M(3), 7/18/16: Defective Characters

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Greetings  to all on a hot and muggy Monday morning from my part of the world.  The expression meteorologists use, “we are in the soup,” is apt right about now!

Today’s reading came from the book Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions.  We read the chapter that discusses step six:

Step 6:  Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character

This turned out to be one of those meetings that started with almost nobody, but by the end filled up to our usual number of attendees.  A good thing, since step 6 tends to be somewhat of a dry discussion.

I shared my evolution on this step.  In my earliest days of sobriety, I assumed step 6 was the easiest of the 12.  It reminded me of Catholic confession…just admit you do wrong, easy peasy!  Since we all as human beings have character defects, and nobody wants to be defective, how hard can it be to be willing to have them removed?

Later, as I became more familiar with the steps, and the nuances within them, this step seemed the most ridiculous, and thus I disliked intensely discussing it at all.  Within the chapter itself, it details some of the “lesser defects,” not as urgent but still in need of removal:

In a perverse way we can actually take satisfaction from the fact that many people annoy us, for it brings a comfortable feeling of superiority. Gossip barbed with our anger, a polite form of murder by character assassination, has its satisfactions for us, too. Here we are not trying to help those we criticize; we are trying to proclaim our own righteousness.

When gluttony is less than ruinous, we have a milder word for that, too; we call it “taking our comfort.” We live in a world riddled with envy. To a greater or less degree, everybody is infected with it. From this defect we must surely get a warped yet definite satisfaction. Else why would we consume such great amounts of time wishing for what we have not, rather than working for it, or angrily looking for attributes we shall never have, instead of adjusting to the fact, and accepting it? And how often we work hard with no better motive than to be secure and slothful later on—only we call that “retiring.” Consider, too, our talents for procrastination, which is really sloth in five syllables. Nearly anyone could submit a good list of such defects as these, and few of us would seriously think of giving them up, at least until they cause us excessive misery.

-pg. 67, Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions

I read this chapter, and I’ll be honest…calling retirement another version of sloth still annoys me!  So I swung the opposite direction, decided the notion of step 6 impossible (and stupid), and simply avoided it as much as I could.

Nowadays, thankfully, I take a more balanced approach.  The essence of step 6, to me, is the same as saying there is no graduation from recovery…there is always a way in which I can work on myself.  We are all works in progress, and as long as we are attempting to move in a direction of positive growth, we are capturing the essence of step six.

Several others shared about a variety of character defects they find most troubling, and reported mixed success in being entirely ready to remove them.

One of the first paragraphs in the chapter discusses how we in recovery can attest to the removal of one notable character defect…the obsession to drink.  One attendee found that part of the chapter troubling, as she has several years of sobriety, yet still thinks about drinking most days.  She’s worried she’s doing something wrong, since so many can declare that the obsession has been lifted from them.

This share brought an interesting sideline discussion:  does thinking about drinking make your sobriety less sound?  Obviously we are a small meeting, so it’s not like I can declare an official consensus, but our group all disagreed with the notion.  Each journey to recovery is unique, as is the active addiction story that led up to it.  So comparing one person’s sobriety to another is always a bad idea, and for any number of reasons.

When it comes right down to it, I imagine even the way one defines “obsession to drink” varies quite a bit.  People have made the statement that the obsession to drink was removed in an instant.  I cannot even comprehend how something like that would happen.

If someone were to ask me if I ever get a craving to chemically alter myself, my answer is a firm no.  But what does happen is I get lost in the memory of active addiction, and the feelings that surrounded those days are complicated.  In the early days of recovery this type of thing would happen many times a day, every day, and would consume me for hours.  As the years have passed, the frequency, intensity and duration of those moments have dramatically decreased, but they still happen.  So does this mean I still have the obsession?  Does this mean my sobriety is weak, and that I am heading towards a drink?

I choose to think no.  My take on any thoughts of drinking, or addiction, or anything related to my active addiction, is a normal part of life.  A pattern of such thoughts, or an increased emotional reaction to them, is another tool that allows me to check myself and my sobriety:  How strong do I feel?  How’s my spiritual life?  Have I been of service to others?  Have I been isolating?

The answers to those questions allows me to move in the proper direction.

The last thing I’ll share is the wisdom I heard this morning that meant the most to me.  One long timer talked about the idea of balance with regard to this step.  Often people will shoot for perfection, and if they can’t achieve it, they’ll be the perfect opposite.  Either way pride is involved, which of course is the opposite of humility, the general end goal of any of the 12 steps.

Balance, moderation, equilibrium…any time I hear them, my ears perk up, because I know they are qualities towards which I should strive.

Today’s Miracle:

Air conditioning.  Enough said!

 

 

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Posted on July 18, 2016, in Monday Meeting Miracles, Recovery and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 13 Comments.

  1. Another great post; thank you so much for sharing it. I’d like to pick up on just one thing – whether thinking about having a drink is a measure of our sobriety. This comes up A LOT at my Weds night discussion meeting where the consensus (especially among the old timers) is that no, it doesn’t. We are alcoholics so it should come as no surprise that we sometimes think about having a drink.

