Sometimes our readiness to have our character defects removed depends on what we call them. If misnaming our defects makes them seem less “defective” we may be unable to see the damage they cause. And if they seem to be causing no harm, why would we ever ask our Higher Power to remove them from our lives? Take “people pleasing” for example. Doesn’t really sound all that bad, does it? It just means we’re nice to people, right? Not quite. To put it bluntly, it means we’re dishonest and manipulative. We lie about our feelings, our beliefs, and our needs, trying to soothe others into compliance with our wishes. Or perhaps we think we’re “easygoing.” But does “easygoing” mean we ignore our housework, avoid confrontations, and stay put in a comfortable rut? Then a better name for it would be “laziness” or “procrastination” or “fear.” Many of us have trouble identifying our character defects. If this is the case for us, we can talk with our sponsor or our recovery friends. We clearly and honestly describe our behavior to them and ask for their help in identifying our defects. As time passes, we’ll become progressively better able to identify our own character defects, calling them by their true names.
Our program is based on the idea that the application of simple principles can produce profound effects in our lives. One such principle is that, if we ask, our Higher Power will care for us. Because this principle is so basic, we may tend to ignore it. Unless we learn to consciously apply this spiritual truth, we may miss out on something as essential to our recovery as breathing is to life itself. What happens when we find ourselves stressed or panicked? If we have consistently sought to improve our relationship with our Higher Power, we’ll have no problem. Rather than acting rashly, we will stop for a moment and briefly remind ourselves of particular instances in the past when our Higher Power has shown its care for us. This will assure us that our Higher Power is still in charge of our lives. Then, we will seek guidance and power for the situation at hand and proceed calmly, confident that our lives are in God’s hands
Humility is a puzzling concept. We know a lot about humiliation, but humility is a new idea. It sounds suspiciously like groveling, bowing, and scraping. But that’s not what humility is at all. True humility is, simply, acceptance of who we are. By the time we reach a step that uses the word “humbly;” we have already started to put this principle into practice. The Fourth Step gives us an opportunity to examine who we really are, and the Fifth Step helps us accept that knowledge. The practice of humility involves accepting our true nature, honestly being ourselves. We don’t have to grovel or abase ourselves, nor must we try to appear smarter, wealthier, or happier than we really are. Humility simply means we drop all pretense and live as honestly as we can.
It hurts like never before. You get out of bed after a sleepless night, talk to God, and still don’t feel any better. “It will pass;” a little voice tells you. “When?” you wonder, as you pace and mutter and get on with your day. You sob in your car and turn the radio all the way up so you can’t hear your own thoughts. But you go straight to work, and don’t even think about using drugs. Your insides feel as though they’ve been torched. Just when the pain becomes unbearable, you go numb and silent. You go to a meeting and wish you were as happy as other members seem to be. But you don’t relapse. You cry some more and call your sponsor. You drive to a friend’s house and don’t even notice the beautiful scenery because your inner landscape is so bleak. You may not feel any better after visiting your friend-but at least you didn’t visit the connection instead. You listen to a Fifth Step. You share at a meeting. You look at the calendar and realize you’ve gotten through another day clean. Then one day you wake up, look outside, and realize it’s a beautiful day. The sun is shining. The sky is blue. You take a deep breath, smile again, and know that it really does pass
Surrender and acceptance are like infatuation and love. Infatuation begins when we encounter someone special. Infatuation requires nothing but the acknowledgement of the object of our infatuation. For infatuation to become love, however, requires a great deal of effort. That initial connection must be slowly, patiently nurtured into a lasting, durable bond. It’s the same with surrender and acceptance. We surrender when we acknowledge our powerlessness. Slowly, we come to believe that a Power greater than ourselves can give us the care we need. Surrender turns to acceptance when we let this Power into our lives. We examine ourselves and let our God see us as we are. Having allowed the God of our understanding access to the depths of ourselves, we accept more of God’s care. We ask this Power to relieve us of our shortcomings and help us amend the wrongs we’ve done. Then, we embark on a new way of life, improving our conscious contact and accepting our Higher Power’s continuing care, guidance, and strength. Surrender, like infatuation, can be the beginning of a lifelong relationship. To turn surrender into acceptance, however, we must let the God of our understanding take care of us each day
As you look back over your life, it is not too difficult to believe that what you went through was for a purpose, to prepare you for some valuable work in life. Everything in your life may well have been planned by God to make you of some use in the world. Each person’s life is like the pattern of a mosaic. Each thing that happened to you is like one tiny stone in the mosaic, and each tiny stone fits into the perfected pattern of the mosaic of your life, which has been designed by God
For many of us, the past is like a bad dream. Our lives aren’t the same any more, but we still have fleeting, highly charged emotional memories of a really uncomfortable past. The guilt, fear, and anger that once dominated us may spill into our new life, complicating our efforts to change and grow. The Twelve Steps are the formula that helps us learn to put the past in its place. Through the Fourth and Fifth Steps, we become aware that our old behavior didn’t work. We ask a Higher Power to relieve us of our shortcomings in the Sixth and Seventh Steps, and we begin to be relieved of the guilt and fear that plagued us for so many years. In the Eighth and Ninth Steps, by making amends, we demonstrate to others that our lives are changing. We are no longer controlled by the past. Once the past loses its control over us, we are free to find new ways to live, ways that reflect who we truly are