The Truth About Yourself

Psy“Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves” is the 4th step used in anonymous recovery groups for compulsions that range from alcohol, narcotics and gambling to overeating, workaholic behavior and the recovery group I am active in, Codependence Anonymous.

The first time I encountered the words “searching and fearless moral inventory” they spooked me (more than that… they scared the crap out of me!). The fear was of the unknown for so much of my past behavior was buried so deep within me I was not even sure what all was there. I felt deeply ashamed, but was uncertain exactly why.

The majority of people never get involved in a 12 step recovery group, but EVERYONE could benefit from doing a 4th step (Inventory) and the following 5th step that boils down to Admitted …the exact nature of our wrongs.

Going through the inventory and admission process then beginning to let go of the regret we poison our self with is one of the best self-care efforts that can be made. Yet, most don’t do it for the very reason I didn’t for decades: fear and not wanting to face the truth. My personal experience was I had previously made a mountain out of a molehill. Yes, inventory and admission was difficult for me but far, far easier than I had imagined. The good I got from the process was and continues to be life changing.

Many newcomers to the Steps feel dismayed when they first see this (5th) Step. It’s bad enough, they think, that the 4th Step requires them to beat themselves up for all the bad things they’ve done . . . but now the 5th Step says they must shame themselves before someone else so he can beat them up, too! How can I do that? they ask. What purpose could such torture possibly serve?

Such doubt and dismay are understandable, even reasonable, given such mistaken ideas about the nature of the Steps. It’s important to understand that the 5th Step is not about wallowing in guilt and shame over our past behavior. Instead, it is a practical and effective means of reconciling ourselves with the past and finally putting guilt and shame behind us where it belongs. It’s also a critical step toward restoring our battered sense of honor and self-respect.

We will never really be at peace with ourselves until we are completely, whole-heartedly okay with who we are-and that includes being okay with who we were and what we have done in the past.

Only by revealing who we really are can we become the same person on the outside as we are on the inside.

From my vantage point there are two ways of getting to the process outlined in the 4th and 5th step of recovery: 1) great need and courage or 2) great pain that allows us to do nothing else. Most people, including me, take the plunge for the second reason that is outlined well in the quote “When the pain to stay the same exceeds the pain to change, we change”.

Today I think of each of the 12 steps kind of like having a cavity in a tooth filled. Until I do, what is wrong with me will continue to get worse and worse, hurting more and more as time goes on. While getting a filling is not my idea of fun, it’s not that bad either. Same is true for the steps. Not painless, but far less so than I originally though. Getting to feel better about life and myself makes it worthwhile just like a trip to the dentist is.

My gratitude today is for all the goodness and positive growth that has come my way since getting into Codependence Anonymous ( ) six years ago. Saying it has been “life changing” is vastly inadequate to describe the personal renaissance and growth that has come. To CoDA and my brothers and sisters in recovery I say thank you with a humble mind and grateful heart.

If you do not tell the truth about yourself
you cannot tell it about other people.
Virginia Woolf