. I am connected to God when I make the comment. Because if I am connected I will know intuitively whether or not it is an honorable choice. xox (ps. hope that wasn’t too over the top a comment)

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