On the sixth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…being entirely ready to have God (Higher Power) remove all of these defects of character…
As “The Big Book” says in it’s initial line of this chapter: “This is the step that separates the men from the boys”. Well, “men”, surrender thy defects. It might sound like I’m making light of this Step, however, for newcomers, this Step is an important one and, like the “fearless and moral personal inventory”, it will be revisited time and time again. Someone with an addiction is used to lying, so it often comes naturally about anything, however simple or complex.
For example, if I’m at work, I haven’t done something that you had asked me to because I, either forgot, didn’t care, or just hadn’t gotten around to it, my initial response might be to just tell you that I did it. However, if I am working the Steps and truly trying to change the way I live and my behaviors, then I will be driven to right this wrong much sooner than later. Like now.
To break this Step down, this means to revisit your inventory and think about where you want to change. What do you see as a “character defects”? This is where you take these defects and begin to surrender them to your Higher Power. You ask your Higher Power for guidance and assistance in purging these defects. I’ll give you a personal example: I have a character defect of being too critical of myself and of others. It’s not new, but it takes work to try to control. Lately, I’m most critical of myself. As a child, I was criticized, but as an adult, it’s my responsibility to control my reactions to others, not to continue to internalize outer critics because that’s what it is.
As someone with C-PTSD (Complex-Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder), taking “responsibility” for controlling my reactions to others, especially when it’s a flashback or trigger. It’s something I’m really trying work through in therapy and, you too, might uncover some depression or anxiety or trauma during this time that you are getting sober, but it doesn’t mean that you cannot achieve self-awareness and lean on that Higher Power for help. I know I still do.
I didn’t want to pass by this section without some discussion of internalizing outer critics. There’s a line in a song I’m Movin’ On by Rascal Flatts that goes:
“I’ve lived in this place and I know all the faces,
Each one is different, but they’re always the same.
They mean me know harm, but it’s time that I face it
They’ll never allow me to change.”
It’s true, when you’re always around the same people, some of those same people won’t allow you to forget that you’re an “addict”. Learning to tune out other people’s negativity will become a gift (take what you need and leave the rest), however, if you share someone with someone and they use it later as ammunition in a fight, tuning that out might be difficult. You’re going to feel shame and blame. You’re family might feel anger and blame you.
Once you start peeling back these layers, listen, but don’t allow yourself to be hurt repeatedly in the same way by the same person. You will have some other critics too. Old friends, extended family, etc. Don’t tune them out. Hear them out, but don’t internalize their criticisms. By internalizing, we not only have our own inner critic, we now have other critical voices and criticisms (not real voices). We have to learn to internalize positive things as well. Someone says, “I’m proud of you”, “you’re doing a great job”, thanks so much for thinking to do that for me”, take it in. Literally, breathe it in. And, read my blog for other tips on staying mentally healthy.
I try to work on defects everyday. The point is supposed to be to help you to become more self-aware so that you can address what you’re doing daily. The point is NOT trying to make amends yet. If something comes along in the interim that you feel the need to apologize for or even explain, feel free to do it, but don’t seek out amends at this time. Learn how to be mindful of each day. Living in the present and appreciating the small things. Controlling anxieties and calming fears with only you and your Higher Power. Keep reflecting day after day on each Step that came before because, as I’ve said, they’re all building blocks. Oh, and keep following me on social media. Because I’m a genius. Lol. But do please share your experiences here so you can begin a dialogue and maybe help someone else.
**All pics come from AdobeStock and FreePik. Title pic was designed using Canva.