If you've been reading my series of blogs on each step of the 12 Step Programme (the approach used by Alcoholics Anonymous and other drug addiction treatment programmes), you’ll probably be able to predict what I might be going to say about this one, which instructs that you are:
“entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.”
Step 5 required that you admitted the “exact nature of your wrongs” and this step follows on from that in that it requires you to identify and list the “defects of character” that you want to change. It acts almost like a bridge between identifying what your wrongs or defects of character are and organising and prioritising them ready to take action.
If I were to put this into my own words I’d say that this step is really about acknowledging to yourself that you're willing and ready to change those aspects of yourself that have been unhelpful to you and have contributed to your relationship with alcohol. It’s about demonstrating willingness and readiness.
Again, when we reformulate this step into its underlying positive intention, it makes sense. At some point, those of us who have stopped drinking and learnt how to live life sober have acknowledged some parts of ourselves, our emotions, our beliefs or our behaviours have needed to change. By doing the work needed to change these aspects of ourselves, we have become better versions of ourselves and have reduced the need to reach outside of ourselves for relief, escape or medicine.
However (are you predicting these concerns already?), I don’t like referring to parts of ourselves that we want to change as defects of character. For instance, let’s say I have a part of me that doesn’t believe I’m good enough. It’s much healthier and more motivating to refer to that part of me as an unhelpful belief that I can change into something more helpful if I want to. That part of me is likely to have come from a positive and loving and protective intention and might serve me well in other areas of my life. To remove it or describe it as a defect of character might not serve me well. And, if I’m someone who doesn’t believe great things about myself in the first place, focusing on my “defects” could be damaging to my self-confidence and morale.
It might help to give an illustration of what I mean here. Let’s imagine that my belief about not being good enough comes from a desire to please, a desire to love and be loved. Forming a belief that “I’m not good enough” was a logical and understandable way of processing signals and messages that I was receiving as a young child. Although the belief itself has become limiting and has led to an unhealthy dependence on alcohol, it might be that a fundamental desire to love and be loved is a healthy drive that I want to keep.
It’s not usually as simple as saying “that bit of me needs removing because it’s bad”. We need to treat all the different parts of us, no matter how limiting and unhelpful they might have become, with respect and understanding. That way, we build self-confidence and a more loving relationship with ourselves. A more loving relationship helps us to heal and become more whole, thus negating a need fill any gaps with alcohol or other addictive substances.
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