"Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character"
When I came back to AA in 2011, I knew deep down that I was giving my life to this simple Programme, even though I had no idea what it was in the beginning. I had no idea what God's will for my life was or what my defects of character were or how God intended to remove them. But I had quietly decided to hand my life over and I had become ready to change. By going through the Programme with a sponsor, writing my Step Four inventories as I was shown, and more and more by doing the nightly constructive review in writing following the format on page 86 of the Big Book, my defects of character are progressively revealed to me.
I think my most profound defect of character is that my default setting is to ignore people. The Big Book, (Alcoholics Anonymous) tells us "Selfishness - self-centeredness! That, we think, is the root of our troubles." (p. 62). That is certainly true of me, and in me it takes the form of being completely self-absorbed. The Big Book goes on, "Driven by a hundred forms of fear, self-delusion, self-seeking and self-pity, we step on the toes of our fellows and they retaliate. Sometimes they hurt us, seemingly without provocation, but we invariably find that at some time in the past we have made decisions based on self which later placed us in a position to be hurt" (p. 62). I used to hate this passage because I really did feel blameless in my troubles. But now I see that the decision based on self which I made, it seems from what my parents say, as a baby, is to turn away from others and retreat into myself. I had no idea that people would be offended, feel disrespected, and retaliate to try to get my attention, even if it was in negative ways. This unwillingness to look at people has led me to not fitting in and always being the square peg in the round hole. As a child, I was constantly in trouble for disobeying rules I didn't know about and now I have profound fears of authority and of making mistakes I do not understand. And, of course, I feel sorry for myself.
To be honest, my first reaction is still to flinch from people. However, I gave my life to God, and it seems that God has other ideas for me. In AA, I can be with people in a way that lets me take an interest. I love listening to shares, because each person shares one at a time, no one interrupts and I can just concentrate on the speaker without thinking about a reply or switching attention between different people. It is by listening to shares that I have started to gain some understanding of my fellows.
But God has had further ambitions for me, greatly exceeding what I have felt capable of. I think God must have got tired of my self-pity, my lack of self-knowledge, my fear of authority figures, my fears of being judged, my tendency to avoid conflict even when it is the right thing to do and probably a lot of other defects yet to be revealed. It seems that God has taken an aim at all of these defects by giving me the gift of a very lovely and disabled child.
I used to be very good at getting sympathy for trivial problems. I have long since learned that no one will listen to self-pity about having a disabled child. I have been quite blind to my faults, but my son's educational psychologist volunteered a description of my defects while in the middle of assessing my son.
I have been so afraid of being judged as inadequate and wrong by all sorts of authority figures, but had to start life with my son living on a hospital ward in full view of the around thirty professionals working on him. Since then a good many professionals have come to our home to assess him and, quite often, criticise what I am doing. I have so wanted to blend in and be like other women my age. However, going around with an obviously disabled son has put an end to that. People do judge, and avoid experiences they canā??t relate to. I have had to put my trust in God rather than in the security of blending in with the crowd. I have also had to learn to negotiate hard for the care my son needs, and not shy away from conflict, even long protracted legal conflict, and learn throughout this to keep practising kindness, patience and tolerance. As the Big Book suggests, I have, "asked God to help us [me] show them the same tolerance, pity, and patience that we [I] would cheerfully grant a sick friend" (p. 67).
I have found that God takes me seriously when I say the Step Three prayer, "God, I offer myself to Thee-to build with me and to do with me as Thou wilt." (Big Book, p. 63). But God has been with me all the way. God has freely and easily given me the gift of loving a child who is everything that society finds most unlovable and has given me the willingness to do whatever I am capable of for him to have the best life possible. I have been so blessed that during the most difficult times, there was only one occasion I thought of a drink, and quickly took action by sharing it, taking inventory and stepping up my Programme. As a result, I have the abiding conviction that I am, "on the Broad Highway, walking hand in hand with the Spirit of the Universe." (Big Book, p. 75).
HELEN, Milton Keynes