I finished my Step 4 written moral inventory.
BIG. HUGE. SIGH.
It was painful, but tremendously cathartic. Most of what I want to write here, today, is just the logistics of my experience, what I did. Because in the beginning, I had no idea what I was supposed to do. I didn't know where to start, I felt like the outline in the manual was too ambiguous. So I reached out to a couple people who had completed theirs and then I just started writing.
First, I wrote a biographical sketch. I started at birth and included any relationship or event that popped into my mind. I just wrote, trying not to analyze anything, just to include things that I felt I either had residual negative feelings about, or that I felt demonstrated some kind of meaningful experience. As I wrote, I did start to notice patterns and themes in my life and my relationships. So in another document, I started making a list of my strengths and weaknesses, and recorded my reoccurring shortcomings there.
I wasn't satisfied with this, I wasn't sure I was uncovering everything I needed to. So I turned to this website: (shared with me by Scabs) http://www.step12.com/step-4.html
In contains four worksheets from the AA 12-step program to assist with the inventory. I only completed the first one because I felt like it was the one that most applied to me, and because by this time I was three months into this process. It was very helpful, and it gave me the opportunity to take responsibility for some grievances I have long held against people in my life, particularly people I love most. (Ironic, perhaps?)
After finishing that worksheet I had more information about myself to add to my list of strengths and weaknesses. So for the last few weeks I have just been contemplating the following paragraph from the aforementioned website:
"If you doubt that you have any problems -- just think back to the last time
that you felt restless, irritable and discontented. Remember when you got angry
- with your self or with another person. Remember the last time you were
disturbed. Remember the last time you had a problem or troubles. The last time
you felt uncomfortable and not at ease in a situation. What was it? Whom was it
with? What happened? "
Eventually it got to the point where the root of my discontent could be traced back to a handful of insecurities, weaknesses or attitudes. At this point, I felt like I was ready to be finished.
I don't share all this because I think I did it the RIGHT way. There is no RIGHT way, only the way that is right for you. I constantly fought the temptation to feel like I needed to be more thorough, write more, think more. But I realized this process is ongoing, and as I personally plan to have the 12 steps as a part of my life indefinitely, I know I will have more opportunites for self-reflection. After I had mostly completed my inventory, at group meeting we read Step 4 from the original manual for addicts, and that was also very helpful. (There is a list of questions on page 22 that I think I will use whenever I find myself "irritable" or "disturbed.")
Just in closing I want to share a quote that helped me stay afloat during periods of despair as I realized my own nothingness. (I apologize if I've shared it before, it's a personal favorite.)
"We can distinguish more clearly between divine discontent and the devil's dissonance, between dissatisfaction with self and disdain for self. We need the first and must shun the second, remembering when conscience calls to us from the next ridge, it is not solely to scold, but also to beckon."
"Come on over" my conscience says to me. "Here you will find that no matter your weakness you are still worthy of the atonement and the love of Jesus Christ."