Step Four: We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
Note: Every month, I dedicate a post to one of the steps of Narcotics Anonymous. These posts are by no means intended as extensive exploration of recovery. They are merely brief expression of my strengths, hopes, and experiences culled from my ongoing journey toward recovery.
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Enlightenment is not imagining figures of light but making the darkness conscious.
— C.G. Jung
If you followed my article last week, I tend to view moral development as unfolding shifts of consciousness moving from “me” (egocentric) to “us” (ethnocentric) to “all of us” (worldcentric). recovery from active addiction has been an aspect of my unfolding as interconnected human being.
So far, we have explored what I call the “Recovery Cha Cha Cha” — the first three steps that serve as the foundation to recovery and freedom from addiction. In Step 1 (click here) I was confronted me with the major contradiction in my life: how I managed to feel powerful when, in fact, I was powerless and needed help. Step 2 (click here) challenged my grandiosity. I have heard it said that addicts are egomaniacs with low self-esteem and I couldn’t put it any better than that. My low self-esteem pushed me to inflate my ego, but all I ever felt inside was emptiness and feelings of worthlessness. Finally, Step 3 (click here) helped me come to the realization that my efforts at control were in actuality ways in which to sabotage myself. Ultimately, I can only take responsibility for myself leaving the rest to my Higher Power, however I defined it.
Step Four took me a awhile mostly because I didn’t want to do it. I was afraid. I mean, I did a lot of fucked up shit in my life — especially towards the end of my active addiction. I took a lot. I was a taker. I became the kind of person that would steal something from you and then helped you look for it. My thinking was so fucked up that I could rationalize stealing toys from underneath a Christmas tree. I used (and was used) by women. I kid around that I was a former pimp and technically, I was. But I was no pimp, believe me. I used to like to say that I was a “broker for sexual services.” As much as the word is used today, it’s nothing to be proud of. What I was — I was an addict. Period.
Who the fuck wants to look at that shit?
I stole, but I stole more than property. I stole affection and trust and used that to feed my addiction. Perhaps my story is extreme, but let me ask: how many of us have stolen affection? How many of us have manipulated and controlled in order to feel better about ourselves?
Luckily, I had some great people around me in my early recovery. Quite a few of them are no longer with us, and my post today is dedicated to them. They helped me recover in spite of myself, because I was (still am?), one dense mothefucker. To me the idea of a moral inventory was both scary and filled with contradiction. However, after having taken those first three steps and applying them to the best of my ability, I also knew I was still carrying a lot of shame and guilt about my past. My actions had clearly not been moral by any measure. It came to me that I needed to look into the shadows and to uncover those deep dark secrets or risk losing my recovery. By the time I had one year clean, I knew I wanted freedom from addiction more than anything in my life.
I took the advice of my sponsor and decided to write out my inventory. I used several different 4th Step guides and my inventory was extensive (me being the perfectionist I am). What I saw when I did my 4th Step were behavior patterns.
All around. Everywhere.
For the first time I saw that I fell repeatedly into the same patterns and this revelation was largely liberating.
The 4th Step gave me the gift of self-knowledge. By compassionately reviewing in detail my fears, desires, thoughts, motives, and actions, seeing how they often created wreckage, I was better able to uncover the secrets that were killing me. Some of you may have tried this with a therapist. I had also. However, what made this moral inventory different was the foundation of the first three steps because those steps became the foundation upon which I was able to vanquish fear. What I saw underlying my habitual patterns was fear. Without the foundation of the first three steps, my moral inventory could’ve easily devolved into self-blame and my shadow side would’ve eventually sabotaged my efforts.
Because I was living the principle of the Third Step, I was able to let go of my fear and tendency to judge. I realized I was powerless to change my past, but that I was accountable for now. Eventually, my Fourth Step gave me courage along with insight. And to a lesser degree, having faced myself with as much honesty as possible, I was able to lessen the fear and the shame. There were no more secrets, and more was being revealed.
The 4th Step was a draining experience for me. Sometimes, when things seem their darkest, it’s difficult to see the positive in your life. It was difficult for me to acknowledge the positive in me. I lived as a phony, showing only the parts of myself that I thought were good. I lived between the secrets, engulfed in the shame, exploitation, and abuse of my addiction and the good parts of my public persona. I felt like a phony about my public self because people did not know the real me. When I finally faced the addict in me, my addiction became my teacher and helped me uncover the goodness in me. I had to come to the realization that I was strong, enduring, clever, and willing to risk even in the throes of my addiction. All these were qualities the addict in me stole in order to grab at the illusion of being all-powerful.
The addict in me was that same entity that stole from me and then pretended he was helping me look for these qualities. I learned that all those qualities were mine and that they were available for me in my recovery.
My name is Eddie and I’m an addict in recovery…