When you get clean and sober and start working on a program of recovery, it is necessary to start examining your character flaws.
Why is this required, you ask?
Because some of our character flaws will ultimately lead us back to our addiction if we are not careful.
Let me give you an example of this.
When I first got clean and sober I was at a rehab center and I started attending meetings and I thought that everything was doing fine. I was moving along in my recovery and I had no idea that there was a specific character defect that was poised to ruin everything for me.
What I was doing was this: My brain would automatically look for the injustice in my life, and it would immediately pounce on any injustice that it could find in my life. And then it would use that injustice in order to justify whatever it wanted to do, which in my particular case was always to relapse and abuse ridiculous amounts of drugs and alcohol.
And I want to point out that when I was early in my recovery and I was already attending AA meetings and I had been through treatment, I was–for at least a short period of time–completely unaware that this was an issue, that this was a real character flaw that needed to be addressed, that this had any potential to become a driving force towards relapse.
At some point I realized it, I raised my own level of consciousness, and I saw what my mind was doing to me. I stepped outside of my own mind and was able to observe my brain and see its patterns. This is a key concept in your recovery journey because if you cannot observe your own mind then you will not be able to fix the character flaws that it creates.
The other thing that I want to point out is that at this early stage in my recovery journey I had a great deal of help and support. Part of that help was from a trained therapist who was able to talk with me in a way that allowed us to uncover my character flaws, my self defeating behaviors, and my unhealthy thought patterns.
So it was not just me, all by myself, trying to figure out how my own mind was tripping me up (or potentially tripping me up). Instead, I had the help and feedback of many of my peers in recovery, people at AA meetings, my therapist, my sponsor, and so on. If you are not tapping into this vast recovery network then you are missing out on a lot of potential help and insight.
Now you may be wondering how your biggest character flaw can become your greatest strength in life. What I have found is that the thing that holds you back the most in life is often self imposed. Meaning that you have the task in recovery of figuring out what that thing is, and then asking for help so that you can eliminate it.
And what will this result in?
Freedom. This is the sweet taste of victory when you finally conquer your biggest character flaw. Suddenly you can look back and you can see that you were holding yourself in chains.
Just like me when I was stuck in self pity mode, and I was constantly trying to play the victim in my own mind, simply because that is how my brain justified my drinking and drug use for so many years. And here I was in early recovery, trying to stay clean and sober, not realizing that my own mind was set against me in this way.
Then I did the work, I talked with my sponsor and my therapist until I figured out my character flaw, then we made a plan to eliminate it. And so after I did the searching and the soul seeking work of really getting honest with myself, I was able to make that leap into freedom. I could now recognize when my mind was about to try to justify something, when it was starting to play the victim role, and I could immediately make the conscious decision to shut it down and practice gratitude instead.
That is a very important idea–that I could shut down my old mental habit of playing the victim and make a conscious choice instead. I learned that the solution for self pity and victim thinking was essentially to seek solutions and practice gratitude.
Instead of saying “the world hates me and it is unfair to me” you instead have to consciously decide to look for the solution, to find the positive action you can take, and to always remember to be grateful while you are doing that.
That was what I learned about my own biggest character flaw and how I had to combat it. Please note that your own character flaw may be different and you may have to figure out how to deconstruct your own personal defects or flaws, hopefully with the help of a sponsor or a therapist.
Now again, once I did this and I started to consciously reject my own victim thinking, my world immediately started to change for the better. Not only was I totally free, but I was also completely empowered. Now I could be strong when making decisions, instead of blaming circumstances I accepted the situation and figured out what my most positive path forward should be.
I had made a conscious decision to not allow victim thinking to control my life. I had made a deliberate choice to not allow myself to wallow in self pity, and then use that as an excuse for anything. No excuses. That was the conscious choice that I had to make in order to overcome my own particular defect of character.
Now let’s say that someone else in early recovery has a different character flaw. Maybe they have a huge anger issue, and that anger has always been their trigger that led them back to drinking and drug use.
I have met many people like this in early recovery and many times the person does not even know about the issue yet! They are vaguely aware that they do, in fact, become angry at times–but they do not realize that this is the very thing that is fueling their addiction and adding chaos and misery to their lives. They are completely unaware of the problem.
So that individual has a different path than I took with a different solution. But look at how the underlying mechanic is going to be the same: This person with the anger issue also has to learn how to raise their consciousness so that they are at least aware of when they are getting heated up. If they cannot catch themselves starting to get angry then they cannot possibly fix the problem.
So it starts with an increase in awareness, with an expansion of consciousness.
The rest is details. A sponsor or therapist can talk them through several techniques and solutions for how to diffuse their anger, how to redirect it, how to channel it into something more positive. Those are the technicalities and those are just details.
The real issue is: Can that angry person realize that their anger is the trigger, and can then also teach themselves to be consistently aware of when they are becoming heated up?
The answer is that yes, they can do this. And if they do the work and fix their biggest flaw, it will lead them to the greatest freedom they have ever known. And that is amazing!