Is Belief Alone Sufficient? Removing Emotional & Spiritual Poison Deepens Our Connection & Access to God

The beginning of humility and health is to understand that you were created by God and that you are not Him. Should any individual desire to get well, heal, grow in character and evolve spiritually, showing some deference to our Creator is not only the proper attitude to assume, it is imperative. The notion that everything good you do, that everything good you accomplish and that all of your blessings can solely be attributed to yourself and your greatness, and conversely that all failures can be attributed to something or someone other than you is what defines the mind and heart of a narcissist. Is it not pure vanity, let alone delusion, to take credit for everything good in your life?

The addict has lived a life of pathological self-centeredness. Pure logic thus dictates he or she must view self and life in precisely the opposite way. The process of written 4th Step inventory allows the addict to heal and procures for him full access to God. It is not enough just to believe. What good is it to accept Jesus and His Father only to continue living selfishly, to continue to live in sin, to continue hurting others, to continue indulging in one’s flesh at every turn? Belief itself is a commitment to change the way we think, speak and act… and if not, it is hollow and meaningless.

The following chapter from my book, “Anybody Can Take Steps” delineates in detail this process of exorcizing and expelling a lifetime of emotional and spiritual poison, accepting responsibility and becoming accountable for our entire lives. We create who we are and what we become. We are not victims and nothing outside of ourselves and our perceptions and reactions is to blame for how we feel and for the circumstances in our lives. We addicts must do one simple thing: Get over ourselves.




Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.


     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 and corrupting 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.

     Close relationships cause most of our resentments, especially those with our parents and spouses or x-spouses. Mom and Dad are in almost every case the first two people on our list. It’s easy to resent our parents because we care so much about what they think of us. We care about how they see us and we seek their approval. When Mom or Dad disapproved of who I am or what I was doing, or if they criticized or ridiculed some part of me, you can probably guess what my natural response used to be: defensive anger, underneath of which was sadness and shame. To avoid the discomfort of my feelings, I threw it right back at them, accusing them of the very same things. Perhaps I was aware on some level that what I did was wrong. Perhaps I didn’t do anything wrong but simply felt unheard and misunderstood.     

     Whatever the case, as the resentment grows, it began to warp my perception. I failed to see that I wanted something I didn’t get, that I wanted to be seen a certain way, that I was trying to cover something up and got exposed, or that some fear or shame of mine was triggered. Perhaps I was ignoring something I previously did to antagonize them, or perhaps I failed to see that Mom or Dad were just trying to protect me or teach me something and it came out the wrong way. Let’s say they did actually say or do something hurtful. Maybe I failed to see that they themselves were suffering and it wasn’t about me at all. Sure you can’t expect a kid to understand everything a parent might be going through, but we can go back and reassess what really happened. We can get honest about our own feelings and actions to see if our assumptions may have been off. Not everything is about us!

     One time my dad was on the phone with his sister, joking sarcastically that I did nothing with my life and happily leeched off of him. I fumed. It infuriated me… but it was TRUE. I was weak, depressed, insecure, and intentionally avoided my discomfort and responsibility by isolating and avoiding the world. Part of the ensuing resentment towards Dad was fueled by the deeper truth that I was a coward. Another part of it is that my dad was quite sarcastic on the phone, which I interpreted as him using my shame and low self-worth for his amusement. He wasn’t consciously doing any such thing, but because everything was somehow about ME, it solidified an enormous grudge I had towards him for years – that he never really heard, understood, knew or accepted who I was, and that he didn’t really care about me or how I felt inside. 

    By writing inventory, I discovered that Dad wasn’t trying to hurt me. For one, he was having a private conversation and I was eavesdropping on the other line, and whose fault is that? Two, I failed to see how HE might be feeling. Perhaps he was worried about me or about his own finances and our future. Perhaps he was expressing that fear indirectly and I chose to construe it as offensive. In fact, years later I discovered that my father was unemployed at the time and hiding it from us. As well, he was developing early-onset dementia and was anxious about money and our future. It is so easy to make false assumptions about others, assumptions that mold our point of view – the way we see others and the way we react. The point is that we have to see where other people are coming from. What might they be going through? What are their true intentions? 

     My sensitivity was also characteristic of my life-sucking depression, the conditions of which led to a very unhealthy sort of narcissism. We who are depressed are pathologically or hyper-focused on self and it becomes a self-fulfilling loop. The depression feeds the narcissism and the narcissism feeds the depression. Inventory helps us to expand our view of the world around us so we do not see ourselves as a victim, as the only one suffering out there. It prevents us from thinking that the world owes us something because of the way we feel. The world owes us nothing. 

