“We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.” –The Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, Step 4
“Making a searching and fearless moral inventory of yourself” is often thought to mean simply owning up to your faults and mistakes. Actually, that’s only part of it. We’re all multifaceted creatures, and if your self-inventory stops at making a list of your faults, you may conclude you’re a naturally “bad” person, a born failure. Not exactly the best footing on which to start a sobriety journey.
We can develop a better footing by considering that most of our life circumstances and personal characteristics fit one of the following categories:
- Things we need to do something about
- Things we need to learn to live with
- Challenges that are really blessings
- Things we can enjoy as they are
Besides dividing your self-inventory into those categories, try the following tips to maximize its effectiveness.
DON’T DENY YOUR WEAKNESSES OR BELITTLE YOUR STRENGTHS
Many people, when asked to list their strengths, reply, “I can’t think of any.” If pressed, they may “admit” their strengths in “if you can call that a strength” fashion:
- “Yes, I write good poetry, but there aren’t any career opportunities there.”
- “Sure, I do okay in finding innovative solutions, but it’s nothing anyone else couldn’t have done.”
- “Maybe I have a pretty face by some standards, but it’s never appeared on a magazine cover.”
And these are often the same people who insist “I can handle it” when struggling with obviously overwhelming workloads.
Whether listing strengths or weaknesses, strike all “buts” from the descriptions. You are what you are, and you don’t have to compare yourself to some theoretical standard.
CONSIDER WHAT OTHERS SAY
Not that you should automatically believe everything others say about you—if you did, your self-esteem would go up and down with everyone else’s moods—but sharing your self-inventory with a support-network partner will open your eyes to things you may not have recognized. Including places where you’ve been too hard on yourself.
DON’T FORGET YOUR INNATE TEMPERAMENT AND PASSIONS
Are you a people person or an introvert? A neat freak or a casual type? A lover of nature or a natural-born architect? None of these are good or bad in themselves (although they, or more often the frustration of suppressing them, can be the root sources of bad habits). They simply are innate aspects of the unique you.
If you need help here, any number of personality and interests tests (Myers-Briggs is among the best known) can be located through a quick online search.
ORGANIZE YOUR LIFE FOR OPPORTUNITIES
Once you recognize your strengths and passions, look for opportunities to use them:
- Volunteer work
- DIY or crafts projects
- Meetup groups and other clubs
- Adult education classes
- Shared activities with friends or family
The more time you give to things that truly suit you, the happier and more fulfilled you’ll become. And you’ll be too busy enjoying life to think about returning to drugs.
TREAT YOUR TIME LIKE THE TREASURE IT IS
If your first reaction to the previous section was, “But I don’t have any time to do what I’d like,” remember that the first step in making time is being committed to making it. Chances are, even without being drugged or hung over, you’re spending a lot of time on activities that are unnecessary or just plain useless. Probably due to secret thoughts of, “I don’t deserve to enjoy myself,” or “I’m too tired to do anything but watch television” or “If I don’t put in all those extra hours, people will think I’m lazy.”
The truth is, you’ll become more effective—and more confident—by spending more time doing things that fulfill you. And you are worth it. Once you accept those facts, you can make more time for doing what you love by:
- Delegating part of your work
- Having a set quitting time, and being prepared to leave unfinished work for tomorrow
- Giving up media viewing and online time to which you can honestly apply the label “mindless”
- Quitting groups and obligations you’ve stayed with from habit
REVIEW YOUR SELF-INVENTORY REGULARLY
Few things are permanent, and that includes much of what will be on your self-inventory. At least every six months, read back over it and bring it up to date. Congratulate yourself over habits that are no longer a problem and areas where you’ve made progress, and add any new strengths or interests you’ve discovered. Share your update with a good support partner.
Life has its changes and transitions. Keep a realistic—and positive—view of yourself through it all.