“Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.”
We’re all human beings, thus by default we are all fallible and flawed to have some degree of character defects. It is completely illogical to presume that obtaining and maintaining solid sobriety will somehow transform us into perfect spiritual gurus, incapable of succumbing to the plebian malfunctions of our less transcendent brethren. We don’t sober up and work the steps and suddenly drop all of our innate anthropological desires. We don’t enter into recovery and suddenly stop flirting or gossiping or eating too much or telling white lies to save our own asses. Ridding ourselves of the same bad habits that seemed to serve us so well in the past is certainly a process – one that takes ample time and dedication. In order to do so, we must first take an honest and searching inventory of our more undesirable character traits. Most of our defects, we will find, are braches off of what are biblically known as ‘the seven deadly sins’ – or what I like to call, ‘the seven parts of being a human’. Let’s take a look at each of these individually, and explore the ways in which we can strive towards keeping them in check while maintaining some semblance of humanity and having some sort of leniency on ourselves.
The Seven (or Eight) Deadly Character Defects
Ego – our worst enemy. In order to successfully recover from a hopeless state of mind, we must adopt a mentality of sincere humility. This essentially means understanding that we are on an even playing field with every other man and woman we come into contact with, regardless of gender, race, religion, demographic, or personal background. We’re all equals. We must let go of our pride to admit our powerlessness over alcohol, initially. We must humbly ask God to remove all our defects of character. Smashing of pride and ego is interwoven throughout all of the steps, and will inevitably become an integral part of every program of recovery. Pride is one of those defects that we should pray to be removed in its entirety – it will certainly not serve us well.
We want what we want when we want it. We will likely learn an important lesson regarding greed sometime in early recovery – what we want and what we think we need is never (or very rarely) what we get, and is almost never what we really need. We think we know what is good for us, which is kind of ironic considering we spent years of our lives poisoning our ailing bodies with chemicals until we lost everything we loved. We’re delusional people, us alcoholics. We constantly desire more than we need.
Lust is a fun one. What satisfies the sickly soul more than receiving copious amounts of external validation by posting scandalous pics on Tinder? Promiscuity is many an addict’s best friend – we use our bodies to get what we want; they are tools, not temples. We lust after things that we want and cannot, in good conscience, have. We covet thy neighbor. Lust can be dangerous if we act on impulse, but it is also very human and very impossible to keep completely under wraps. Go ahead, lust a little. Think about how sweet it would be to slowly undress the UPS guy. Just so long as your dirty little thoughts do not prove disruptive to yourself or anyone else.
The best way to combat envy is to get well acquainted with the concept of acceptance. Envy is similar to greed in the sense that it entails wanting something that we don’t have. Accepting what we do have as just enough is the most efficient way to eliminate envious feelings and attitudes. It is totally acceptable to appreciate the skills and gifts and lifestyles of others, but appreciation and bitterness are two entirely different beasts. Ask yourself why you’re envious. Focus on what you can do to improve your own state of being so you are content with your own life and no longer feel the need to compare.
We want it all. Our eyes are far bigger than our metaphorical stomachs, most of the time. Mindfulness and self-awareness help to combat gluttony. Becoming conscious of what it is we need rather than what it is we want seems to be the theme here, no?
Anger – most of us probably know the feeling all too well. We constantly feel as if the world is wronging us. Self-pity at its finest. “What did I do to deserve this?” Once we understand that all of our problems are of our own making (hello, step 4) we will come to let go of some of the wrath that binds us to sickness and misery.
Sometimes, a good pajama and Netflix day does the body good. If we work hard 5 or 6 days a week, there is no shame in or issue with lazing around for several hours on a Sunday. But if our laziness, lack of motivation, and general indolence is constantly getting us into trouble, we may want to take a look at ourselves and see what we can do about putting a little more pep in our step.
Fear, the corroding thread! This, I have found, is the underlying cause of most of the still-present defects in my life. Fear is big and real and heavy and it rears its ugly head almost constantly in the lives of us addicts and alcoholics. Becoming less fearful is a long and tedious process – though it is possible with a lot of hard work and constant side-stepping of comfort zones.