     People generally have some very old and well-cemented patterns of thinking and behaving. If we have been ridiculed as a child or had no stability growing up, we may develop a guilt complex or a pattern of self-doubt. We may even resent others for being annoyed by the doubt in our tone of voice, as the guilt practically creeps out of our pores. The truth is that we are only mad at ourselves for not being able to communicate confidently or straightforwardly with others. We are unable to say what we mean. We are passive and indirect. We beat around the bush, expecting people to read our minds. We do this because we fear being rejected for who we are. We are afraid to be honest. Imagine that. 

     This sort of scenario is typical with both addicts and codependents, and unless we know why others are responding to us negatively, we will constantly be frustrated and hurt. Ironically, we usually have no idea how we come across, and sadly, this lack of self-awareness leads us to project our flaws onto others. Feeling misunderstood by nearly everybody, we become bitter and cynical and even begin to judge or criticize others in much the same way mom or dad ridiculed us. That is how we become our parents, which happens so frequently that it has become a cliché.

     My parents weren’t perfect, and I doubt if anybody’s were. I was shamed and misunderstood at times. I was also made fun of horribly all through elementary school, but should I blame any of that as the reason I became an alcoholic? Sorry, nope. To state the obvious, the booze didn’t crawl its way up my throat and pour itself down my throat. I chose to drink and use drugs because I wanted to drink and use drugs. In fact, I loved drinking and using drugs. That was my solution for life. I wanted to feel comfortable 24/7, even if it came at the expense of others, let alone my own well-being and sanity. 

     So long as we continue to blame our parents, we won’t get better. Even if we don’t believe we mold ourselves into who we are voluntarily, what’s the point of blaming our parents when nothing they do can fix us or change the way we perceive things? Even if they begin to love us in the exact way we’ve always wanted to be loved, the skewed frame of mind and worldview we have developed over time can only be undone by us and us alone. I know it doesn’t sound fair, but when push comes to shove, it is our own responsibility to heal the damage that has already occurred, regardless of who or what is to blame.  

     Next to Mom and/or Dad, spouses usually come next on our list, and why not? Intimate relationships can be a hot, sticky mess, especially down the road when we have children and are left with little or no time at all to nourish ourselves or pursue our hobbies and passions. As we temporarily lose ourselves, our most challenging parts begin to surface and when the going gets rough, we are faced with the question of whether we truly accept these parts in each other and if we truly love the person we are with. Matters of the heart are complicated and confusing, and the dynamics are easily misunderstood. We often resent our spouses because 1) we know them so well, as they do us, and 2) we have expectations of them. When we cannot reconcile their respective flaws or quirks with what we want from them, we cop resentments at will. I used to resent my wife simply for suffering. How ridiculous and deranged is that? Very much indeed, but I came to see that my experience wasn’t so novel, that many of us resent others just for suffering, and sometimes just for existing. 

     So why did I resent my wife for suffering? Because it took me out of my comfort zone. As well, I didn’t get the attention I wanted. I would do things for her and expect her to notice me and thank me. I resented her because I expected a certain reaction or result. I expected her to be happy and present, or at least not to suffer so much and bring me down with her. Can you believe it? It is quite unloving not to let the person we supposedly love suffer. Why am I unable to comfort her by showing some patience and compassion? By writing inventory, I found answers, and I came to understand that it wasn’t about me at all.     

     Relationships will get quite ugly and confusing if we develop resentments based on false assumptions and then leave them unattended. This is how we lose respect for one another and eventually stop loving them. This is how we start bringing out the worst in each other instead of the best. This is how relationships end. It is not because of our failure to work on the relationship, but our failure to work on ourselves. If we want to save our relationships, we don’t go to couples therapy to “work out” the superficial annoyances we have with each other. These are but reflections of underlying individual problems, so to heal a relationship, we must work on ourselves individually and as a result of individual change, the relationship heals. This is why couples therapy is often such a disaster and accomplishes little or nothing at all. The health of the relationship is a direct reflection of our inner health, and thus changing ourselves is the best chance we have to change the world around us. Trying to change the other person is fruitless and will only lead to defensiveness, divisiveness and more resentment.

     Along with our spouses, we often make false assumptions with much of the world around us. The guy who cuts you off on the road might have been rushing to the hospital for some emergency, as opposed to purposely trying to annoy you and be a jerk. We personalize the actions of others when they have nothing to do with us. We do this because it helps us to avoid taking responsibility for our feelings and reactions. “Well, if someone did that to you, you’d get angry, too…” is a typical response to justifying and rationalizing road rage, but that is not so true. Plenty of people don’t flip out when someone cuts them off. Why? Because they’re okay inside.


