Many ethicists will point out that most people have to capacity to believe that what they are doing is right and good. This means that they often have problems doing something like a "moral inventory."
Bill W. belonged to a school of thought that one did not repeat when writing, so in each of Steps Four through Seven, we have four different expressions for the same thing: moral inventory, wrongs, defects of character, and shortcomings. Of these, none has an immediate definition, and all four together tend to the vague.
So what are we to do? There is one word which has a clear definition, and I am going to start with that. The word is character. We have two aspects as human beings. We are more or less born with our personalities. We develop our characters. Character becomes the sum of our habits of life, habits of the heart. Obviously, one character defect we all share is compulsive eating. It started as a habit, at least, and then became an addiction over time.
But addiction brings with it a whole array of behaviors. Behaviors that are harmful to ourselves or others. Behaviors that sabotage our efforts to be well, to live well, to have healthy relationships, to have good health, even. In many cases, there are patterns of these.
Having come to believe that GOMU can help us when we have been unable to help ourselves, we are now asked to change our behavior. And the first step in that is to see what our behavior is. Hence, the inventory, whether moral, immoral, or just plain sick.
In the First Step questions, numbers two and four already have touched to an extent on this inventory. They were:
2. Have you ever starved, purged, used laxatives, stolen food, stolen money for food, taken food out of the garbage, eaten food that was spoiled or spoiling, lied about what you ate? Write down some instances that illustrate what you have done.
4. Name several other ways in which your life is/was unmanageable? How are things with your finances? Your relationships, including sex? How neat is your house, your desk or office? How well do you keep your person, your clothes, etc.?__
Many of you gave some very honest, if unflattering answers to these questions. What we need to do in Step Four is to take this kind of honesty to the highest level we are capable of reaching.
For example, many admitted that we had stolen food or money for food, that we had often lied about that or about what we had eaten, etc. In our relationships with significant others as adults, we often were withholding, afraid, etc. Most of us were slobs, with a few exceptions.
So we know that we have some moral defects:
1. We are thieves.
2. We are liars.
3. We are controlling.
4. We don't care much about the disorder in our lives because our lives are so disordered.
But this is only a beginning. Most of us harbor much resentment, and often have problems with expressions of anger, We rage, lash out, too much. Or sometimes we may just meekly accept garbage from other people as our due. Many methods of moral inventory start by trying to deal with resentments, where they lie, how we express them, what seems to trigger us, etc. That Isn't a bad place to start, either. Another thing is fear, anxiety, whatever. We are afraid of people and situations that we need not fear. Naming our fears is good, too. Naming them by itself may help.
You may make a chart like the Big Book method. You may use the OA Workbook. You may use some "proprietary" method, some of which are very good, I will say. But the main thing is to get down on paper, on in the word processor, a list of behaviors that demonstrate the negative realities of our lives, the bad habits we have acquired as a result of being addicts. It is perfectly permissible to list our strengths or good points, too. Knowing these may help us to realize that we are not totally, or even primarily evil people!
I will ask some questions, and I will give my answers. You are not really being asked to post your answers, as such. You will be required by Step Five to share this list with God and one other human being. This person may be whomever you desire. It could be your sponsor, your therapist, your religious leader, your best friend, your -- well, even a stranger on the train.
I hope that you will feel like sharing something of the nature of your work, if not all the gory details, with the loop. Much as you did in the First Step. I think it will help us all to see that we are not alone. Just remember that publicly you should not reveal anything that might cause harm to yourself or others. I said harm, not shame. We're all ashamed of some things that need to be brought to the light, whether on the loop or to that individual we have chosen.
A word about Step Five, since that is something we all have an eye on. Let the person you pick be one that is shockproof and who will not cast aspersions or blame. When I hear a Fifth Step, I just listen, and if it is written to me, I delete it after reading. I know I am shockproof, because there is nothing you can imagine that I haven't heard. Blame and shame from someone are something you do not need to tolerate, and you don't really need to do to much of it to yourself, either. After all, we are going to remove these "defects," and that is heroic. Few people ever manage to change their lives as much as someone who has true recovery from an addiction. And you are on your way to that recovery.
It is necessary for us to get rid of the behaviors that have kept us enthralled to our addiction. Or else we won't get rid of our addiction.
1. A saying:
The goal isn't to do a successful inventory. The goal is to dig to the deepest levels of self-honesty. --Anonymous
What does this mean? Can you see yourself doing this?
2. Are you willing to go forward and complete your inventory? What would keep you from doing it? Why do you think we have this step?
3. What method of doing the inventory have you elected to use?
4. Do you know who you are going to share your inventory with in Step 5 yet?
5. When you ask God for guidance, does this help you to move forward?
6. The loop is not a place to publish our specific peccadilloes, but we may gain some helpful insights into our behaviors that we can share with others. Please do so, if you can:
Honesty was not a long suit for me in the beginning. All addicts are in denial, and in order to maintain denial, we have to lie to ourselves and others about what is going on in our lives. I was no exception. I can lie about how much food I eat. I can lie about where it got it (stolen, in some cases, or the money for it stolen or misused to buy it). The more I got honest, the more recovery I seemed to get. Today, I hope to be as completely honest as I can. Without honesty, openness, and willingness, I cannot recover.
2. I hope to complete my inventory shortly. I have already done some of it. This step is the beginning of a process of several steps that will enable me to clean up my life so that I don't need an addiction to live it.
3. I am going to used the OA Workbook.
4. I will share the findings with my sponsor. We have a good relationship of several years duration.
5. When I ask God for guidance, I find myself in a different space, one where my deceits and denials are not doing me any good any longer. God already knows my defects, so any dishonesty is with me. I pray that I can be true to myself, as well as true to my Higher Power. With a Higher Power, I can make the attempt to stand beside myself and look at myself from a new perspective, and maybe see some of the things I need to see.
6. More as a result of Step Ten, I have come to the conclusion that my food plan was in need of some serious modifications. I had not modified it in some years, and here I was growing old, with a slowing metabolism. My weight was gradually creeping up a little. Had I allowed this to continue, I might well have relapsed. Fortunately, I faced my fears of changing the plan that had worked so well for me for so long, and did what I had to do. In a short space of time, I have lost the few pounds I had gained, and am a lot healthier. I learned that as I age, I will need to realize that my food plan is not set in stone, but needs to change as my body changes. My fear of changing something that has been good for me in the past had to be faced down. Why was I afraid of this change? I think that my food plan had become a sort of sacred cow to me. It had become to a degree the definition of abstinence, because it had worked for so long. God showed me that a food plan is just a tool, and can be changed when I need to. Fear can be about even good things!