Person with hands on their face as they're being confronted with their defects of character

What Are Defects of Character?

One of the most potent aspects of recovery from substance abuse is self-reflection. The 12-step program model includes self-reflection and has served countless individuals on the journey of addiction recovery since the 1930s. This model is effective because it helps participants identify defects of character or unhelpful coping mechanisms.

If you’d like to learn more about 12-step programs or other forms of addiction recovery in the Wrightsville area, contact Recovery Ranch PA. Our staff would be pleased to tell you more, and you can reach us at 717.969.9126 or by sending us a message online. 

The Connection Between Defects of Character and Recovery from Addiction

The term “defects of character” comes from Alcoholics Anonymous, the original organization that offered 12-step programs for addiction recovery. If it feels a bit dated or triggering, replace it with “negative coping mechanisms,” “self-defeating behaviors,” or the like. Self-compassion is crucial to recovery, so choosing wording that reflects the true intention of the concept is essential. A few common character defects that often arise alongside substance abuse are: 

  • Self-absorption or extreme unwillingness to question one’s point of view
  • Reluctance to commit to complex tasks
  • Sexual thoughts or behavior that cause psychological, emotional, or physical harm to self or others
  • Extreme anger or hatred
  • Excessive desire for material possessions
  • Jealousy or intense resentment toward others
  • Excessive behavior in areas beyond one’s primary addiction, such as over-eating or spending beyond one’s means

Character defects, or harmful coping mechanisms, are understandable in that they are prompted by extreme stress, such as relational, situational, or environmental trauma. Nonetheless, they warrant reflective attention since they represent lapses in important ethical areas. These include moderation, honesty, self-regulation, and courage. If left unchecked, character defects can harm the person directly struggling with them and those around them. Examining their origins is essential in working with character defects in therapy or a support group. This lays the groundwork to determine what measures are needed to heal from original woundings. 

How Do Defects of Character Fit Into 12-Step-Based Treatment?

Within the 12-step model, participants engage in a series of self-reflective and behavior-change tasks. Briefly summarized, the 12 steps are: 

  1. Participants admit they’re no longer in control of their substance abuse and their life more broadly.
  2. They affirm their belief that their higher power can assist them.
  3. They surrender to this higher power, imploring its assistance.
  4. Participants engage in a courageous and thorough self-reflective process.
  5. Next, they take the active role of admitting to themselves, their higher power, and at least one other human being what specific harm they’ve done through substance use. 
  6. Participants strive to become receptive to intervention by their higher power regarding their character defects, a.k.a. harmful coping mechanisms.
  7. Relatedly, they directly ask the higher power to remove these defects.
  8. Participants inventory their lives to identify those struggling with issues related to their addiction and prepare to make amends with them. 
  9. Again turning outward, participants work to make amends with those they’ve harmed to the greatest extent possible without causing additional harm.
  10. They engage in ongoing self-reflection and practice accountability for any setbacks on the recovery journey. 
  11. Contemplative disciplines like prayer or meditation support the effort to commune with the higher power and request strength and clarity in the ongoing recovery journey. 
  12. Finally, in step 12, participants serve others struggling with addiction. 

While the model was developed in a Christian context, it has been broadly adapted. Nonetheless, the language typically includes references to God or a Higher Power, so if this does not align with your beliefs, a different approach may work better. 

Moving toward recovery from addiction is never easy. Practicing self-compassion and working toward understanding one’s triggers and past trauma is essential. At Recovery Ranch PA, we believe 12-step and non-12-step approaches to peer support can significantly help during the healing journey. Thus, we provide our clients with various options and would love to discuss how we can best serve your needs. Contact Recovery Ranch PA today at 717.969.9126 or reach out online to start this conversation.

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