     So we have a lot of work to do. We have to write resentment, fear and sex inventory. If possible, try to write it out by hand, so go get a fresh notebook and some pens. Let’s begin with resentment inventory. Following this breakdown, there are several diagrams filled with examples.

     The first set of instructions is to make a list of every person, institution (place) or principle (idea, norm, moral, status quo, etc.) that you’ve ever resented. Yes, you heard that right – every person, place or idea that you’ve ever resented in YOUR ENTIRE LIFE. Just a list of names. One way to make sure you remember everyone is to start with your immediate family and move outward from there (mom dad, brother, sister, grandpa, uncle, friend, x-spouse, colleague, bank, annoying jerk at the coffee shop, etc.). This list we refer to as the 1st column of our resentment inventory. 

     Once you have your list, the 2nd column instructs us to list each specific resentment we have for every name on our list. These involve specific things that were said or done to us, things that were said or done to someone else, or some general quality or trait we resent. You may have several for each name, so you can list them alphabetically.

     Mom    a. Used to laugh on the phone with her new acting friends.

     b. Asked me if I was high when I was 11.  

     c. Had me committed when I was drunk one night.

     d. Thinks I should be medicated.


     Continue on until you get to double alphabet – aa. bb. cc. dd. etc. Again, a good way to remember everything is to start with your earliest resentments and move up through your life from childhood into adulthood. The 2nd column is where you get to unload, so let it out! Get angry. It’s your inventory, so unearth and uncork everything. Release the spring and blow the doors wide open. The more resentments the better, because remember, each one is a chance for us to heal and change. It may be the pettiest thing that saves you, so don’t underestimate the value of seemingly ridiculous resentments. Don’t cross it out, even if you don’t really care about it anymore. Even if it was just the annoying lady at Dunkin’ Donuts who charged you .35 for an extra cup. Yes, that was on my list. 

     The 3rd column instructs us to list the ways in which each of our resentments affected us. Did the resentment affect our Self-Esteem (SE)? Our Pride or Ambition (P/A)? Our Personal or Sexual Relations (P/SR)? Our Security (SEC)? Our Wallet/Pocketbook ($)?

     Sometimes people confuse or interchange self-esteem with pride. Our self-esteem can be equated with our self-worth. When something affects our self-worth, it effects how lovable and adequate we perceive ourselves to be. Self-esteem is related to pride but pride has more to do with our ego and self-image. Say I resent the guy who managed to fool me he was a heroin dealer and then ran off with my money. This affects my pride because my ego tells me I’m some tough guy who never gets ripped off, and then there I am being made a fool. Compare something like that to, say, when my mom told me she thinks I should me medicated. This affects both my pride and self-esteem but primarily my self-esteem. It cuts deep at how I feel about myself as a person. It gets me to question my normalcy and therefore my sense of adequacy and worthiness. 

     We also combine Pride with Ambition because it is our pride or ego that drives our ambition. Our ambition is what we want to do, what we’re trying to achieve or accomplish, so if the resentment is, for example, towards the school director that fired me, it will affect my ambition. Regardless of whether I wanted to stay at the job or not, getting fired takes the control away from me and also affects my reputation. If getting fired had repercussions and prevented me from moving up and getting some other job in a related field, the resentment will have most certainly affected my ambition.

     As far as Personal and/or Sexual Relations go, some of our resentments will probably affect one or more of our relationships, even indirectly. For example, the resentment toward my boss who fired me also caused stress and tension in my relationship with my wife at home, as she became concerned with my next paycheck. As well, we may resent a girlfriend or boyfriend for leaving us or cheating on us, and needless to say, these resentments will affect both our personal and our sexual relations. Finally, if we have a resentment towards a parent (or someone we look up to or seek approval from) for repeatedly ridiculing or patronizing us, it may also effect our sexual relations indirectly. Anything that damages our sense of adequacy or lovability may hinder our ability to have intimate relationships. In this sense, the resentment affects both our personal and our sexual relationships.  

     Security refers to our physical security and ability to survive – the roof over our head, the clothes on our back, the food on our table, our physical safety etc., so if one of our resentments is toward our parents for getting divorced when we were young, it will affect our sense of security as we begin to worry where we will live and if everything will be stable. Same with a resentment towards a company for firing us or towards the thief who stole from us. We may worry about how we will continue to pay the bills and rent. Any resentment that affects our sense of stability, predictability and ability to survive will affect our Security.

     Finally, resentments that affect our wallet or our pocketbook are self-explanatory. The guy who ripped me off outside of the projects affected my wallet, just as the addicted child or spouse who may have stolen your jewelry, credit cards, or money from your pocketbook. Such events usually run the gamut and affect everything from our pride to our self-esteem to our relationships and to our money.

