As the philosopher George Santayana said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Conducting a personal inventory can be a useful way to acknowledge what you have been through, and help you plan your happy, healthy life. Reflecting on the past can be very hard and bring up memories you wish would stay away. However, going through this personal inventory with unflinching honesty will help you identify negative habits and avoid doing them in the future. By examining your past, you can break the cycle of addiction and start a better future.
There’s a reason why making a “searching and fearless moral inventory” of yourself is Step Four in the 12-Step Program. It is difficult to face our mistakes and flaws without defining ourselves only by those mistakes. Approaching your personal inventory in a balanced way will help you get through the process, and your treatment plan will likely find the best way for you. If not, or if you are revisting Step Four, the National Institute on Drug Abuse recommends you ask yourself the following questions:
1. How does my addiction affect me?– physically, emotionally, spiritually, financially, in terms of my self-image, etc
2. How does my addiction affect those around me? – at home, at work, financially, in social situations, as a role model for children, with regard to the safety of myself and others, etc
3. What character flaws in me feed my addiction? – insecurities, fears, anxieties, poor self-image, lack of confidence, excessive pride, controlling behavior, anger, and others? A character defect is defined as, “qualities of your personality that may impede recovery from addiction or decrease your quality of life.” These qualities may have been present before your addiction, and in some instances, may have contributed to your addiction. Other qualities may have emerged as a result of the addiction.
You may also want to add one other question:
4. What character attributes strengthen my recovery? – hopes, beliefs, dreams, changes, personal strengths, self-awareness, self-acceptance, acts of love, kindness, and generosity?
Your personal inventory will help you take responsibility for your actions, accept yourself for who you are, identify changes you wish to make, and promote self-awareness. In order to be effective, however, you must be thorough and completely honest.
Examining yourself so closely can be tremendously difficult, especially when you do not like what you see. This process of self-scrutiny, however, moves you closer to recovery and further away from addiction. It also enables you to envision and pursue a better life. While the personal inventory has a specific place in the treatment and recovery process, it is not a one time only event. It can be incredibly helpful to take a personal inventory on a regular basis. How often you do so depends upon you and your specific needs. The personal inventory can serve as a way to check-in with yourself and provide moments of clarity. You will be able to chart your progress and see what changes you have successfully made.
You will identify areas to focus upon, but you will also discover things about yourself that you like, and in some instances, treasure. By reviewing where you have been, where you are, and where you would like to go, you will be able to remain in recovery and move towards an even happier and more fulfilling future.