• Perspective: Knowing Who I Am

    by Debbie F.

    When I did my first Fourth Step and then my Fifth Step with my sponsor, I discovered that I had character defects. While I always knew there was something wrong with me, I believed I was permanently damaged by my past and my only hope was intense therapy with a professional. Steps Four and Five led me to the following steps and a new hope that I could change.

    The first time I approached the Seventh Step, I was eager and very willing to complete it. I believed then that all my defects would be miraculously taken away from me, never to return, just because I asked. Then I would really become the saint I always wanted to be — and sometimes thought I was.

    However, as I continued to enjoy my new-found sobriety and grow in the program, I realized that many, if not all, of my character defects were still present in varying degrees.

    When I was drinking, my life experiences were very limited. But with increasing sobriety, I was able to challenge myself and explore changes that I could never consider before. While this was exciting, I noticed certain defects rearing their ugly heads as I ventured out in the world.

    I needed to take a step back, take an inventory of how I was feeling about the situation and identify the character defect it brought up. Sometimes I was able to do this alone; sometimes I needed to discuss it with another AA person. Either way, I came to accept that this was the best way for me to deal with my defects — one at a time — when they caused me difficulty or pain. Pain has always been and continues to be a great motivator for me to act.

    The first word in this step is “Humbly,” and Step Seven is all about humility. I had difficulty with this word. As a child, I experienced many humiliating experiences that left me with a lot of shame.

    Exploring this word in the dictionary, I came to understand humility as simply knowing who I am, good and bad. While some of my past experiences did in fact shape the person I became, I began to realize that my character defects kept me stuck there.

    Pride is a major defect of mine. I lived my life taking credit for my good qualities and ignoring the bad ones by blaming someone else for my problems. I used the wrongs done to me to justify all kinds of bad behaviour, leading me to hate myself more and more. I believe this is what eventually led me to my alcoholism.

    This has not been easy for me and I continue to struggle with some of my shortcomings. When I came to AA just over 20 years ago, I knew I wanted and needed a new life if I was to gain and maintain sobriety. Getting sober was not easy for me and the compulsion to drink took a long time to leave.

    Although I was very angry when I first came around, desperation made me humble. That humility made it possible to rely on a higher power and AA to get sober. As I got better, I stayed sober and enjoyed a new life.

    As long as things are going along smoothly, it’s not too difficult. But life doesn’t always go smoothly and this often brings up a defect I need to work on. The Twelve and Twelve states, “The chief activator of our defects has been self-centered fear — primarily fear that we would lose something we already possessed or would fail to get something we demanded” (page 76). When I am disturbed about something, what is it that I am not accepting and why? I can do an inventory of myself, identify the defect and humbly ask my higher power to remove it.

    Today, I am sober. I have learned to live without alcohol. But I still struggle with a living problem. Life brings new challenges daily and if I am going to have contented sobriety, I need to learn to live with the things I cannot change.

    One of the ways I do this is by changing myself. With a new-found humility, a higher power and the AA program, I can do this “one day at a time.”

    About the Authors

    Renascent Alumni
    Members of Renascent's alumni community carry the message by sharing their experiences and perspectives on addiction and recovery. To contribute your alumni perspective, please email alumni@renascent.ca.