BROKEN Beyond Repair? – Grapevine Article February 2009 by M.W.

A member talks of “impediments” to her relationship with her Higher Power.

Finally, after thirty years of daily drinking, the last five years in full-blown alcoholism, I came to AA–scared, broken, my life a total mess, my health in a precarious state, saved from a suicide attempt, and my bank account busted. I was pretty desperate, and very shaky.

Fortunately, I found a home group where, every morning at seven, the fog began to lift. Bewildered and desperate, eager and totally baffled–I threw myself into the program, to the best of my ability.

Then came the Fourth Step. I remember, vividly, the meeting on that Step and all the talk about character defects. I panicked under a cascade of feelings. I felt betrayed.

Up until then, the warm embrace of the group let me feel safe and awakened a sense of hope–hope that I could one day share the clear-eyed freedom I saw in the other AAs.

But character defects? Defects? That sounded so final–cold, cruel, unforgiving–in stark contrast to the safe acceptance I felt at the meeting.

I was anxious and terrified that it would be revealed that I was defective–totally–to the core. Like a defective refrigerator, I would be declared broken beyond repair, discarded and dumped on a trash heap.

I went home, confused and in tears. I thought AA was going to help, not have me feel lousier than I already felt.

But I went back and got a sponsor, and we got to work. It was in the Fourth Step that I got “traction” in the program, for which I am immensely grateful.

In the beginning, I have to admit, I was seeking an “easier softer way.” I referred to the defects as “impediments”–they were impediments from my getting closer to the God of my understanding.

Now, it doesn’t matter what defects are called. Now, they are the fodder for my growth. Rather than cringe at the mention of them, I reach for defects, since they are the kernels of my spiritual development.

Since that initial revulsion is still very vivid, I pay attention to newcomers and look to see if they pull back at the mention of character defects. If the term generates a suspicious crease across their forehead, I make sure to suggest that they consider calling them impediments, just to get started.

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