Sep 24, 2013 | By Tim Powers

What Does Taking Inventory Mean? Why Is It Important?

12 Step Recovery

taking inventory

We hear about inventories in relation to recovery in the fourth step of the Twelve Steps.  In that step, we are told that we need to make a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.  In relation to its position in the Twelve Steps it makes sense.  In order to take that honest and truthful look at what has accumulated in that storeroom in our soul, we first need to see that our lives up to that point was rendered unmanageable by our addiction.  Once that is accomplished, we need to look for guidance and direction from sources outside of ourselves.

The first three steps are on obvious starting point to cleanse the soul of the hubris and filters that distorted and blinded us to the truth of our actions.  When it is time to open the door and flip on the light switch to that proverbial storeroom of the soul, we need to see without prejudice what the total cost of addiction has wrought.  That first glance is surreal…the width and breadth of the end result is overwhelming.  The accumulation of debris as the result of our addictive behaviors, at first, is almost too much to bear.

When performing that moral inventory, the obvious inclination is to dive in and try to take care of everything in one fell swoop.  Flailing blindly will only cause more clutter and confusion because there is no acknowledgement, accountability and most of all no plan.  When dealing with the moral and spiritual in early recovery, there needs to be that heartfelt acknowledgement that you were creator of the chaos and that you hold yourself accountable for your actions.  Owning that clutter will start the process of cleanup and healing.

There will be frustrations for sure.  The sum of those actions and behaviors while in the grip of our addiction is far reaching.  It can be akin to a spiritual hoarding.  We look upon the substance of choice as the one thing to fill those holes in our lives and to provide an escape mechanism.  The debris left behind looks random and without rhyme or reason but within that seemingly unorganized mess there are layers of emotion and history that can be peeled back to uncover the root of who we are.

Uncovering that truth is the scariest part of taking our inventory.  We are afraid of seeing what is deep down in the reservoir of our soul because what lies beneath provides the mechanisms for our actions.  Uncovering the truth can bring forth pain, regret and remorse and that pain can cripple across all realms: the physical, the mental, and the spiritual.  While the prospects of performing this type of archeology can be unpleasant for the recovering person, there are two things to keep in mind.

As it is with life itself, recovery does not have a time table or finish line.  Recovery is an ongoing and fluid process that can take many roads.  As one makes that inventory a person can only take on one thing at a time, have understanding of that problem or defect, resolve that problem or defect and move on to the next one.  There can be frustration because we expect an immediate and permanent result.  Taking and inventory and working on ourselves is spiritual exercise—we get stronger if we work on our weaknesses while keeping in mind our strengths.

Secondly, we don’t have to do this alone.  While we need to do the heavy lifting, we have the support of family, friends and our fellow recovery community.  If we feel overwhelmed we have a sounding board to hear us out and we have a shoulder to lean on and the wisdom of those who are experiencing the same thing.  Having those networks are crucial because we cannot do this alone and we cannot practice a meaningful recovery in isolation.

2 responses to “What Does Taking Inventory Mean? Why Is It Important?

  • Tim have ever taken an inventory? When you title a lecture it helps if you answer the question. Why is it important to take an inventory. This is were we find that a life lead by self will leads to failure. In every example we discover what part we had it our resentment we say or were shown what we could have done differently and we discovered the exact nature of our wrongs. With out this leveling of pride we would not be able to continue with our reconstruction. Your approach appears to be politically correct but off the mark. I wonder what treatment center sobered you up

  • Alice Sullivan

    6 years ago

    I always say I am not a bad person trying to get better , I am a sick person trying to get well.
    Taking an inventory is for us to see the positive sides and the good nature’s as well..
    We want to rid ourselves of the parts that sabotage and hurt us and other’s

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