Ask An Addict: A Little More Review of Step 4 of the Program

Ask an Addict is a column written by Helena Paivenen, a Kamloops researcher with expertise in addiction issues and a person who is also a drug addict. The column is intended to inform and help. If you want an answer to a question, send it by e-mail to [email protected]. Anonymity is guaranteed.

Step 4 requires taking a thorough and courageous moral inventory.

Morality means looking at the “bad” things I did and became.

While drinking, I acted totally out of my character. I lean towards introversion, and when I first drank I received praise from others for being so outgoing.

I was a quiet, shy, and reserved teenager who, in my mid-twenties, would get mean and violent when she was drunk. I once grabbed a sharp steak knife and threatened to stab my 6-foot-5-inch boyfriend built by a linebacker.

It is not me.

I save the earthworms from the sidewalk after a night of heavy rain. I cannot tolerate anything bad. I grew up knowing no violence, but that’s where alcohol drove me – abuse and be abused.

The inventory requires an inventory of character defects. The literature suggests that we start by identifying / listing our resentments – who we are or have been angry with. This anger can also include institutions, such as government.

I’ve heard a lot of people say they don’t have any resentment, but with a little thought and time these are usually found out.

Once this list is complete (to the best of my ability, as more is always revealed), I examine what role I played in each situation and what character flaw is revealed.

Was it pride, lust, jealousy, insecurity or fear? What am I not sure about myself – finances or am I just having trouble coping?

When looking at resentments, it can be difficult if they relate to past physical / sexual abuse.

Under these circumstances, my part is often to hold on to toxic anger and not let go. This is the part over which I have control.

Below, anger is usually pain, pain, and fear. These are the real emotions that I finally discover. If I’m in a real rush and can’t find anyone or anything to list in my resentments, then I look at my life, who have I hurt and what I’ve done in terms of conduct and behavior.

When have I / have I lied, stolen or been / been deceptive or less than honest? Who do I dislike and why? What am I ashamed of and what would I change?

I take a total balance of myself in my life. Many react to the emphasis on flaws, but I wasn’t stellar in my cups.

There is a lot of talk in the bedrooms about the need to take inventory of the good and the bad, but my good traits never made me use / drink.

In fact, our literature asserts that we are selfish with an inferiority complex.

In active addiction (which doesn’t always require being drunk or high – think dry drunk), I over-inflated myself and my ability to compensate for feeling less than.

It was not my strengths that I was drinking, it was my misery and my pain. I often couldn’t face what I was doing, so I tried to deny or hide.

My good qualities, my strengths, are manifested by action and behavior – and not by simply reciting them.

In the 12 Steps, I can be honest for the first time in my life. I come to take responsibility and responsibility for who I am and what I have become.

This action of doing the right thing is what builds good character and, quite frankly, adult behavior.

For the first time in my life, I am facing the truth. I no longer hide from who I am.

The 12 Steps promise that we won’t regret the past, nor want to close the door on it.

We learn that our dark side can be our greatest asset if we work the 12 steps.


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About Rhonda Lee

Rhonda Lee

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