Taking Your Moral Inventory and Moving Past Guilt – Step 4

Man Suffering From Guilt Staring At Himself In A Mirror - Addiction Hope

Contributor: Mike Shea, President, Chapter Capistrano

man with mirrowOvercoming addiction is a process. Just as a person does not become addicted to a substance overnight, they should not expect to recover that quickly either. It takes time to delve into the nature of the problem, its causes and effects, and how to remedy these issues.

The twelve-step program outlined by Alcoholics Anonymous walks people through their recovery and helps them to better understand themselves, their addiction, and its impact.

Step four is often seen as the first action step. It involves taking a moral inventory of their life. It is easy to blame one’s problems on others. There are countless excuses that people use to justify their thoughts and actions. What is more difficult is taking responsibility for these things and holding oneself accountable. The decisions that were made were their own.

Getting Started on Your Moral Inventory

In taking a moral inventory, there are a few points to remember:

Be Honest:

One of the biggest things to remember is to be honest. You are the only one that will see your inventory unless you choose to share it with someone else. It can be hard to admit your shortcomings and wrongdoings, but it is only by doing so that you can begin to move past them and turn your life around.

Write it Down:

Wire desk tidy full of coloured pencilsBreak out the pen and paper and physically write down your list. It is not enough just to try to think through things in your head. Putting them down in writing makes them more impactful and allows you to really take stock in your moral inventory. It also gives you something tangible to refer back to. Keep your list in a safe place where only you will see it.

Dig Deep:

Put effort into your list and make it count. Don’t just write down the things that come to the top of your mind. Take time to think things through and really examine your resentments, fears, wrongdoings, and other issues.

Keep it Concise:

You don’t have to write a lengthy dissertation. Your inventory should be a list. Focus on the key points and experiences that have affected your life. Try to avoid unnecessary repetition.

Making Your List

It is recommended that you divide your inventory into sections that examine resentment, fear, sexual conduct, and harm to others. These sections are then broken down even further.

  • Who or What: Who or what is your resentment toward? It could be another person, a place, or an idea. You don’t necessarily have to feel anger toward these things, but rather they could make you feel threatened or hurt. The same goes with fear. What are you fearful of? There are endless possibilities. Follow these same ideas for each part of your inventory.
  • What Happened: Look specifically at each item you listed and consider why it happened or why you are fearful. This is another place where honesty is essential.
  • Why: Why were you affected or what part of your self was hurt? This could range from your pride or self-esteem to financial stability or personal relationships.
  • What Were Your Mistakes: What role did you play in the event that occurred? This can be tough to admit. Were you being selfish or dishonest? Were you inconsiderate toward someone else? Look at your own mistakes and shortcomings to see where changes need to be made.

This is the same general process for each section. Look specifically at who, what, and why in several contexts. This can seem daunting at first, but once you get started you will get the hang of what you are doing. Making your list can help you to get in touch with yourself and who you are. By seeing your wrongdoings written out and taking the time to realize them, you can take steps to prevent the same issues from occurring in the future.

Moving Past Guilt

young man at the beachIn writing and reviewing your inventory, it can bring about feelings of guilt about those you have harmed. Recognize that everyone makes mistakes. Everyone does things that they look upon later and wish they could change.

The point is that you see these shortcomings now and you are making a conscious effort to change them. You are not content to fall back into old routines and are instead building healthier, more productive ones.

Letting go can be very healing and motivating. Don’t let yourself continue to dwell on things that happened in the past. As you progress through the 12 steps, you will work on making amends and implementing positive changes in your life.

Now that you have taken a moral inventory, you can continue the recovery process and use what you have written to guide your way. Everyone’s list will be different, so don’t feel that yours is better, worse, longer, or shorter than anyone else’s. It is personal to you and your life.

About Chapters Capistrano:

Chapters Capistrano is a luxury drug and alcohol treatment center located in the city of San Clemente in Orange County, Southern California, with two beautiful ocean-view homes. Specializing in all types of substance abuse, Chapters offers flexible treatment programs that are designed to offer greater confidence in addiction recovery.

Chapters provides both traditional and alternative approaches to recovery in a comfortable setting with exceptional accommodations.

Community Discussion – Share your thoughts here!

What is your experience with moral inventory and step four? Were there certain actions during this step that added to your recovery? What advice do you have to share?

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of addiction. These are not necessarily the views of Addiction Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on June 2nd, 2015
Published on AddictionHope.com

About Baxter Ekern

Baxter Ekern is the Vice President of Ekern Enterprises, Inc. He contributed and helped write a major portion of Addiction Hope and is responsible for the operations of the website.