All Defects Of Character

Alcoholic Anonymous started 72 years ago yesterday.

Step Six of the Twelve Steps is: “We’re entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.”

I’ve not been able to surrender to this step yet. I have too many tiny defects of character that I treasure. I’m not ready to have God take them away yet. I want to enjoy them a little longer. Sure, I know I need radical moral transformation. I know that if I keep pursuing things as I have, I’ll destroy myself. But I can’t quite give up all defects of character yet. I want to be a little bit lustful, a little bit duplicitous, a little bit aggrandizing, a little bit attention-seeking, but yeah, sure, overall, I know I need to change.

I’ve made a new friend. He sizes me up. I’m 46 and I’m working as a secretary. “You say things that will get your face punched in,” he says. “You want the freedom to say f*** you to everybody and so people don’t trust you. You’re reckless.”

Shortly before a tsunami rushes in, the tide goes way out to sea. I’ve experienced that countless times. It’s frightening. People around me see I’m a train wreck. They start pulling away. The tide is going out but soon the tsunami will be rushing in.

I’ll think I’m smart and funny and that people around me are too sensitive, too cowardly to enjoy my jokes, and then one by one, they start withdrawing from me and there’s nothing but silence before the fall. Then the tsunami of reactions to my misbehavior roll in and I’m flooded and resolve to do better, to change, to turn my life over to God, to ask him to remove all of my defects of character.

I wonder how bad things would have to get before I am genuinely ready to surrender all defects of character.

“Half measures don’t work,” I’m learning in the program.

Rather than fully surrendering to a God-centered life, I’ve tried in the past to plug the hole in my soul by plugging as many women as possible. Some of these women I’ve fallen for in my love-addicted way, and I’ve sought salvation in them. I’ve sought rescue. I’ve sought to make them the meaning of my existence. Of course no relationship can handle this weight. No wonder that none of them last much beyond a year.

My laziness has been a great benefit to me here. “Luke is a very lazy womanizer,” Cathy Seipp wrote in my memoir. I’m not willing to work hard at chasing women and so this has kept way down the number of my liasons and instances of reckless behavior. Sure, I dig romantic and sexual intrigue, but not enough, most times, to really pursue it. More often than not, I retreat into fantasy and isolate. It’s much easier for me to imagine myself as some grand character than to go out into the world and to try to make this real.

So I’m going to shul every day, I’m studying Talmud every day, I go to a job four or five days a week, I go to therapy every week, I go to a 12-step meeting every week, I go to a writing group every week, and I’m busy most of the time, too busy to get into trouble.

I find myself wanting to separate from those who are living out of addiction and to instead spend my spare time with those living in recovery.

I haven’t tried to date anyone I’ve met in 12-step programs. I’ve found this work changing how I think. Even my fantasies are different. They’re not as cruel.

Twelve Step work is helping to make me realize my need for God. It’s easy in most of Judaism to get lost in observance of Jewish ritual and to forget about God. That’s why I like Hasidic Judaism. It’s frequently God intoxicated.

It’s easy to pray by the beach or by a mountain and feel spiritual. It’s a challenge to pray in some hole-in-the-wall shul and encounter God. But that’s Judaism, trying to find God in the mundane and daily.

For the first time in my life, all the different parts of my life are working together. I’m not ashamed to tell people in one area of my life about what’s going on elsewhere.

I wonder when I’ll no longer feel compelled to blog out every tawdry detail?

I’ve tasted that in the past, tasted enough human connection so that my need to make an exhibition of myself online goes way down.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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