Managing Character Defects: AA & The Big Book


Sober Recovery Expert Author

In 12-step programs, steps six and seven deal with human failings, otherwise labeled as character defects, or personal shortcomings. All three terms mean the same thing. In some of the literature of recovery, character defects are also likened to the "seven deadly sins" of greed, lust, envy, sloth, pride, anger, and gluttony.

Recognizing character defects in ourselves 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.

If you can manage your so-called character flaws or defects--and dare to do the things you want to do in spite of them--you can overcome a major hurdle in sober recovery.

Dealing With the Feelings That Underly our Actions

For many people in recovery, substance use was to cover up feelings of fear, inadequacy, insecurity, and social awkwardness. Many people new to recovery can relate to these feelings and admit to experiencing them before the onset of their drug or alcohol use. They can admit to these feelings again after stopping the substance use. The question is, how to deal with them?

Consider this idea: Perhaps everyone feels fears, inadequacies, and insecurities 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 the same way and approach them to begin a short conversation. Or, if you are reluctant to approach someone else, quickly say a silent prayer that you be given the courage you need.

You may not expect to receive this courage, (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 fear or doubt. This gave them enough hope and confidence to try it again on a bigger and more important level. Soon they felt confident that they could accomplish many things that had seemed impossible a short time before.

Acting As If You Are Fearless

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 props of drugs and alcohol. Walking into and through these experiences without those props will give you enough confidence to continue. Remember the fear that went through your heart when you first considered not drinking or using drugs? And here you are now, free from drugs and alcohol. You are looking at how to live life without allowing your character defects to 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, and more--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 and then daring to do it! So, say a prayer and jump right in, with your supposed defects and all.

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