     Once our first three columns are complete, the REAL WORK finally begins. The 4th Column instructs us to answer four questions about each individual resentment that we listed in our 2nd Column. To put this into perspective, I had about 2,000 individual resentments, so that’s 8,000 answers I had to dig for, as these are no easy questions. So for each specific resentment, we ask ourselves how we were Self-Seeking, how we were Selfish, how we were Dishonest and what did we Fear? If we are honest and contemplate deeply, we will discover the truth about how we ourselves in fact caused or birthed the resentments. The good news is that embarking on (and completing) this 4th Column is what diffuses the power and the burden of our respective grudges. 

     Self-seeking is, of course, seeking a self, so in trying to discover our self-seeking, we can ask ourselves: How were we trying to look or be seen by others and/or by ourselves? The caveat is that generally the way we want to be seen is NOT the way we truly are. So if I want to be seen as a tough guy, the truth is that I’m probably a coward. 

     Critics of this process assert that we are engaging in self-deprecation and blame, but that is not true. It is human nature to be self-seeking, to care about how we look and how we are seen by others. Discovering and admitting this aspect of past events is simply an exercise in honesty, and the clarity we achieve helps vanquish resentment. It’s not necessarily wrong or evil to be self-seeking, but left unchecked, it will contort the way we see things, and when it gets out of control, we become lost in image and self-absorption. Believing that others see us, for example, as beautiful or brilliant or tough or invincible convinces us that we are somehow special and unique from the rest of the human race, and needless to say, that is not a healthy place to be.

     Let’s talk about self-seeking more practically as it relates to our inventory. Say I’m a young teenager trying to impress a girl at school and then some cool guy saunters down the hallway with his cronies and makes fun of me, cackling away. They embarrass me, I turn red, the girl laughs and it’s a total disaster. I walk away ashamed, but later become angry and resentful of the cool guy and his gang of jerks. I’ve “copped a resentment”, but part of it was caused by my desperate desire to be seen by the pretty girl as a cool, handsome stud. Instead, I was shredded by these jerks. Moreover, perhaps I am normally shy in front of her but was feeling confident and charming that day until cool guy rained on my parade, adding insult to injury. So instead of being seen as confident and charming, the girl sees me as a loser… or perhaps I just see myself that way. Either way, I feel embarrassed, self-conscious, inadequate and uncool. Suddenly the image of confidence I was projecting is gone and the pretty girl instead sees my shame and vulnerability. 

     When we aren’t seen the way we want to be seen, we cop resentments towards those who prevented us from the self-image we wanted to project. See how that works? By writing and reading inventory, we let go of the need to seek a self, and when we no longer care about how others see us, it can prevent the accumulation of resentments. Self-seeking is a form of torture as we always have to worry about our image and persona, but by uncovering and exposing it, we realize how ridiculous and fruitless it is. When we stop caring about how we are seen, we can save our energy and stop trying so hard, and that is a recipe for inner freedom. That is how we engage in the process of letting go, making this somewhat ethereal concept more real and attainable.

     Next we ask ourselves how we were being Selfish. Try to dig deep for this one, for while the answer may be simple, sometimes it is much deeper or nuanced and requires some hair-pulling. However, 4th column migraines are well worth it if they produce successive epiphanies. Some guiding questions are: What did we want? What were we trying to get? What were we trying to keep or protect? What were we unable to see – about the situation, the other person, or ourselves? Perhaps we made a false assumption about the other person and misread them entirely. Perhaps we knew they were going through some tough times of their own but instead took it personally. Perhaps we wanted to stay in our comfort zone and someone interrupted us. Or perhaps we simply wanted something that we didn’t get. Remember that it’s not necessarily bad or wrong to have selfishness. We are simply trying to get honest with our part in past events in order to rid ourselves of toxic grudges. It also mitigates our own degree of selfishness by expanding our view and teaching us that it’s not just about us. We are all human and suffer just the same.  

     Let’s go back to the case of trying to impress the girl in school. I wanted to impress her and win her attention. That was my selfishness and it was unmet. Because I didn’t get what I wanted, it became fuel for the ensuing resentment toward the cool guy and his pack of jerks. Again, I’m not bad or evil for wanting to impress some girl, but I did fail to admit or take into account my own expectations and desires when placing blame for my feelings of shame and bitterness. Do you want to hear something amazing? After reading my inventory, those 2,000 resentments I owned for so many years suddenly vanished into thin air. I stopped caring, and that is proof that it was me and me alone who caused, fueled and maintained this acidic pile of emotional filth. 

