Thursday, July 8, 2010

Band-aids For My Eyes, Please

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.

I didn’t.

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.


  1. I saw that prayer, the one from the Big Book, for the first time yesterday and I am definitely going to use that this time around.

    Gosh, I really loved this post, Kathy. It helps me not feel so bad about the denial and eye band-aids that I've been wearing.

    I've been getting stronger and gaining more and more awareness and it is easy to want to kick myself for not doing something sooner, or at all, but all in due time.

    You've mentioned praying for willingness before, here and to me, and I've simply neglected to do so. Until now.

    Thanks for helping.

  2. Thank you for this post. I always have to remind myself that it's about the journey, not the finish line. I'm not ready for all of this to be absorbed in one magical moment. I just am where I am on any given day, which isn't always where I'd like to be. As long as I get a little better every day, though, I'm a happy camper. Thx again.

  3. This post really spoke to me. I think that I tend to focus on the character defects that I want removed.

  4. Beautiful and elquent post...I tend to focus on the ones that get in my way LOL! I do have this prayer over my bathroom sink to remind me each time I wash my hands I say it and remind myself to allow God in to do for me what I cannot do for myself.

    Hugs to you!

  5. I sometimes think my defects of character are embedded in concrete. I am trying to find a way to break through the concrete. But I am so happy with the acceptance that has come about regarding my defects. And slowly they are not devouring my life.

  6. Very well said. I am struggling with the "being ready" part. I think I'm ready to get better, but I'm afraid to give up my vice. God and I have some serious work to do...

  7. A wonderful post.

    I kept myself in denial for so long that I couldn't and/or refused to hear God speak to me regarding my character defects. It was only when I decided to become completely "honest" and "willing" to allow my sponsor and counselor to show me what I needed to work on. That was my awakening. I now have an intimate relationship with my God and I put my complete trust in Him and pray daily for his forgiveness and strenth to do His will.

  8. Denial is an amazing thing, isn't it? Without it, I wouldn't have been able to raise my children the way I did. I created the phrase "Steaming pile of denial" and my biggest pile was that if I did everything exactly opposite to how my father would do it, my life would be great.
    Well, it did work for parenting - and in all honesty there is no way I had time to do all the work on myself in those early days of parenthood. I had to focus on them.

    It took a long time but I finally realized that I can choose what to do based on what feels right, with more criteria than what I think my father would do. There are actually things he did and does right, on occasion.

    And I believe you are right that God chose the time for me to come to this realization and others.

    It's amazing, isn't it? Life gets so much bigger when you can see.

  9. shortcomings...yep got a few of those too. Great inspirational post as always Kathy. Your strength my inspiration....Stay cool out there.

  10. Some of my defects are still prevalent. I am still holding onto them. I am glad that I was willing to have God remove most of the 51 defects that I identified. These defects will be removed in God's time.

  11. Kathy, I've been on a summer hiatus but wanted to check in and say thanks for keeping up with me. Inspiring post, as always!

  12. There is so much good stuff here, I don't even know where to begin. I really loved your reference to the AA prayer. Keeping it simple works for me. I also didn't know just how many defects I had until I was in the rooms awhile. Me, controlling? No way, you should meet my mother. (I actually said this..hehe) I know better now.


  13. I love this post and the reliance on God and His wisdom... he did create us after all. I also couldn't help but think - with the band-aids - they are painful to remove - but not that painful - and when removed they expose the beautifully healed skin.
    God bless.

  14. Kathy another post well written and full of insight and wisdom. A lot to relate to. In the past I have witness God removing people from my life only because I realize now that I was headed down a dark and bleak path over and over again. I believe I am finally getting it, and thus far I see the pattern changing. Blessings.