Ask an Addict is a column penned by Helena Paivenen, a Kamloops scholar with expertise in addiction issues and someone who is also an addict. The column is meant to inform and help. If you have a question you would like answered, email it to email@example.com. Anonymity is guaranteed.
Step 4 requires making a searching and fearless moral inventory.
Moral means looking at the “bad” things I did and who I had become.
When drinking, I acted totally out of character. I lean towards introversion and, when first drinking, I received praise from others for being so outgoing.
I was a quiet, shy and reserved teen who, in my mid-20s, became nasty and violent when drunk. I once grabbed a sharp steak knife and threatened to stab my 6-foot-5 linebacker-built boyfriend.
This is not me.
I rescue earthworms from pavement after a night of heavy rain. I cannot tolerate anything mean. I grew up not knowing violence, but this is where alcohol took me — abusing and being abused.
Inventory requires taking stock of character defects. The literature suggests we start by identifying/listing our resentments — with whom we are, or have been, angry. This anger can also include institutions, such as government.
I have heard many people claim they have no resentments, but with some reflection and time, these are usually unearthed.
After this list is complete (to the best of my ability, as more is always revealed), I examine what part I played in each and every situation and what character defect is revealed.
Was it pride, lust, jealousy, insecurity or fear? What am I insecure about — finances or not getting my way?
When looking at resentments, it can be difficult if it relates to past physical/sexual abuse.
In these circumstances, my part is often holding on to toxic anger and not letting go. This is the part over which I have control.
Underneath, anger is usually pain, hurt and fear. These are the real emotions I eventually uncover. If I am truly pressed and cannot find anyone or anything to list in my resentments, I then look at my life, who have I hurt and what have I done in terms of my conduct and behaviour.
When did/do I lie, steal or be/been deceitful or less than honest? Who do I dislike and why? What am I ashamed of and what would I change?
I take total stock of me in my life. Many react to the focus on defects, but I was not stellar when in my cups.
There is a lot of talk in the rooms about the need to inventory good characteristics as well as bad, but my good traits never made me use/drink.
In fact, our literature states we are egomaniacs with an inferiority complex.
When in active addiction (which does not always require being drunk or stoned — think dry drunk), I overinflated myself and my capacity so as to compensate for feeling less than.
It was not my assets that I drank over, it was my misery and pain. I often couldn’t face what I did, so I tried to deny or hide from it.
My good qualities, my assets, come forth by action and behaviour — not by mere recitation of them.
In the 12 steps, I get to be honest for the first time in my life. I get to take responsibility and accountability for who I am and who I had become.
This action of doing the right thing is what builds good character and, quite frankly, adult-like behaviour.
For the first time in my life, I face the truth. I no longer hide from who I am.
The 12 steps promise we will not regret the past, nor wish to close the door on it.
We learn that our shadowy dark side can be our greatest asset if we work the 12 steps.