     Sometimes our selfishness is more opaque. As noted in our guiding questions, perhaps it lies in being unable to see something about the situation or the object of our resentment. If someone lashes out at us, we automatically assume it’s about us, but what if he or she is under extraordinary stress? What if the crazy driver is speeding to the emergency room? When we step back to breathe and assess a situation with some patience and understanding, we can forgo the reaction. Finally, we can ask ourselves if there was something we were trying to keep or protect, such as our pride, self-esteem, or maybe a secret we are keeping? If somebody robs us from that, we may end up resenting them.

     Next we ask ourselves how we were being Dishonest. Guiding questions can include: Did we or do we do the very thing we resent? Were we purposely avoiding some truth about the other person (or place) that enabled us to cast the blame on them and away from ourselves? Were we avoiding or omitting some truth about ourselves? Were we dishonest at some point in the past and it’s now coming back to haunt us? Say we resent a spouse, parent or colleague for randomly lashing out at us one day, but is it really random? Have we forgotten the hell we may have put them through week after week, month after month, year after year, and now they are finally fed up and retaliating? When we dig a little, we find that our resentment contains dishonesty. We cannot dismiss our own conduct when assessing our resentments and the justification we sell to ourselves for harboring them. We cannot dismiss the lies we tell ourselves. 

     Perhaps we were avoiding an emotional truth. We often choose to avoid confrontation to avoid the discomfort associated with confronting someone, but this may catch up with us. Say a colleague at work said or did something that hurt or upset us, but we chose to ignore it. We see them a few days later, omit our true feelings, pretend everything is okay and act congenial, but inside things are not okay at all. We have something to say to them but we avoid it because confrontation is uncomfortable and we are afraid to stick up for ourselves. Plus, they cannot read our minds and may be totally unaware of what they have said or done to hurt us, so they move right along. We spare no time copping a resentment towards their callousness and indifference, but was it not our fault for pretending all was well when it wasn’t? Acting friendly with someone who we feel hurt by is dishonest because that’s not how we honestly feel. How often do we avoid the truth just to stay in our comfort zone?

     Another example is when we feel slighted by someone but they weren’t actually trying to slight us at all. Every time I see a particular relative of mine, he always asks me if I’ve lost weight. I’ve since copped a nice little resentment towards him, but what if he’s just asking to be nice or to make conversation? Heck, someone else might not care at all or be quite flattered by such a comment, but I personally happen to be insecure about being too thin because it reminds me of my old, emaciated, disgusting addict self. Gaining weight and filling out for me has been sort of a rejection of the addict body image, so the truth is that my own insecurity birthed this resentment. Moreover, I’ve never told him it bothered me but instead answered politely, which is dishonest on my part. I’m not being straightforward about my feelings. Do you see? Once again, I alone birthed the resentment, and it’s the same with all the rest.

     Think about it for a minute. If we are truly okay with ourselves, we don’t resent others when they say or do hurtful things to us. Achieving clarity and peace within gives us immunity from the poison of resentment, and that’s why we do this work – to be able to let things go before they begin eating away at us.  

     Finally, we address our Fear in causing the resentment. We ask ourselves: What we were afraid of? What did we fear? Did we fear rejection? Loss? Abandonment? Did we fear what others think of us? Did we fear looking stupid, weak, ugly, insecure, depressed, angry, mentally ill, etc.? The list is endless. I resented my father for his illness and depression but then discovered I was afraid of becoming him. I was also afraid of loving him for who he was. In the case of the kids who ganged up on me in front of the pretty girl, I was afraid of rejection. I was also afraid of what they and the pretty girl thought of me. If some event elicits one of our fears, we end up resenting someone for making us uncomfortable. However, it is wrong to believe that the kids caused me to feel rejected. It was my pre-existing fear of rejection that materialized during or following the event. Do you see?

     Let’s look at some examples. I’ve selected various resentments from my own inventory, both specific events as well as general stereotypes that reflect recurring patterns in my own thinking and behavior. I sincerely hope they are more helpful than irrelevant or distasteful. I’ve also formatted my columns horizontally due to spatial limitations, but normally columns would be vertical. One thing you can do is to use the left or backside of a notebook page for the first three columns and the right side for the 4th column. Needless to say, the format is less important than the work itself, so feel free to write everything out in a way that works for you. I’ve also added some additional commentary, so don’t be alarmed. There is no need to go on and on about every little aspect. The commentary is purely for educational purposes, but rest assured, our answers need not be long and drawn out. Short and sweet is just fine.

1st Column – The person, institution or principle I resent.

J’s little brother. (I was 8 or 9 years old at the time.)

