The first time I took an inventory of myself, it was because I had to. I was in a treatment program. A judge had sentenced me there “for as long as it takes.” The treatment staff wasn’t going to let me out until I sat down and took a look at myself.
“A searching and fearless moral inventory” is what Step Four of Alcoholics Anonymous recommends. I was over- whelmed by the process. All I saw was this big blur of myself. I started writing about one small aspect of myself that I was able to recognize. Within minutes, I saw more. This inventory process took on a life of its own.
What was I aware of about myself that was a problem? What was bugging me most, the thing about myself I least wanted any other human being to know? What was the thing I least wanted to admit to myself? What did I fear and whom did I resent?
We were supposed to also inventory the good qualities about ourselves. I couldn’t find any of those.
“You’re persistent,” the clergy person at treatment said. I hung onto that asset for years. I thought it was my only good quality.
It’s an interesting phenomenon – how quick and easy it is to see qualities we like in other people. It’s also a snap to see what we don’t like in other people, qualities that we think they should change. Taking other people’s inventories is a breeze. Taking our own is hard work.
The year was 1982. My husband (at the time) wanted to go to Las Vegas. I wanted him to stay home, but I didn’t know how to express how I felt. About the third night he was gone, I felt that anxiety in my gut. I knew he was out of control, drinking again. I had a party planned for the next morning. I was throwing an open house for a neighbor graduating from college. Eighty people were due to show up. My husband was supposed to be home to help.
I didn’t clean my house. I didn’t prepare the food. I sat calling him in Vegas, dialing a number over and over again for eight straight hours. “What he’s doing is crazy,” I kept thinking. “What he’s doing is wrong and nuts.”
About ten o’clock that night, I saw the light. “Eighty people are coming to my home tomorrow, and here I sit, dialing a number that will not be answered? He might be out of control,” I thought, “but what I’m doing is crazy.”
Sometimes we need to take our own inventory to get out of an uncomfortable stuck place, to look at patterns and see what’s going on. Other times, looking at our own behaviors gives us the freedom to finally have and live our lives. Taking our own inventory doesn’t have to be a big gruesome job – although sometimes it is. Rather, it can be a way to stop pointing our finger at others and take responsibility for ourselves.