Wednesday, April 20, 2011


                This year we have been looking at a new step of the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous each month to glean important directions to living a sober life.  This month, April 2011, brings us to Step 4.  Step 4 is all about honest and reflection.  It is about taking an inventory of our past life up to the present.  On the face of it, this seems like an easy task.  However, as we begin to put things into their proper perspective we may find we got more than we bargained for!
                Every business that wishes to succeed must conduct timely inventories in order to stay on top in the market place.  For example, if you sell shoes, it is a good idea to know how many extra pairs of shoes you have in your inventory so you don’t run out when someone requests the last pair.  Inventories let a business know exactly where they stand with the products they have and what they need to order to keep the business moving forward.  Perhaps, the same can be said of a personal inventory in recovery from alcohol and drugs. 
                The founders of the recovery movement realized early on that without full, honest disclosure of our past mistakes, addicts/alcoholics can never move forward.  Thus, Step 4 was created to help addicts and alcoholics get free from the junky inventory they have been carrying around for too long.  The step is easy to do but challenging as well.  It can be painful to look at the things they’ve said and/or done that they would rather abandon to the sands of time.  However, most addicts/alcoholics realize that this way of dealing with life is what got them into trouble in the first place!
                Common wisdom suggests working Step 4 with a sponsor or trusted confidant like a counselor or spiritual advisor.  Participants are encouraged to write down information under the following headings:  Fears, Resentments, and Sex Conduct.  We also record the words and/or actions we used to hurt other people.  Finally, we also write out a list of our assets.  This teaches the addict/alcoholic that they are not the summation of their past wrong words or deeds.  It imparts a sense of value to them that they also have good qualities that should be recognized and celebrated. 
                It is important to note that the purpose of taking an inventory is not about judging the contents of the inventory.  It is fact-finding mission.  It is not a rush to judgment, shame, and guilt.  All that will do is keep you bogged down in a sea of regret, remorse, self-pity and even depression.  Just be diligent in getting the important information down on paper or as a famous television actor used to say, “Just the facts, ma’am!”
                A personal inventory is an adventure.  It is filled with surprises, challenges, and even rewards.  If you are working the steps and have arrived at Step 4, let me encourage you to plow ahead and take the plunge.  It is worth the work and the effort.  Be serious and take inventory of your life up to this point.  Taking this step will free your present mind from obsessing over the wrongs of the past.  Finally, the information will be extremely valuable as you look to the future! 

Chris Newcomb - Aftercare Coordinator/Recovery Coach

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