2nd Column – The specific resentment I have.

a. Stood below his deck looking for everybody so I could hang out with them and he pissed on my head. Everybody laughed.

3rd Column – The parts of me it affects.


4th Column – How I was self-seeking, selfish, dishonest & fearful.

*Self-Seeking: I am (wanted to be seen as) cool.

*Selfish: I wanted to hang out with everybody.

*Dishonest: I knew J and my cousins were hanging out alone, but I sought them out anyway.

*Fear: I fear rejection, being left out, and missing out.

1st Column

‘Cool’ kid/bully from elementary school.

2nd Column 

a. Made fun of me incessantly all throughout elementary school, and embarrassed me during the sleepover in front of the girl I liked.

3rd Column


4th Column

*Self-Seeking: I’m cool and I’m ‘in’ with the cool crowd.

*Selfish: I wanted to impress the girl I had a crush on.

*Dishonest: I wasn’t myself, saying things and pretending to like things that the cool kid liked just to be accepted.

*Fear: I fear rejection, being left out, and missing out.

1st Column 


2nd Column  

a. Think I should be medicated.

3rd Column  

SE, P/A, P/SR, 

4th Column 

*Self-Seeking: I am perfectly normal. And sane. 

*Selfish: Unable to see that my parents weren’t trying to insult me; they want me to be happy and healthy and don’t know what else to do.

*Dishonest: I knew I was depressed but resenting my parents helped me to avoid taking responsibility for my mental health. 

*Fear: I fear being seen as weak. I’m afraid depression will disable me from living up to my full potential.

*Note: I was also afraid to be honest with them, but there is no right or wrong here, only varying depths of honesty. When we dig deep, we find the truth that has eluded us for years, and that truth is like a beam of light pouring into our minds and hearts. 

1st Column


2nd Column 

a. Made fun of me when I was paying guitar and singing a song I wrote.

3rd Column


4th Column

*Self-Seeking: Um, wait a sec, you didn’t know I was a musical genius? 

*Selfish: I want to be recognized and ‘picked up’ for my talent to serve my vanity and ego. 

*Dishonest: The truth is I don’t take myself seriously. I believe in my talent but do nothing about it. 

*Fear: I fear the world will never know what I have. (So it’s not about my friend. His laughing triggers my own frustration that I don’t pursue what I really love to do.)

1st Column


2nd Column 

a. Gets anxious sometimes.

3rd Column


4th Column

*Self-Seeking: I would never get anxious like that, especially now that I’ve taken Steps and found God. 

*Selfish: I want him to be relaxed and free from anxiety because it stresses me out and takes me out of my comfort zone. I want to control the way he feels to suit my needs or agenda.

*Dishonest: I know he has been working hard on himself and cannot control it, but I tell him it’s all in his mind and to go meditate. 

*Fear: I’m afraid to love unconditionally.

1st Column 

L group leaders. 

2nd Column 

a. Didn’t include me in a commitment they set up at a local prison.

3rd Column 

SE, P/A, PR 

4th Column 

*Self-Seeking: Are you kidding me? I know this stuff inside and out.

*Selfish: I want to be recognized for what I’ve done in recovery and for what I know about recovery.

*Dishonest: I am selective or partial with others sometimes.

*Fear: I fear rejection. I’m afraid of their opinion of me.

1st Column 

Local treatment guys.  

2nd Column 

a. Never asked me to work with them on anything and only asked me to guest speak after donating a pile of money. Cliquey. 

3rd Column 

SE, P/A, PR 

4th Column 

*Self-Seeking: I should be running this place.

*Selfish: I wanted them to ask me to feed my ‘recovery ego’ and self-esteem and less because I really wanted to work there and deal with them and their cronies all day long.

*Dishonest: If I had my own treatment center, I would want to control every aspect and run it my way, too. Their arrogance reflects arrogance in myself. 

*Fear: I fear rejection and not being seen for what I do. I fear losing my spiritual health.


     Notice a pattern developing? We should begin to see common themes in our inventory – common ways in which we are self-seeking, selfish, dishonest and fearful. Let’s look at a few more.


1st Column 


2nd Column 

a. Railroaded me and wrongfully fired me. Narcissist.

3rd Column 

SE, P/A, PR, SEC, $ 

4th Column 

*Self-Seeking: I am a hero. 

*Selfish: I want people to know the truth to feed my pride and ego. I want to be recognized and respected for the work I’ve done. 

*Dishonest: I was too straightforward at times. 

*Fear: I fear rejection and not being vindicated. I fear losing money.

