In 12-step programs, steps six and seven deal with human failings, otherwise labeled character defects, or shortcomings. All three phrases mean the same thing. In some of the literature of recovery, they are also likened to the Seven Deadly Sins of greed, lust, envy, sloth, pride, anger and gluttony. Recognizing them in our own lives is difficult, while recognizing them in those around us is easy. For this purpose, many people in recovery groups will say that they act as a mirror to show others what behaviors they cannot see in themselves.
No One’s Perfect
For most, the substance abuse was to cover up feelings of fear, inadequacy, insecurity and social awkwardness. Nearly every newly recovering person can relate to these and admit feeling them before the onset of their using and again after stopping the substance use. How to deal with them?
Consider this idea, if you will: Perhaps everyone feels these things from time to time. How then, does the rest of the world deal with self-doubt? For most, it is a matter of looking around to see if they can spot someone else who looks like they feel that way and approach them for a short conversation. Or quickly say a prayer that you be given the courage you don’t really expect to receive, (but ask anyway), and go on as though you had received it. Strangely enough, many people report that they have done this and have successfully conquered a small but important social fear. This gave them enough courage to try it again on a bigger and more important level. Soon they felt confident that they could accomplish many things that seemed impossible a short time before.
Acting As If…
Find a way to walk into the things that frighten you. Find a partner to walk with you if possible. Many of life’s situations can be challenging when first encountered without the prop of drugs and alcohol. Walking into and through these experiences will give you enough confidence to continue. Remember the fear that went through your heart when you first considered not drinking/using drugs? And here you are now, free from those and looking at how to live life without character defects that can cripple relationships, jobs, school and other social environments where you long to feel a sense of belonging. A common phrase in recovery settings is to “act as if,” meaning to behave as if you felt confident and go right ahead with what you are afraid to do. This can be a job interview, speaking in a group, taking a class, going to the dentist, driving a car, an endless list of things that bring fear into many hearts and minds. For a large number of those in recovery, it is simply a matter of wanting to do something badly enough to dare to do it! So, say a prayer and jump right in.
Kelly McClanahan has an MSW in clinical social work, with a specialization in substance abuse treatment. Having worked in this field for over 20 years, she is currently working on her certification as an addictions’ counselor.