Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Entirely Ready

A relative newcomer in Al-Anon once confessed to me her reluctance about steps six and seven.

If God removed her defects of character, she wondered. What would be left of her? Would she be full of holes like a piece of Swiss cheese?

At the time, I confess that I couldn’t relate. Of course you won’t be like a piece of Swiss cheese, I answered. You’ll be the person you’ve always been, just without the character traits that have gotten in your way.

I sailed through step six. I couldn’t wait to humbly ask God to remove my shortcomings. I knew them all too well:

I was controlling, introverted and selfish.

I knew those character defects had started as self-defense mechanisms. I tried to control things because life in the family I grew up in felt so out of control.

I became introverted because I had learned early in my life that I could not count on other people. Life became easier and less painful when I relied only on myself.

I was selfish, because when I was growing up, it felt like there was never enough. There wasn’t enough money or time or love. So I horded these things. I was afraid that if I gave them away, there wouldn’t be enough for me.

I also knew those self-defense mechanisms had overshot the mark. Now, they just got in my way.

Good riddance, I said. I’m ready. Bring on step seven.

But as I got farther into my program and started to gain more insight, I realized that those obvious defects of character were just the beginning. One by one, I began to see how traits that I believed to be at the core of my very nature seemed to have been shaped by this disease.

There was my restlessness and need for constant change.

My serious nature.

My love of quiet and solitude.

Even my love of stories. I was an English major. I became a journalist. One of my greatest pleasures is reading. I couldn’t think of anything that was more central to my nature. But was that innate, or had it been an escape? I couldn’t be sure.

A some point, I made a list of the characteristics I was sure were not shaped by alcoholism. My list included my shoe size, my eye color and my IQ. The rest was pretty much up for debate.

I started to think that newcomer had been more perceptive than I had been.

For the first time, I realized I had no idea who I really was under all those layers. But I did believe that God could restore me.

And I could hardly wait to meet myself.

In the process, what I learned is that God doesn’t remove all my character defects at once. And for everything He took, He left something in its place.

As I became less introverted, I became more loving. As I became less selfish, I became more generous. As I became less controlling, I made room in my life for spontaneity and guidance from my Higher Power.

In every case, God didn’t leave me with holes. He left me whole.

And, no matter where I was in my program, He only removed my defects when I was entirely ready.


  1. Great post. May I have your permission to link to it from my blog?

  2. You are giving me serious reasons to go to Al-Anon something I have not yet done, although I have had addicts in my life for the past 23 years. Although I've received help, support and guidance from other sources, I have resisted Al-anon for some reason. But I think that maybe it's time...

  3. Kathy, you are truly bless with a gift from God to help and comfort others because of your past. Keep up the good work.

    The Bible says,
    2 Corinthians 1:4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.


  4. awesome post! i was intimidated and reluctant for a long time to even PERCEIVE myself as having defects. i was so down on myself, and constantly seeing what was wrong with me, but i didn't call them flaws or defects, i thought i was hard on myself enough already and this would just be more self-deprecation.

    but i have a different perspective on it now. maybe part of it is because i'm not being down on "myself" when i look at something i do as a fault. it's more like an error i tend to make. i don't see myself as broken. i see myself more like i've got bad wiring that makes me operate in ways that are not in my best interests, and aren't so great for those around me either often. so i try not to see things as "good" or "bad" necessarily - because black and white thinking is another maladaptive strategy (or fault) :) i learned.

    i also just yesterday even, was thinking, what's so wrong with the idea of "flaws" anyway. the power of perfectionism is too strong sometimes and can overshadow the beauty in things like flaws. i have an old quilt that i just love. it makes me feel loved and cozy. it's something i bought for myself and i have positive emotions it evokes. and yet it is frayed all over the place! it is not at all the "perfect" thing it was when i bought it. which reminds me of the velveteen rabbit.

    so i try nowadays to love myself, even with flaws. to have a more gentle attitude toward myself. and i still strive to change and evolve into a healthier person. but meanwhile, to say "oh katie, there you go again" trying to treat myself with inner nurturing, with a smile and a loving pat on my shoulder. instead of telling myself how stupid and how ashamed of myself i should be.

    because that in itself is a flaw i'd love to be rid of completely.

    thanks for bringing this up, kathy. this is a consistently relevant topic for me. hugs to you!!!

  5. I am still asking to remove my defects. I work on one at a time. For a long time I felt there were just too many to even begin the work. Do you have my email? codacici at gmail dot com.

  6. There is so much hope in this post!

  7. dang Kathy,

    thank you....
    your messy friend,

  8. My defects were adaptations that used to serve me well and perhaps protected me from pain. But in the present, they were not helping but hindering my life. I isolated and did not know how to have a real friendship or relationship. I am glad that awareness of my defects made me willing to have God remove them. Great post.

  9. Kathy, this is such an amazing post. I can relate in so many ways and your honesty blows me away....Thank you for this...for being so open. I lived with so much hatred....that I couldn't see my stuff...not until I stopped long enough to realize I had become a huge part of the problem.

  10. Hee hee, I could relate to this post Kathy. Very powerful and hopeful. You do wonders for others and always an encouragement to read what has happened to you of late. Blessings.

  11. Printed this one too... just finished step 5... so you know what's coming.
    Thank you so much for sharing your experience!
    God bless.

  12. I wish I had been as willing! For me, it took letting my character defects kick me in the pants one more time before I could see that hanging on for dear life was going to rob me of a dear life! Thanks for your post. I needed it...

  13. I have so many I don't know where to start!!

  14. I happened upon a link to this post from Roxie's blog and am so glad. What a wonderful post.

    I'm struggling terribly right now with accepting that I am the adult child of an least one. I've had addiction in my family my whole life, and am an addict myself. I've been encouraged to go to an Al-Anon meeting and have been putting it in the back of my mind and resisting.

    I may check it out. Thanks.