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12 Steps of Recovery | Step 4 - Taking Inventory

"Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves."

The goal within the first three Steps of A.A. is to get right with your Higher Power. In the last three blogs I showed how that process works and what it might look like on an individual level. The goal in the first three steps is not to define who and what God is, but to have faith, to have complete trust in something greater than ourselves. Whatever makes the spiritual journey whole for you, the individual, serenity follows.

Now that our spiritual journey is minimally in order, we can move forward in the Steps. In Step Four we seek to expose our character defects without fear for the inventory we uncover. It says in the Big Book we are likely to claim that our serious character defects, if we think we have any at all, have been caused chiefly by excessive drinking or substance abuse, and, that it logically follows that sobriety will remove these character flaws. However, recovery is much like a layered cake: if our alcohol and substance abuse are the icing on the cake, once removed, there are many layers to be addressed below.

One of the many categories to take inventory of is our resentments. The etymology of the word resentment originates from the Latin word "sentire" meaning "to feel". The word in whole, then, means "to feel again". In English the word is commonly associated with anger toward another. Therefore, when we experience the emotion of resentment we are bringing about old feelings of anger and directing them toward others.

As the Big Book says, resentments are personal liabilities that put our emotional and physical well being at a disadvantage. When we believe we have been wronged by someone we become angry. When anger goes undealt with resentment follows. This natural progression puts us at a disadvantage, especially for those consumed by drugs and alcohol, because once we believe we have been treated unfairly we may, in turn, use that negative energy to justify future actions.

For example, a boyfriend or girlfriend, husband or wife, abuses a relationship by having an affair. Anger immediately arises out of the situation and we blame our significant other for the pain we suffer from. In moments of anger it is difficult to reflect on what role we may have had in such a situation and often times seems insane to think that we could play any role at all under such circumstances.

What makes Step four so powerful is the searching for how we may have played a role in our significant other's actions. Maybe it was the case, that, due to our daily drinking and drunkenness, we stopped connecting with the people in our lives that truly matter. This lack of connectedness, then, might be correlated with the formation of our partner's resentments toward us and, in turn, he or she committed the act from which we suffer presently. The goal is not to excuse others from their hurtful actions, but to investigate our own failings in the situation.

Failing to take inventory puts us at a disadvantage because we are continually blinded to the reality of our own problems. In turn, our problems become everyone else's problems and we become unreflective of character defects that are in need of serious change such as our alcoholism and substance abuse. By taking inventory we open the doors to change, change that will eventually allow us to make wiser decisions in the future and avoid more of the suffering we may feel today.

Continue reading our series on a 12 Step Recovery | Step 5