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Step 4: How to (Really) Make a Searching, Fearless Moral Inventory

Working through the 12-step program is part of a holistic healing journey. Regardless of your spiritual beliefs, the 12 steps are designed to guide you through your recovery from drug or alcohol addiction, to lasting sobriety. Step 4 of the 12-step program is to make a searching, fearless moral inventory. This is one of the most challenging, and one of the most important, steps.

An Inventory is Just a List

You’re not trying to change anything with your inventory. You do need to be thorough and honest with yourself as you work through your list. Remember that your inventory is for you and only for you. Write it down, to make it tangible. As you write, don’t worry about how it will look to anyone else. The main goal in making a searching, fearless moral inventory is to help you gain a better understanding of yourself during treatment.

Your inventory is a list of your resentments, fears, guilt, hate, and hang-ups. It is more a list of your reaction than of what actually happened. A moral inventory deals with feelings, both good and bad. Think about your embarrassment, fear, or guilt. Record where you were at fault and what it is about it that hurts you now.

The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions reads, “Since Step Four is but the beginning of a lifetime practice, it can be suggested that we first have a look at those personal flaws which are acutely troublesome and fairly obvious. Work on getting to the root of the big problems now. Dig in and let the pressure begin to ease off.”

The Importance of Honesty

Honesty was an integral aspect of Step 1 in the 12-step program. Continue to be honest with yourself about your addiction, understanding that recovery can begin when with one simple admission of being powerless over alcohol or drugs. You have to be honest with yourself throughout the 12-step program and throughout your recovery process.

Although the 12-step program originated with Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous also provides some helpful information and guidance as to how to really make a searching, fearless moral inventory. NA emphasizes that Step 4 calls on you to be searching and fearless. You are asked to look carefully at yourself and to get beneath the self-deceptions you have used up to now to hide the truth from yourself.

Search within, as if entering a dark house with a single candle to guide you. Move ahead, despite your fear or resistance to the unknown. You need to be willing to illuminate every corner of every room of your mind as if your life depends on it, because it does. What you are searching for is a complete and total picture of yourself.

This requires honesty—honesty to examine your behaviors, feelings, thoughts, and motives, regardless of how unimportant they may appear. Your self-honesty is most important since it will lead you to discover how your disease has affected your life. Throughout your addiction, you have operated with a distorted self-image, never fully looking at the whole picture all at once.

What Does Moral Mean?

The NA guide explains that morals are simply values, the principles that you choose to live by today in your recovery. Each person possesses their own internal values. You may choose to define good as that which has the power to bring out the best in you and affirm your recovery and to define bad as that which has the power to bring out the worst in you and works against your recovery.

Even in your active addiction, you had morals – although they may have been vague or undefined. In situations where you felt bad or thought that something was wrong, it was most likely because you compromised your morals or were unable to uphold them. When you came to that understanding, you saw how the steps fit together. You began to see the exact nature of your wrongs. That meant more than just the wrong things you did. It meant looking beneath the wrong thing you did, to the nature of that wrong.

A Fearless Search

Step 4 is a freeing process as well as a healing one. You can be fearless and write the truth as you write your moral inventory. Your inventory is a process of discovering how your character defects bring not only you, but also others, pain and discomfort. It also highlights how your new life in recovery is one that can bring you serenity, comfort, and joy. Out of the Fourth Step, you can discover those things that get in your way and those things that work for you.

Contact Makana Path for Intensive Healing

At Makana Path, we help you through a successful recovery from your addiction to drugs or alcohol. As part of the intensive healing process, we work through the 12 steps at a pace that will help you establish a strong foundation for your recovery. We are open to help you during COVID-19 and are taking every possible precaution to make sure the coronavirus outbreak does not affect your ability to get treatment for your addiction. To learn more about our 12-Step Intensive Program, contact Makana Path today by calling 1-866-313-0978.