1st Column 


2nd Column 

a. Unbelievably selfish. Wrecks our house, backs up the sewer, lies about alcoholism and smokes butts after begging her not to because a) it’s in the freaking lease, and b) my wife is pregnant and stressed about the health of the baby.  

3rd Column

SE, P/A, PR 

4th Column 

*Self-Seeking: I am a shining pillar of responsibility. 

*Selfish: I wanted her to get better just to protect my investment and eliminate the stress and agony she caused me, not because I really cared about her recovery.

*Dishonest: I had total and utter disregard for other people’s stuff, feelings, lives, property, you name it… and I didn’t usually feel bad about it either.

*Fear: I’m afraid to lose money.

1st Column

Credit Union.

2nd Column 

a. Harassed me to collect the debt I owed on my car loan.

3rd Column

P/A, SE, PR, SEC, $$

4th Column

*Self-Seeking: I am a model citizen, and um… do you know who I am? 

*Selfish: I wanted my insurance company to compensate me for my totaled car so I could pay my loan off. 

*Dishonest: Forget about the fact that I totaled my brand new car after eating ten Klonopin and getting behind the wheel, the truth is I never filled out the vehicle inspection report and my comprehensive insurance was cancelled fair and square. 

*Fear: I fear being poor. I fear debt and legal trouble.

1st Column

Teenagers driving by my house. 

2nd Column 

a. Stupid, entitled, ingrates who threw trash out of the window. Plus one kid’s hat was on sideways and elevated. That didn’t help. 

3rd Column

P/A, SE 

4th Column

*Self-Seeking: I would never do that because I’m so advanced and evolved. Plus I’m a tough guy. Nobody throws trash on my lawn.

*Selfish: I want to protect my pride by shaming the kids for their stupidity. I want others to act and think the way I do in order to feed my ego and self-esteem. 

*Dishonest: I take it personally not necessarily because I care so much about Mother Earth but because I don’t want to see the trash on the ground outside of my house. 

*Fear: I fear loving others. I fear my temper and the angst it causes me spiritually. (Either answer is fine.)

1st Column

Guy pretending to be drug dealer.

2nd Column 

a. Told me he could hook me up with a bag of dope and then ran off with my money.

3rd Column

P/A, $ 

4th Column

*Self-Seeking: I am a tough guy. Nobody steals from me.

*Selfish: I wanted to get high at any and all cost.

*Dishonest: I am just like him – constantly scheming, lying and manipulating people to get money.

*Fear: I fear confrontation and fighting.

     Next up we have Fear Inventory. Fear is not only a self-created illusion, but it can also be a form of selfishness if we avoid doing things we fear that might benefit self or others. When we allow fear to cripple or even paralyze us, we are of little use to others and to God, and sadly, we rob ourselves of our own dreams. While it seems as if something outside of us is responsible for eliciting the fear within, that is another common false perception. We create, fuel and maintain our fears by repeatedly avoiding things that make us uncomfortable. When we avoid making amends, for instance, the guilt and shame we feel turns into fear. Eventually, we avoid anybody who challenges us or sees through our phony shell. Fear begets more fear as we isolate, cower and settle for less. Finally, we become dependant and cease to think, speak and or act for ourselves, and that is not a place you want to live.

     Fear is primarily self-created and occurs when we stop being true to ourselves and choose to avoid life. We are social creatures by nature and need each other, so avoiding the world is not the way to become strong and recovered. Isolation will surely lead to our demise, as it does nothing but fuel the flames of depression, anxiety and self-loathing. For addicts and alcoholics, it is crucial not to isolate. We must get out into the world, work hard and interact. More importantly, we must never shy away from those who are honest with us and command our respect, for they are our true friends. Finally, we must never avoid those we have harmed. 

     While cultivating fear within is selfish on its face, it is our fear-based decision making that produces a negative ripple effect, as we refuse to do things that might be good for others such as public speaking or helping someone individually. Untreated fear pushes us to mitigate or try to numb our negative feelings by using drugs, food, sex, or perhaps abuse our power and our ability to hurt and manipulate others. Fear drives young people to lash out, fight for empty causes, have children irresponsibly, and then give up their children for adoption or inflict their own immaturity, ignorance, laziness, anger or selfishness onto them through abuse, neglect and indifference. You may think teenage parents are just clueless, but they’re also terrified because they don’t understand anything about themselves or the world around them. What happens when they have to face reality, find a job, buy baby food, pay the bills, and remain patient and grounded when the going gets tough? What happens when the familial handouts or the social programs stop flowing? Young people are under the illusion that free stuff actually exists and that they are entitled to it, but what happens when entitlements are re-defined or stop coming altogether? What happens when they realize they can’t just do whatever they please? How will young people respond to fear and terror when it hits them?

