Profess Stuart Miles

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/

Something very profound happened for me last night while at a book study.  All of my “recovery life” of 32+ years has been tainted with distrust of Alcoholics Anonymous’ (Anonymous, 2001, p. 59) sixth step which reads, “Where entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.”  The distrust has been based on an unwillingness to give up personal traits  I have always assumed were the core of my identity and defined “me. ” Plus, I have always been afraid of the unknown in regards to what would take their place if I got rid of my character defects. My thoughts usually ran something like,, ” if I give all of myself up, then who will I be?”.  No one has ever been able to satisfactorily answer that question for me until I found my answer in last night’s book study.

The answer I found lies in a quote from  Drop the Rock: Removing Character Defects-Steps Six and Seven (P., Bill; W., Todd; S., Sara (2009-06-03). Drop the Rock: Removing Character Defects – Steps Six and Seven . Hazelden Publishing. Kindle Edition, p.xvii):

“In recovery, we try to take the opposite of our character defects and shortcomings and turn them into principles. For example, we work to change fear into faith, hate into love, egoism into humility, anxiety and worry into serenity, complacency into action, denial into acceptance, jealousy into trust, fantasy into reality, selfishness into service, resentment into forgiveness, judgmentalism into tolerance, despair into hope, self-hate into self-respect, and loneliness into fellowship. Through this work, we learn to understand the principles of our program.”

These authors then reminded me that recovery is always a work in progress rather than a perfect finished product.  So, when I do start working on removing a character defect, my Higher Power will allow me to do it along a continuum at my own speed.  I don’t want to give my readers the idea that I have never worked on character defects before; after over three decades of recovery I have been able to make some progress—-I just never realized until last night that was exactly what I was supposed to be doing. I guess I always thought I couldn’t give anything up unless it was perfectly done. This has been in direct conflict with my knowledge that my work on character defects has been continuous and overwhelming at times because they never seemed to all just “go away.” Alcoholics employ what I have learned to call “all or none” thinking, and I should not be surprised I have erroneously looking at character defects all these years with exactly that type of thinking.

I am going to attempt to outline a brief update on my character defect progress which no longer feels like failure. This report is for today; I now know that it will continuously change as I move “up and down” the progress continuum. Picture a  1-10 continuum, if you will, with 1 being no progress and 10 being excellent progress/perfection in changing a character defect into a strong recovery principle. In making my “progress score sheet” I realize that each “couplet” value will change based on the specific situation that triggers my character defect—-or I can base my “score” on a “general overview”.

For instance, in regards to specific situations,  in the several times I have been hospitalized and facing life-saving surgery in the past couple of years, I would put my rating between fear and faith at about a 9. With each hospitalization that took work. Each time,  once I was able to surrender my rear and rely on my faith and medical intervention,  I was told my body was “resolving the issue on its own” and I could be discharged in a couple of days. Another specific situation applies to using the inventory  to look at a specific individual. If I were  looking at hate vs. love, I would probably have to give myself a “4” for Adolf Hitler rather than a 1. For me, that is progress because until recently I would have always hated him. It has recently progressed to a 4  because I am learning there is a bit of God in all of us and I need to love that ” bit.”

So,  I can do this inventory based on a specific situation or on my “general condition.” Here is  how my  “general” character defect inventory at this moment looks like (my score is the one printed in red):

fear 1      2      3     4      5      6      7           9      10 faith
hate 1      2      3     4      5      6           8      9      10 love
egoism 1      2      3     4      5      6      7      8      9      10 humility
anxiety and worry 1      2      3     4      5      6      7      8      9      10 serenity
complacency 1      2      3     4      5      6      7      8      9      10 action
denial 1      2      3     4           6      7      8      9      10 acceptance
jealousy 1      2      3     4      5      6      7      8      9      10 trust
fantasy 1      2      3     4      5      6      7      8      9      10 reality
selfishness 1      2      3     4      5      6      7      8      9      10 service
resentment 1      2      3     4      5      6      7           9      10 forgiveness
judgmentalism 1      2      3     4      5      6      7      8      9      10 tolerance
despair 1      2      3     4      5      6      7      8      9      10 hope
self-hate 1      2      3     4      5      6      7      8      9      10 self-respect
loneliness 1      2      3     4      5      6      7           9      10 fellowship

Note: I apologize for the continuum not printing in a straight line across once it was copied over into WordPress format.

Obviously, I need to focus my attention on making progress at changing denial, anxiety/worry, and complacency  defects closer to the ideal recovery principles of serenity, action, and acceptance today.

I hope this review  and interpretation of a highlight of last night’s book study is helpful. Please comment and share your thoughts about changing character defects  when they are not viewed with an “all or none” approach. May God bless and keep you.