    But ‘thinking about having a drink’ is an expansive concept and I really liked what you said about getting lost in the memory of active addiction. So, do we mean ‘wow it’s a hot day, a cold beer would be nice’ and go back to what we were doing, giving it no further thought or, do we obsess about having a drink which is a different thing altogether. I wonder if the former is to do with euphoric recall – how having a beer on a hot day was a pleasant thing to do (not that I ever had only one), whilst the latter is linked to a desire to fix the way we feel? Just a thought.

    I like what you said about not feeling the urge to chemically change the way you feel. I would be lying if I claimed the same. But good for you.. that is so great to hear and I loved reading it. I occasionally still have drinking thoughts around specific triggers – boredom (a total killer for me) anger and sometimes, music that I associate with drinking. But, I don’t find myself obsessing and a swift reality check usually does the trick. Vigilance is priceless in all of this.

    Thanks again and have a great day.
    Billie xx

    ps. It’s very hot here too. Roll on autumn!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Thanks for the comment, Billie, and I really liked what you added to the conversation! The key is vigilance for sure.

    And Autumn will be here before we know it 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Hi Josie!
    Sometimes I think the term “defects of characters”, sounds so harsh.
    I think of defects as human traits.
    That being said, I also think some of these defects/traits are not very healthy for us, and so working on changing them will help us have a better life!
    But I don’t get all bent out of shape over the words.
    And I agree with the person who cautioned against trying to be perfect, not that I can be.
    But it’s pride either way.
    Hugs!!
    It’s hot, but really nice, not too humid….YET!
    xo
    Wendy

    Liked by 4 people

  4. Hot and humid here in NC, too :). Damp soggy air and mosquitoes too! I have been wondering lately: will there ever be days when I DON’T think about drinking, I don’t have cravings, it’s just on my mind, being sober, being happy to be sober…I guess if I didn’t think about it, I’d let my guard down. Very thought-provoking! 3 cheers for A/C!!!!

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Oh I bet it’s even worse down south. Mosquitoes make me want to stay in bed all day long 🙂

    Here’s what I will say regarding not thinking about it = letting your guard down. I had a period of sobriety about 10 years ago. I knew next to nothing, so it’s hard to even call it sobriety, but my drinking was problematic, and with some help, I stopped entirely. After a time (roughly a year), I genuinely thought: okay, problem solved, I don’t need to worry about this anymore. Within 6 months time I convinced myself the problem was situational, and that I could drink again. Within 9 months I was drinking again. And the rest, well you know how it goes.

    Knowing all that I know now, could that same sneaky train of thought happen again? It’s hard to imagine. Then again, I think, why risk it? Keep a healthy fear alive, keep close to recovery people to be reminded of what COULD happen, even if your brain tricks you into thinking it won’t.

    Anyway, that my two cents. Stay in the air conditioning, my friend 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  6. God I do love that sign that starts this thing. Defects are hard. They never seem to go away. I can just have a reprieve from them the way I have a daily reprieve from drinking and drugging.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. They really ARE hard, and that is why I went through a period of struggling with this step… if I can never get to this ideal of which you speak, then why am I even trying? It took some time, and I assume some more sober clarity, before I got to the idea of striving for, rather than reaching the actual ideal.

    And you inspire me with the notion of a daily reprieve.. I’m at a point where a 30 minute reprieve feels like a miracle 🙂

    Thanks for the comment, Mark!

    Like

  8. I am in South Texas…it’s too hot to even go outside so no more complaining from you northerners!!! (LOL kidding, I am from the mid-atlantic area :)) Anyway… I don’t go to AA regularly, but I find it uncanny how much I relate to everything you post….the longer I am sober, the more I am willing to address my more painful defects…and it helps that I have increasing clarity of mind so I can really see things for what they are…AND…I think it helps that in sobriety I have a growing sense of hope about life in general…so when I do have to face my “defects”, I don’t feel such dread because unlike when I was drinking and newly sober…when I felt like everything was the end of the world…now I can step back and take stock…and realize that I really, truly can decide each day to work away from all the things that make me “sick” and toward the person I believe I truly am deep down.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. I bow to your humidity, Jenn 😉

    I love this comment… it feels like validation, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for writing it! I took this blog in the direction it is in for just this reason… you don’t have to be a regular AA attendee, or even a past one, to benefit from the wisdom of the program. Truly, you don’t even have to be an alcoholic! I truly believe that any open-minded person could sit down in meeting and gain a valuable take-away.

    I am thrilled to hear of your progress in sobriety, Jenn… both in your insightful comments as well as the documentary of your own sobriety in your blog. You inspire me to continue to grow!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Here’s another vote that lifting that obsession doesn’t mean we never think about drinking. Fortunately the frequency, duration and intensity get less or easier to accept, but yep, still human over here. Also, for the first three years at least I lived and breathed sobriety, which meant I thought often about not drinking. I always hope to cherish those early “honeymoon” days.

    Liked by 2 people

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