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