Near the end of a recent Big Book study, we talked about Al-Anonisms, those particular defects of character that tend to come with the disease. Those of us who didn’t already have the list were encouraged to write them in our Big Books.
It started off lightheartedly.
“Sarcasm,” the list reader would say.
“Not me!” someone else would say in mock horror.
“That would take us back to denial….”
We all laughed.
But after a while, I started to wonder if this list had an end. It seemed to go on and on. I was getting tired just hearing it all.
Someone else said what I was thinking.
“There’s still about 10 more,” the list reader said.
By the time she was done, the list included nearly 40 isms. I saw myself in most of them. It felt like a lot to have to carry around.
I overheard two women talking on the way out. One said she didn’t think all those things applied to her.
“Then you must be in denial,” the other said in a tone I took to be sarcasm.
They weren’t laughing.
A dear friend said she thought it was all too much. That people were wallowing in their defects.
“How do you even start to tackle all those things?” she asked. “I prefer to focus on what’s good about myself.”
Then she asked me if I thought I was a good person.
The question stumped me. I didn’t know how to answer. I don’t think the presence or absence of these isms makes me a good person or a bad one. They are just the way this disease of alcoholism affected me.
Though I have long been familiar with these defects, I didn’t always attribute them to alcoholism. I thought they were just my temperament, in my genes, the way I was wired.
The realization that my serious nature, for example, was part of this disease was one of the bigger lightbulb moments I have had in this program.
I considered it good news. It meant that humorlessness wasn’t a fixed part of my personality. It meant I could be restored to good humor along with sanity.
To be able to see myself in this list also felt like good news. To me, it represented awareness I didn’t used to have. Without awareness I can’t change, no matter how many years I spend in the program.
I still find the list fascinating, but I no longer feel burdened by it. I have been taught that if I do the things that have been suggested to me in this program, God will do for me what I can’t do for myself.
I’ve also been taught that I don’t get to choose which defects God removes, or when. In the seventh step prayer, the Big Book doesn’t tell my to pray that God remove isms one through 38.
It suggests that I pray that God remove the defects of character that stand in the way of my usefulness to Him and to my fellows.
Pondering this list, I realized I no longer judge myself for my defects. I accept them. Just as I accept that as long as I continue to do what I’ve been taught to do, as long as I attend meetings, pray on my knees, read Al-Anon literature daily, call my sponsor, work steps, take commitments, and sponsor others—I will get better.
But in God’s time.
And in God’s way.
I believe this because I have gotten better.
I get a daily reprieve from some of my defects to the degree that I remain spiritually fit. Some are still with me, but have faded considerably. They are less a default setting and more a response to stress. Others are still very much with me.
But I don’t worry about them.
As with everything in this program, I can only do my part and let go of the outcome.
We are not bad people, my sponsor is fond of saying. We’re just sick people trying to get better.
Here is the list:
Addiction to excitement, good or bad
The need to be right
Fear of abandonment
Lack of humor
Power pout/silent scorn
As soon as… yes, but
Explain, explain, explain
Believing I know best
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