Honesty is the primary component of recovery. We must be thoroughly honest with ourselves and with others before real change can be made. Step Six of Alcoholics Anonymous says: “We’re entirely ready to have God remove all of these defects of character.” When I first learned the sixth step, I thought, “Oh, of course, this one is easy, who would want to hold on to their character defects?” As I grew in my recovery process, I began to realize this step was crucial, and not as easy as I thought.
An interesting component of addiction is denial. Denial is that part of us that really does not see that we are being dishonest. We are capable of making absurd behavior make sense. Learning what does not serve us well takes time and a restructuring of our belief system. Some of our “character defects” are so ingrained that we believe them to be a necessary part of us.
Most of our “defects” of character are defense mechanisms that we learned in childhood. Letting go of our need to change or control others is a difficult behavior to change when, as children, we had very little, or no control over a chaotic environment. Perhaps we developed behaviors to make order of our life, or make difficult situations tolerable. Maybe anger gave us the motivation to change or leave a hurtful or disrespectful relationship.
Shame is the belief that we are “broken,” or that something is wrong with us as human beings. I have found shame to be the core component of addiction. When I can help a client move from the idea that they are “sick” or “defected of character” to an understanding that certain beliefs and behavior that once worked for them, are now hurting themselves and others, they become more open to change.
When we have compassion for the wounded child within instead of condemnation or judgment, change can begin to happen and Step Six takes on a deeper meaning. From this perspective, the God of our understanding becomes a loving co-creator of our lives. A Divine Source that helps us to see our goodness and our character assets. When we see ourselves as God sees us, a perfect creation made in the likeness, image and essence of him or herself, what does not serve us well, will naturally fall away.
Step Six is a way of life and must be attended to daily. As we learn to understand ourselves better, from the perspective of our character assets, we will begin to focus on a life of wellness, health and loving kindness. When these character traits are what we focus on, they will manifest themselves in our lives. When we fall into what we once viewed as our “character defects,” we will feel uncomfortable and out of character.
Addiction is a violent disease that destroys the afflicted person and hurts those who love them. Addiction makes us believe that we are defected human beings that deserve the pain and suffering that the disease brings into our lives.
As we allow the God of our understanding to hold up a mirror in front of us daily, reflecting who we genuinely are, defensive and hurtful behaviors no longer serve us. Step Six, in its truest form, teaches us that the spirit of God is not fear, but peace, power and a sound mind.