Early recovery for many of us was a bundle of confusion. We had been so full of denial and self loathing for so long that we didn’t have much of an idea of who we really were. To remedy this, we were urged by our sponsor and others to make a “searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.”
Some of us wanted to avoid this process because we didn’t want to have to confront our character defects. We felt it would be too painful to face the truth about ourselves.
One member recently spoke about it this way. She described looking in a mirror that was so smudged that she could barely make out her reflection. That mirror was her life prior to entering the program. Every smudge represented a character defect.
So what do we do when our mirror is smudged? Why of course we clean it with some Windex. For her, every time she worked on a character defect, it was like a spray of Windex removing a smudge on her mirror. As she progressed in her Fourth Step work, the smudges on her mirror slowly began to disappear. For the first time in her life she began to have a clear view of who she was. For the first time in her life she began to like that reflection in the mirror.
Personal Reflection: What smudges on your mirror still need to be removed?
Each of us could probably create a list of people that for some reason or other presses our buttons. Some people on our list would be obvious choices like our spouses, parents or our siblings. Then of course there are co-workers and acquaintances that also rub us the wrong way. All of these people do have one thing in common. They seem to say or take actions that get us involved in resentments, drama, and behaviors which are inappropriate. For many of us these transactions have been taking place for years and sometimes decades. We often angrily blamed these people for “what they did to us”.
Many of these same people took up ample space in our fourth step. As part of that process we have come to realize that we are not victims in this life. When a person makes an inflammatory statement or does something which is inappropriate, in that moment we have the power to make a choice. How we respond will determine how the rest of the transaction will go. If we don’t go after the bait, they may still escalate depending on how heavy a player they are. However at some point, if we continue to not buy in, they will change their behavior or go and look for someone else to “play” with. When that happens we have tasted emotional sobriety.
Personal Reflection: Do I still go after the bait?
A newcomer doesn’t need a sign around his or her neck to be identified as one. Usually they’ve taken a seat in the back of the room. They are the ones who often bolt out of the meeting as soon as it’s over. If they do stay for the meeting after the meeting, they often begin to assess the other people who were present. They might judge how a person dressed or spoke. The newcomer might also freely express his or her judgment about what was said.
Usually though, no one corrects the newcomer. Yes, it’s true, they are taking other people’s inventories. Experience has shown that if we criticized the newcomer, it might turn them off to the program. Even if they accepted our criticism, they really aren’t ready to grasp the idea of taking someone’s inventory. They probably would say they are just expressing their opinion.
As they gain some time, that newcomer will begin to take their own inventory. When they do so, their eyes will be opened as to their own character defects. They will learn that we need to keep the focus on ourselves. As they work on their fourth step, they will suddenly stop judging other and begin to keep the focus on themselves.
Personal Reflection: Do I still take other people’s inventory?