Disclaimer: I am only one entity, speaking for nothing and no one but myself. I do happen to be an active participant in a 12-step fellowship and have worked and continue to work all 12 steps. These are just my own personal experiences.
As recovering addicts, we are often asked to work a spiritual way of life. We are asked to literally live the best life possible, but that doesn’t come without some work. We should own our actions and reactions and adjust accordingly to the way life is going. This has become a big part of my recovery. It takes some work for our crap to turn to gold, but it will become gold. Our experience as addicts can completely flip in a positive way. It happens everyday through recovery. A regular inventory of our day helps to make that possible.
We oftentimes grow very quickly in a short amount of time. I’ve seen it in myself and in others. Growth must occur for me, or I am not able to rise above addiction. Therefore, at the end of each day, I evaluate the good, the bad and the ugly. Pain makes recovery richer. It is through the hardships that we develop a deeper sense of faith and purpose. This stuff is hard. If I’m blissfully unaware of the destructive behaviors and personality traits I’ve acted on that day, I am potentially really hurting myself long-term. I might be in danger of a relapse. Identifying where I acted poorly, I am in much better shape to change it. By changing it, I am gifting myself a better, more fulfilling life. That means I’m working towards happiness, which is no longer out of reach since I’m clean and sober.
In the same way, I have to take a look at the good things I’ve done to see that I am trying and that I really am doing things for my recovery. It has to be balanced, not egotistical or self-deprecating.
In my early recovery, I had to keep it simple. Something that was helpful for me was looking at positive and negative. In the positive column I wrote what I did for my recovery – i.e. was I kind, helpful, tolerant, etc.? Essentially, anything good. In the negative column I would write down selfish moments and mistakes I made that day. I would end the day feeling like I was a complete failure, but then I was forced to look at the good things I was apart of. Whether that simply be connecting with another person in recovery or showing up somewhere I needed to be when I didn’t want to. My personal inventory hinged on some core things which included: a meeting, a phone call to three women in recovery, a call to my sponsor, and doing something helpful for someone other than myself. When I was able to keep a pretty solid routine, with the guidance of a mentor I moved on to a more detailed look at myself.
So what exactly am I talking about when I say detailed look? I mean taking a look at just how and why I’ve been self-absorbed that day. There are usually a lot of selfish actions that I take throughout the day, a lot that can go unnoticed. I’ve learned that self-absorption is the key to my disease of addiction and that the hole in my chest stems from it. This includes me acting out on dishonesty, fear or personality defects. It’s me looking at me and how I personally reacted to other people’s actions. My reactions have clues as to what I am still struggling with.
Many different spiritual practices include an inventory of yourself. Inventories have been around since the 18th century. Writer Andy Wood has an article called, “How to Take a Spiritual Inventory,” where he asks questions such as: ‘Have I said or done anything that would seem questionable or evil to a total stranger or those who know me best?’ This question just helps you look at yourself from different perspectives, someone who knows you intimately and someone who does not know you at all. Sometimes what we say sounds perfectly good and well, but the motive behind it was not in the highest good of everyone involved. This really gets to the root of my problems because even if something looks good on the outside, deep down I know I had hidden motives. If I reach out to my ex and wish them happy birthday, that, in itself, is not bad. How does that look to someone who knows me intimately? What would a perfect stranger think? Am I expecting something in return? Am I attention-seeking? Have they been on my mind a lot, or am I acting purely plutonically? There are many thought-provoking questions that can spur an honest look at what goes on behind the scenes of our actions.
Another general question that I like is, ‘Am I living in alignment with my higher power?’ Sometimes the answer is somewhere in the middle. I wake up and pray and ask the power to help guide my thoughts and my actions. Somewhere along the way, I will get distracted. This way of life is just correcting the course you’re on, sometimes constantly. If I am acting out of love or service, I am in alignment. If I act on resentment or fear, I am blocked off from the potential power and guidance my higher power can provide.
Another way of putting it is, “How did I seek out something spiritual today?” Spirituality is anything that is not physical or external. It is looking within and cultivating deeper feelings of satisfaction through things like relationships, a connection with the earth we live on or maybe even the connection to a powerful entity that underlies everything, if you believe in that kind of stuff. Looking at this, I can usually see that I had many opportunities to do work of the spirit. Did I reject any? More simply, “Was I compassionate towards everyone?” Did I try to leave people better than I found them? This specific attitude of service has been essential for me to recover.
