Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

There are a lot of things we do in recovery to stay clean. This can look different for everyone and there’s not one single blueprint that works for all of us. For some, it’s the twelve steps, for others it’s a different type of recovery program or therapy, and some may choose to forgo a program altogether and just abstain. But in our experience, one thing that’s more or less paramount to our recovery, particularly those of us who are true-blue addicts or alcoholics, is taking a fearless moral inventory. And, while the concept of taking a moral inventory comes from the twelve steps, it doesn’t need to be structured this way for those who stay clean outside of a twelve-step program. 

Taking a moral inventory is probably the most daunting aspect of our recovery as well because it forces us to look at how our way of thinking has historically been, in essence, flawed. And while there are always exceptions to the rule, most of us in recovery have a lot of introspective work to do in order to unpack why our instincts have gone so astray. Usually, this involves looking at how our childhoods and our past experiences have shaped our thought patterns. This tends to reveal the truth behind our addiction. In the end, it can really be the most powerful – and empowering – step in the recovery process. 

One thing that tends to be common among those of us who struggle with addiction is a propensity toward blaming other people and circumstances for the things that trouble us in our lives. It almost always feels easier to shift the blame and not take responsibility for our own thoughts and actions. The problem with this mindset, however, is that it keeps us shackled. If we can’t admit the flaws in our own thinking, we’re never going to feel empowered to make positive changes in our lives because we’re always letting others pull the proverbial strings. So, we begin. We march forward and begin taking a good, hard look at ourselves, what causes us emotional pain and discomfort and why, and in what ways we are responsible. And, once again, it doesn’t have to be done the twelve-step way, either, but some form of moral inventory can be profoundly beneficial to our recovery. We find that pen to paper is a great way to start.  

Start by collecting your thoughts – try making a list of people, places and things that you resent (i.e., “my wife”, “my co-worker”, “tax collectors”, etc.) This gives you a good jumping-off point so you can eventually move forward and determine why these things have troubled you in the past. The idea is that once you face these resentments head-on, you’ll be able to uncover what’s causing the underlying fears in the first place so that, ultimately, you can release them. 

Next, try to determine why you’re angry at these people or situations (i.e., “my wife: she pays more attention to our kids than me”, “my coworker: he/she got the position I wanted”, “tax collectors: took my money”, etc.). Hopefully, you get the idea here. Sometimes, the logic behind why these situations are troubling to us can sound trivial when we write it down, but identifying the “why” is what ultimately helps us move through this stuff. You’ll then want to determine what part of you is impacted by these situations, for example, your self-esteem, your ambitions, your financial security, etc. 

Finally, it’s important to look at what your own part is in all of it. This is the hardest part for most of us because it forces us to stop blaming others for our own pain. While this doesn’t mean that we must allow other people to treat us poorly, it does help us to see how we’re responsible for setting our own boundaries. It also starts to show us that we truly do have a choice in terms of how we let situations impact us, along with who (and what situations) we choose to allow into our lives in the first place. Recognizing that we have these kinds of choices means that we ultimately have control over our reactions, and there’s a lot of freedom in this. It enables us to begin cutting the cords that we imagine are controlling us. 

Taking a fearless moral inventory is one of the most powerful things we can do on our recovery path. It enables us to understand our addictions better, and why we think the way that we do. While our negative thought patterns aren’t necessarily going to disappear, gaining the self-awareness that comes with an inventory can help us to monitor our thinking better. This way, when we react in a certain way to certain situations, we can recognize where that thought pattern stems from. Even though we can’t rewire our brains overnight, we can create an environment for ourselves where we’re not as likely to be triggered. We can also make a conscious effort to keep our side of the street clean by being open and honest in our relationships, and setting healthy boundaries. This can help us to avoid resentments down the track. Last, we must always remember that feelings aren’t facts. We may not be responsible for that very first thought that enters our minds, but once we’ve done the self-reflective work, we are responsible for that second thought. In other words, we can choose how to respond. 

Kembali Recovery Center

Discreetly nestled amongst picturesque rice terraces on the outskirts of beautiful Ubud, Bali, Indonesia, Kembali Recovery Center offers world-class inpatient recovery. They also offer a Recovery and Beyond program for folks who may already have some time in recovery but looking to address some deeper issues and take their recovery to the next level. If you or someone you know and love is struggling to get clean or could benefit from our programs in any way, please contact us today. You never have to do this alone. 

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