     These are important questions for young addicts to contemplate as they write inventory and move forward. Our recovery is not just about healing, but it is about making good, responsible decisions and navigating the chaotic world with some maturity and humility.  

     So when we write our fear inventory, our task is to uncover what lies underneath them, to discover WHY we really fear what we fear. The process of fear inventory is one of digging. In our 1st Column, we are instructed to list every ‘Fear’ we’ve ever had. In the 2nd Column, we ask ourselves ‘Why?’ we fear each thing. In the 3rd Column, we dig deeper and ask ourselves ‘Why do we really?’ fear each of these things. Finally, in the 4th Column we ask ourselves ‘How or why it is selfish? to fear these things. Fear inventory is fairly self-explanatory, but here are several examples to get you going.

Fear Why? Why Really? Why Selfish?
Spiders. Freak me out. Make me act like a wimp. Kill them so I don’t feel uncomfortable.
Public Speaking. Makes me self-conscious. Takes me out of my comfort zone. I avoid it even when it may help others.
Becoming Dad. Scared of depression. Scared others will see my depression. Time spent worrying about it is time not spent loving/ helping him.
Being poor. Dread not having comfort. Have to work, be responsible Cripples me from working.


     If you are burnt out after writing a lifetime of resentment and fear inventory, don’t be, because now we have to write our Sex Inventory. Needless to say, sex can be both wonderful and destructive. Excessive and meaningless sex can rob us of our vital or creative energy (known as ‘qi’ or ‘chi’ in Eastern medicine) thereby amplifying depression and lethargy. More importantly, sexual misconduct can hurt others deeply and cause longer-term damage. Whether we are manipulating others for sex, taking advantage of them, or even turning to sexual aggression and violence out of cowardice or inadequacy, this sort of behavior can have profound effects on the soul and must be washed clean. 

     Sex is a matter of the heart, and therefore sexual misconduct can have ripple effects we may not be aware of. We write sex inventory to become aware of these effects, and to eventually make amends to those we have hurt, so long as they do not cause more harm than good. We must also be careful going forward from here so as not to use sex as a drug, or worse, to manipulate people. 

     In our 1st column of sex inventory, we ask ourselves ‘Who did we hurt?’ In the 2nd column, we ask ourselves ‘Who else did we hurt?’ In the 3rd column, we answer (briefly) ‘What happened?’ and in the 4th column, we ask ourselves ‘What should we have done instead?’ Let’s look at a few examples.

Who?  Who Else? What Happened? What Should I Have Done Instead? 
Foreign girl in college. Her husband. Had sex with her repeatedly, knowing she was engaged. Not flirted with her at lunch and invited her back to apartment. 
Girl I used to party with in Boston. Her parents, as she went home heartbroken. Feigned my feelings to use her for sex.  Left the bar alone.
My buddy’s girlfriend. My buddy. The girl’s mother, who picked her up drunk from my house in the middle of the night. Dropped off friend at airport, bought a case of beer, and took his girlfriend home to mess around.  Taken her home and just masturbated or something.


     Once our inventory is complete, or rather, once our 4th Columns are complete, we have finally done some work. We have gathered the pile of spiritual poison that has built up over years of giving our power away and/or doing the wrong thing to self or others. Left unchecked and in tact, this poison is like an active volcano, subject to bubble over at any point. When we lose our balance, act out, isolate, or go off the deep end, it is the direct result of unfinished business within. It is a message that there is something we need to deal with, whether internally in the form of a resentment, or externally in the form of some amends or outstanding issue that needs our attention. 

     Thoroughly unearthing our lifetime of resentments, fears and sexual misconduct and then fearlessly searching ourselves to expose our own responsibility in them is an enormous and righteous task. It shows a willingness to change and become rigorously honest. It shows that we are willing to walk through fear and evolve. It shows we are willing to give back and spend some of our time thinking about other people. Miraculously, this task will also bring us indescribable relief and potential catharsis. You will see in the next couple of Steps that reading our 4th Step inventory can actually elicit temporary rapture, not that this is the point of taking Steps, but it does reflect the sheer power and mystical effects of this process. 

     Trust me, when you embark on the Steps or any sort of spiritual work, you are dealing with a power beyond human power, with a realm we cannot see, hear or touch. This is heavy stuff, so don’t toy with it unless you’re going to go all the way… but if you do, the rewards cannot be measured. You will learn how to let go, which translates into a lifetime of inner peace and freedom.  

     *When we have fearlessly and thoroughly written all four columns of our entire lifetime of resentment inventory, fear inventory and sex inventory, we have completed the 4th Step.

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