Humans are flawed by default. At the very least, each of us has several minor character flaws and a few major ones. For most people, our major flaws will cause the most trouble. When our imperfections start to negatively affect ourselves or other people, that’s cause for concern.

It’s critical for those in recovery to address their more major character flaws, but learning how to handle them isn’t something you can learn in a day. Those who don’t address their character flaws often find that they can’t experience real happiness in sobriety and become what’s known in the 12-step program community as a “dry drunk:” someone who no longer drinks alcohol or uses drugs, but behaves in many ways as if they are still in the midst of addiction.

No matter how spiritually advanced we become, we always struggle with imperfections. Humans are imperfect and fallible – and the beauty of recovery is that we learn to embrace many of these imperfections while continuously striving towards self-betterment. We learn to be less hard on ourselves; more forgiving. We learn that we are fallible and that making mistakes can be a learning experience, so long as we begin looking at them from a new perspective. However, there are some mistakes that we probably should not be repeatedly making. We all have some inherent flaws that we cannot simply brush aside while saying, “Oh, well, I’m only human.”

A “character flaw” is an imperfection that gets in the way of your personal progress in recovery – and potentially hurts those around you. Character flaws do not point to an innate moral failing, but rather an area that requires immediate and serious attention. As soon as you dive into the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous, your eyes will open to the ways in which you interact with the world around you. In some instances, you might be engaging in self-destructive behavioral patterns that you were not even aware of. As you slowly and thoroughly make your way through the 12 steps, you begin to notice your own personal “character flaws,” and you eventually learn how to effectively overcome them.

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Confronting character flaws takes a lot of work, but it’s something that ultimately bolsters your recovery.

What Is a Character Flaw?

A character flaw, or character defect, is any type of imperfection in the way a person thinks or behaves. Some “flaws,” like sleeping in a little bit past your alarm every morning or taking showers that could be considered “too long” by normal standards, are not negatively impacting anyone. Perhaps you have to rush to get ready some mornings, but you still make it to work on time. “Flaws” like these should definitely be worked on, but not necessarily with the same urgency.

Take a look at some common “character flaws” that individuals in recovery tend to uncover:

  • Anger
  • Selfishness
  • Dishonesty
  • Jealousy
  • Being overly critical
  • Too Much Pride
  • Being lazy/failing to take action
  • Arrogance
  • Preoccupation with physical appearance 
  • Antagonistic 
  • Overly apologetic
  • Blaming self and others 
  • Close-mindedness
  • Codependence 
  • Overly critical
  • Actively avoiding confrontation 
  • Being controlling of others 
  • Impatience 
  • Intolerance 
  • Being judgemental of others 
  • Irresponsibility 
  • Being neglectful of personal obligations and responsibilities
  • Perfectionism 
  • Resentment 
  • Often engaging in self-pity and victimization
  • Self-loathing 
  • Defensiveness 
  • Being dishonest/lying regularly 

Of course, everyone experiences negative emotions from time to time. Maybe you are overly critical of yourself after showing up late for work one day. The important thing is that you learn from your mistakes. Rather than dwell in a place of self-criticism, you acknowledge that you made a mistake and vow to wake up on time from then on. For some, however, these negative emotions can be so intense, overwhelming and persistent that they significantly affect overall quality of life.

Of course, everyone will experience a bit of jealousy or be a little judgmental from time to time. But for some people, these emotions are something much bigger and start to affect their relationships and lives.

Character Flaws and 12-Step Recovery

Step 6 of the 12-Step program is based on the idea that We were entirely ready to have God (a greater power than ourselves) remove all these defects of character. But this step does not mean that you have to become perfect–you just have to be ready and willing for it happen. Step 6 requires you to take stock of your shortcomings and actively work on replacing these character defects with healthier behaviors.

Addiction enables you to hide from your character flaws, so when a person becomes sober, they may be surprised to learn that they have a few of them. This is normal, and it’s a good thing. In recovery, there is no expectation that you should be able to get rid of each character flaw. It’s just not realistic. Progress is what’s important–not perfection. Working through the 12 steps will help you build self-awareness, so it’s easier to understand your character flaws and improve your well-being.

Step 6 and the Immersion Program of Recovery

At Immersion Recovery Center we have carefully developed a unique program of addiction recovery that is based upon the 12 step program of Alcoholics Anonymous. Step 6 of this 12 step program focuses exclusively on character flaws and how to effectively overcome them.

