By John W.

The scope of this step, “Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character” seemed pretty innocent at the time. I had made the decision, discovered my defects of character through an inventory and then admitted my shortcomings to the entire world. OK, it had been actually just to myself, my Higher Power and my sponsor, but at the time this seemed like the whole world. As it turned out, these admissions at that moment in my life were most certainly made to just about the only person on earth who seemed to care anything at all about me or what I was doing as I took that step.  

Because the words of the step seemed plain and simple, after several hours of talking to my sponsor about a long list of resentments, when we separated, I believed for the first time I was actually doing something positive about my drinking problem. Sober at the time for 6 months, with the divorce on the ever-nearing horizon, the bankruptcies not far behind it, the estrangements of three young children comprising the sky above, it still seemed in that moment, as I took the Book down from the shelf, as though I was progressing. I looked at the previous steps. I tried in earnest to ensure that I had applied them to my life as it had been in sobriety and honestly considered how I could integrate what I was learning into my daily life. These twelve suggestions and the Fifth Step just completed helped me develop a plan. It was a good plan. It was a plan that seemed to work for many. It was a plan I wanted to have in my life. 

In the years that followed with the help and guidance of that same sponsor, I was able to maintain my sobriety. I was faced with challenges, tackling Life On Life’s Terms, because even when you are sober life happens.  But things seemed to be on a relatively even keel. The woman whom I had met on AA campus and I were getting along, overcoming rough spots as we encountered them, experiencing together Life On Life’s Terms. Business reversals had been rude, but even they all eventually resolved. Sitting in the cockpit, in the copilot’s seat of course, looking down from 36,000 feet, life looked pretty good. And that was what I thought.

Ironically despite this progress, I later discovered I had not really understood the full meaning of the phrase “entirely ready.” As time passed, I realized I had actually not been willing to be entirely ready to have all of my defects of character put into His hands. In my alcoholic fashion I had rationalized to myself that since I had completed Step 6 a long time before and held nothing back in that process, I was good to go. While it is fair to say on reflection I had done the best I could do at the time, the brutal truth was that there was still work to be done. I admitted to my sponsor at our first meeting that I was ready to go to any lengths, but did that mean I was “entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character?”


Early on in my sobriety I heard the observation that if you get a drunken horse thief sober, you are still left with a horse thief. Thus, to overcome the defect of stealing horses, one has to work on that defect. I was warned such work could take time, sometimes even a long time. So it was for me. My stubbornness and arrogance, though tempered by my sobriety, had by no means been washed away such that I was as white as driven snow. This was my state of consciousness when, in another setting in advance of an important spiritual season, I heard the message being conveyed of the value of the gift of forgiveness. Although I had participated in this yearly event for as long as I could remember, for reasons I cannot explain, this time I heard. This time I listened. This time my arrogance in my conviction that I was not at fault, that she was to blame, did not prevent my ears from hearing. This time my stubbornness that blame clearly laid at the doorstep of another, did not prevent me looking into the mirror where I really saw for the first time the cause of the problem. I was finally truly owning that the wreckage of my past was caused by my alcoholism. It was in that moment of clarity, after over a decade of coddling my “Resentment Numero Uno” that I turned to Him. I had become, finally,  “entirely ready.” This cherished resentment, that my ex-wife had “stolen” my children from their father by divorcing that drunk who was finally sober, this tarp that had kept the sunlight of the spirit from being able to envelop me in its warm and healing glow, had to go. Cast off, and in the sunlight which then revealed it for the poison it had become, I was able to ask that this shortcoming be removed. I could forgive my former spouse for doing that which she had thought was necessary to protect herself and our young children. The separation had been ugly, the divorce far from détente, the youngsters were now all adults, but still I had blamed their mom for it all.

Only a few weeks after I finally took ownership of my shortcomings and found forgiveness for the object of my anger, Life happened when one of my sons called to tell me of the unexpected and tragic death of his mom, my former spouse. I had a long drive to her funeral and during it, in the privacy of my thoughts, I realized  I was going with a clean and open heart. Although I made my amends to her years before, I could now say without reservation  I had forgiven her and the timing of that forgiveness could not have been more beneficial. Certainly, I had squandered time harboring this resentment, but when I became “entirely ready” to work the steps upon it, the principles of the steps worked as advertised – and then some!  I found that I was able to proceed with the healing my children needed following their mother’s death without reservation because I had become willing. I had finally become entirely ready to ask that my defect, my long-protected resentment, my shortcoming, be removed.  


We hear often in meetings how, in the lives of others, God works in mysterious ways. This became true for me and played out in real time as I was simply practicing the principles of the program in my affairs. My unexpected experience helped me more vividly to begin to see life in that Fourth Dimension which our founders described so long ago.

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For Mary, 07/16/1960 – 05/24/2022 : RIP

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