Why keep such a miraculous elixir in the dark, hidden from the rest of the world? Written moral inventory is a mind-opening and potentially life-changing tool that should not be exclusive to alcoholics and drugs addicts. The 4th Step has the power and wisdom to entirely shift our perception of self and others. As we reach new depths of honesty and clarity, the 4th Step combined with the 5th, 6th and 7th may even restore or dramatically alter our brain chemistry. How could it be? Because we are about to rid ourselves of a lifetime of resentment, fear, self-deception and the emotional turmoil that has fueled and maintained our patterns of thinking and behaving. Imagine exorcising years of baggage you’ve been lugging around and the effect that would have. Sure we can become ‘hard wired’ by our habits and our ways, but our brain chemistry is by no means static and can change at any time, especially when such an enormous amount of internal filth falls from you instantly. The potentially euphoric emptying out and shower of relief is something you do not want to miss.
In our 4th Step, we sit down and write resentment inventory, fear inventory and sex inventory to expel the emotional and psychological garbage that has piled up inside of us. We are human. Nobody is immune or exempt from anger, resentment, bitterness, frustration, judgment, projection, false assumptions, anxiety, fear, dishonesty, self-seeking and selfishness. Emotional or spiritual poison left unchecked can turn into a volcano just waiting to erupt… yet once dissolved, there is room to allow for something much greater and more powerful to come in and fill the void. The idea for addicts and alcoholics is to replace our addiction with something at least as powerful as the addiction itself, and the same goes for any other demon. Soft, fluffy, hollow remedies won’t work when we are powerless over something. We are going to need an engine with some real horsepower.
The problem with harboring resentment, fear and sexual misconduct is that they slowly rot us from within, eating away at our physical, mental and spiritual health. Resentment is like a psychic acid, slowly burning the soul and eventually destroying us with jade, cynicism and self-delusion until we wind up depressed and full of self-pity. It will convince us that we are somehow victims and that something outside of us is to blame for our woes, but despite the problems we may have, whether real or imagined, to blame anything but ourselves is false. The French philosopher, Jean Paul Sartre, once asserted that our “existence precedes our essence”. While we are certainly born with certain proclivities, traits and personalities, the idea is that we ultimately make ourselves into who we become, regardless of external circumstances. If I become a hero, I have made myself a hero. Conversely, if I become a failure, I have made myself a failure. Inventory teaches us this truth, but only if we are willing to find it and then accept it once we do.
The Big Book notes that resentment is the “#1 offender for alcoholics”, but one of the purposes of this book is to point out that resentment will crush anybody, addict or not. The secret is to realize that resentments are born within and therefore can be vaporized without anything outside of us needing to change. People tend to think the only way to dissolve resentment is for external circumstances to change, but that is not correct. Once a resentment grows within, its energy is there to stay until we ourselves change.
We cause ourselves to resent because it is often easier to blame others than to swallow our pride and feel the discomfort of personal responsibility. By nature, we tend to be selfish, ashamed, emotionally immature and ignorant, and it is up to us to rise above our more banal, lower selves. If we loathe or dislike some part of who we are, we often project that quality onto others, seeing it in them instead of ourselves. In doing so, we develop a false perception of events, thus clearing the path to resentment. We see events as acting upon us as opposed to creating or attracting the events to ourselves.
Even if we are wronged terribly by someone, the resentment that burns inside is still birthed and fueled by our reaction and response to the event as opposed to the event itself. No person or thing outside of us actually turns a switch and makes us feel, say or do anything, as we alone are responsible for our thoughts, feelings and actions. Not to realize this is one of the great human illusions, next to fear. It is therefore our responsibility to rid ourselves of the resentment, and the truth is that only we can do this, with the help of God. The beauty of this process is that when we see the light and gain the ability to let go of our resentments, we can forgive. Once we can forgive ourselves, we can forgive anybody, and that, my friends, is a recipe for freedom…
–Anybody Can Take Steps, pp.55-57