As is our habit on the first week of the month, the topic at my Wednesday meeting was step 7, which reads: “Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.”
Many of the people in our group quipped that they must be getting worse, because they didn’t have any shortcomings when they came through the doors of Al-Anon, but have since picked up a whole bunch.
That’s the thing about this disease. One of its chief symptoms is lack of awareness.
But that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
My character defects are coping mechanisms that helped me to survive a bad situation. I think of them like Band-aids. To rip them off before I am ready would be to expose the wound before it is healed.
That’s why God has to be involved. Only He knows when I’m ready and which defects need to be removed.
In the meanwhile, He gives me denial. It’s like a Band-aid for my eyes.
If I’m not ready, I won’t see what’s right in front of me, and nothing you can say will make me see it.
Like the time, years ago now, when a good friend showed me a list of characteristics of adult children of alcoholics. He thought I would relate.
Honestly. I didn’t think the things on that list applied to me at all.
He got insistent.
“What about this one?” he’d say, pointing out the part about not being able to finish things.
“I finish things,” I replied.
“What about your college degree?” he said, as though that would settle the question.
“I finished my degree,” I said with equal conviction. “It just took me longer.”
He’d pick something else on the list. He’d insist. I’d deny. And it went on like that until he finally gave up.
Because, honestly, I thought I had left the effects of alcoholism behind me when I left home. I thought I had become the captain of my fate. I refused to be ruled by the past.
Just like when I came into the rooms of Al-Anon. I didn’t think there was anything wrong with me. I offered my obsession with my daughter as evidence that I was a good mom, and you couldn’t tell me differently.
I did everything I had done, I said, because I wanted to be sure I had done everything I could to help my daughter. And I meant it. No intervention was too extreme. But that didn’t make me a good mom. It made me crazy. I just couldn’t see it.
But while working my steps, in order, I prayed that God reveal what needed to be revealed, and He did. When I got to step seven, I asked him to remove those shortcomings.
People practice the seventh step in different ways. I’ve heard people say they pick one character defect at a time and pray that God remove it.
I’ve been taught that I don’t get to decide. The seventh step prayer I use comes from the AA Big Book and asks God to remove every single defect of character that stands in the way of my usefulness to Him and to my fellows.
I was surprised by that prayer the first time I read it. As an extraordinarily self-centered person, the first thing I noticed is that it doesn’t say “the character defects that stand in my way.” Nor did it say "the defects of character I want removed."
As turns out to be true with so many things, God's ideas are often different from mine. I have to turn it over.
God has not removed all my defects of character. Some are less prominent, some are still very much with me. Even the ones that are fading lurk right under the surface. I only get a daily reprieve based on my spiritual condition.
Sometimes, I’m reluctant to give up my defects of character because I still get something from them.
All I can do is my part. When I see that I am reluctant, I can pray for willingness. And if I want to continue to grow, I must continue to do the things I’ve been taught in this program: go to meetings, pray on my knees, read Al-Anon literature, take commitments, sponsor others.
I can’t control the pace of my recovery. But I can become entirely ready.