According to the official Alcoholics Anonymous website, “Step Six—’We were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character’— is A.A.’s way of stating the best possible attitude one can take in order to make a beginning on this lifetime job. This does not mean that we expect all our character defects to be lifted out of us as the drive to drink was.” Essentially, the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous (the main program literature, in which each step is thoroughly outlined), explains that we work to continuously better ourselves without clinging to unrealistic expectations. We do not work through the 6th step and wake up to find ourselves pure and unflawed. We simply become aware of the areas that require improvement and commit to working on them honestly and long-term. We commit to removing the behavioral patterns that no longer serve us.

Active addiction keeps us stuck in a place of severe denial. We are unable to take an honest and searching look at ourselves because we are so engrossed in substance use. When we finally do get sober, all of these flaws might come bubbling to the surface. Rather than reach for chemical substances as we are used to doing, we are forced to face these issues head on. Doing so can be overwhelming – this is why Immersion Recovery Center focuses on a thorough explanation of Step 6 as part of our comprehensive, 12 step immersion experience.

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The Immersion 12 Step Experience

The Immersion Recovery experience was carefully developed with the 12 step method of addiction recovery in mind. Each of the steps outlined by Alcoholics Anonymous is focused on helping men and women of all ages work towards long-term recovery from alcohol and all other addictive chemical substances. The steps are broken up into several different phases. Steps 4, 5 and 6 focus on identifying, admitting to and working through personal shortcomings. Step 7 encourages individuals to willingly give up these shortcomings by relinquishing them to a higher power of their understanding: “Humbly ask Him to remove our shortcomings.” The overall idea of this specific phase of the 12 step program – Step 4 through Step 7 – is to comprehensively address the “character flaws” and “defects” that played an initial role in substance use.

Immersion Recovery Center provides clients with a 3-phased addiction recovery experience, one that is both comprehensive, highly individualized and carefully modeled after the 12 step program that has been successful in helping individuals maintain long-term sobriety for nearly a century. The phases of our clinical program include:

Phase 1: Medically monitored detox and inpatient/residential addiction treatment

Phase 2: Partial hospitalization (PHP)

Phase 3: Outpatient treatment (IOP), sober living housing and aftercare

At Immersion Recovery Center we have successfully combined a traditional and effective 12 step approach to recovery with proven clinical and holistic therapy, offering the most integrated and successful addiction treatment programs in Delray Beach and available throughout Southern Florida. Our main priority is helping to restore physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being, ultimately helping clients stay sober for years to come.

Confronting Character Flaws in Recovery

If you do keep doing the same thing, you’re going to keep getting the same results. Character flaws can hinder your progress in recovery. If you ignore them, it can cause dissatisfaction, which could lead to relapse.

Here are a few things you can do to build awareness:

  • Be willing to do the work – Confronting personal character is far from easy. Most individuals who struggle with addiction also struggle with perfectionism to some degree. It is important to note that working through these flaws is not about obtaining perfection (which simply does not exist), it is about continued self-betterment and long-term success in sobriety.
  • Journal – Progress is a process. Keeping a log of your day-to-day is a great way to identify common themes and things you tell yourself, exposing things you need to work on. Looking back on your journal can also help you realize the progress you’ve made.
  • Meditate – Building awareness of how the mind directly affects your thoughts and behavior can teach you how to identify negative and self-destructive behaviors.
  • Practice the 12 steps – For many people, attending 12-step meetings isn’t enough. You actually have to learn how to live the 12 steps and put them into practice every day. While Immersion Recovery Center provides an in-depth introduction to the 12 step model of recovery, it is up to you to continue along in your personal program once clinical care has concluded.
  • Celebrate the small stuff – Any amount of progress, however small, is still progress. Recognizing even the most minor improvements builds self-efficacy and helps you understand that you’re capable of making change. Say you have been working on overcoming some pretty deeply ingrained resentments. If you are finally able to let one of your resentments go – celebrate that! Acknowledge the fact that you are making progress, and there is not much else you can ask for other than to move forward (no matter how slowly).

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Overcoming character flaws isn’t about wanting to be perfect. It’s about wanting to deal with less stress, feel happier and be comfortable with who you are–and that’s true happiness. If you have been suffering at the hands of a substance abuse disorder of any severity, we are available to help. For more information about how Immersion Recovery Center’s 12-step approach can help you overcome addiction and recreate the life you’ve always wanted, give us a call at (888) 693-1604 we are available to help you 24/7.


Reviewed for accuracy by :

Serving as the Inpatient Clinical Director at Immersion Recovery Center, Susan will work directly with staff members, clients, and family members to ensure the clinical program remains as effective and individualized as possible. Susan is no stranger to the fields of behavioral health and addiction. She has over 25 years of experience, working in an inpatient setting, an outpatient setting, acute stabilization and nearly all other settings in the realm of addiction recovery.