courage and believe rocks

Image courtesy of  BJWOK ,/

Yesterday, a friend asked me  how to do a 4th step inventory when most of the wrong [in her life] was done by someone else. As far as I know, this was the first time this person had considered applying these steps to her own life. I found myself having real trouble trying to answer that question in a way that made sense and was helpful to someone with little or no exposure to twelve step recovery. Therefore, I am going to try to answer that question more effectively in today’s blog. I obviously need to figure out the answer for myself!

The 4th step involves looking at character defects/shortcomings we recognize in how we relate to ourselves, others, and God.  Then we think about how these got started in our lives, what feelings or emotions seem to be at the root of them, and who or what we resent for the causative incident(s). We try to determine what “drive/defect/feeling” in us was associated with the resented incident/person. We look at the attitudes and behavior patterns that have shaped our lives—–not just our eating, drinking, gambling, etc.

However, when we look at patterns we often realize our own specific addictive behaviors or strongly linked to underlying problematic deep-rooted feelings or needs. We often eat or drink  (etc.) seeking comfort and/or escape from our painful or uncomfortable emotions (fear, anger, distrust, etc.).

A lot of our 4th step inventory is about discovering how we have harmed/hurt ourselves because of all of the above. For many of us, our 5th step “amends” are “living amends” to ourselves accomplished by living according to the guidance of program principles and/or our faith—–the change in our behavior and attitudes demonstrates our transformation/progress in recovery. Sometimes our living amends are the best kind to make to ourselves and others because actions speak louder than words.

It is also important to look at our assets when we take our inventory. Specifically, we can look at the attitudes, emotions, and behaviors that are the opposite of those that are the “defects” we’ve just inventoried. Acknowledging our positive assets—-or our progress towards them—-helps us realize not only the good in our past but the transformation that is taking place in the present as we practice recovery principles.

If we find ourselves wondering, “What do I do when it is others that need to make amends to me?” we are taking someone else’s inventory other than our own. The key is looking at our own lives from a holistic perspective and not just focusing on a specific action like how I hurt someone when I over ate or drank too much. That can be included in our inventory, of course, but hopefully, a holistic, in-depth inventory will explore and acknowledge much more. This is important because the drinking, eating, etc. is often a “symptom” of our underlying problem(s), and doing this type of in-depth inventory does a better job of acknowledging and working through the underlying problems.

By the way, these twelve steps are actually a “recipe for living” that can help anyone transform their lives. That is one of the reasons I talked about them at length in today’s blog. For more help understanding what character defects and program principles actually are, I would refer my readers to the 2nd edition of “Drop the Rock: Removing Character Defects” by  Bill P. Todd W. Sara S. and published in 2005 by Hazelden. God bless and keep you.