Part of tackling this self-absorption is evaluating the judgements we’ve had. Can we relate to that person? Does the judgement reveal something about ourselves? I judge people a lot and try to categorize them into neat little piles where I am either “less than,” or “better than,” them. Both perceptions are wrong. These two girls I know were on their phones at dinner taking pictures and I thought, “Why can’t you just live in the moment right now?” I was not on my phone and I stay off my phone when in social gatherings. I judged them to be immature. How could this have anything to do with me, you ask? At a superficial glance, nothing. However, I also really value the image others have of me. That is an aspect of myself I do not like and here it is, coming out sideways towards someone else. After taking a look at myself, I no longer feel negatively about the two. Judgments usually come from feeling self-righteous and they can be mild, medium or spicy. I have judged people’s mistakes and then made the same ones. It is hard to judge others when we see our own shortcomings. Ignoring where I fall short just makes me judge everyone more. I need to see my truth and my reality. It is not always pretty. However, it helps me see that everyone in this world truly is on the same, even playing field. If I am in touch with the defective aspects of my personality, I can live in better harmony with the people around me. We will all act in a problematic fashion pretty regularly. Understanding this brings peace.
When we are hurt, we cannot afford to overlook it. There is something to be learned about our innermost being. If I am betrayed, how do I react? Does it destroy me because I exaggerated my relationship with someone? Is that relationship more important to me than anything else? That’s something I did wrong and can avoid doing in the future. Asking, “why?” to every layer of anger or hurt can unravel some of our emotional buttons. People will press them from time to time so that we have an opportunity to work on our insecurities. If I look at some of these hurts, personally I can see that I have made people out to be more than they really are. I’ve placed them above-human in my mind. They’re on a pedestal and so, of course sooner or later they would let me down. The biggest example that I have of this is my last boyfriend. He was my “soulmate,” and I believed our connection was eternal. What he did greatly affected me emotionally. If he was not doing well, I was emotionally devastated and distracted. This was me before I found a full spiritual solution. I used to put my all into romantic relationships. I did not realize this at the time, but men were another drug for me. I had no true friendships or relationships with family. I was out to get mine. This is my part in being so hurt by others. I take things personally and set myself up to be hurt by unconsciously choosing people that are sick like me.
As we talked about earlier, I have to avoid self-pity and depression. My head very easily turns my shortcomings into something bad, but they’re not. Being judgmental, afraid and selfish is very human. They all stem from the ego, which wishes to impart our importance on the world. We often feel bad about ourselves or better than everyone else when the ego is involved. It is simply a defense mechanism. I tell my ego, “Thank you for trying to look after me, but that is not necessary.” There is no part of you that is bad, just some parts that can be confusing to deal with. I do not even need to hate my ego! Self-hatred is not the answer. If you are taking a look at yourself, you are trying to change for the better and that is powerful.
Everyone has an inventory, but we are the only ones that perish for not looking at it. The quality of life that I want to live is up to me. Some days that motivation is much higher than others. Some weeks are definitely better than others. I cannot be free without this deeper self-observation. If I neglect the self-centeredness that comes up day to day, I start to feel different from other people. My disease of addiction is always seeking to separate me from others and if I’m letting my thoughts and actions run around, I will feel separate. My judgments turn into resentments and I feel superior to others. This keeps bleeding into all of my relationships, minor or serious, until I feel disconnected from the world. The more I seek out my handicaps in my day-to-day life, the faster I can have balanced relationships and a peaceful place in this world. There is a skew in the way I view the world. Remember that we constantly deal with something that wants us to have a poor quality of life! My brain naturally sees the negative in everything and a regular inventory regularly clears my mind from all the gunk. The important step is to share what we find with someone else and try to find clarity with the confusing aspects.
When I do this, I rest easier. If my head tries to act up, it immediately remembers I have done what I humanly can. I have done my part in the relationship with my higher power. This power will do the heavy lifting with my problems. I just need to share what I find, mentally talk to my higher power and direct my attention to being helpful to others. That has never failed me.
A/N: Thanks for joining me again for my incessant ramblings! I would love any questions or insights as to what you guys would like to read about! Till next time,
The Sober Horse Thief