After surrender, the next of the twelve steps involves taking inventory to start to determine where the addictive urge is stemming from. Step Four reads: “Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.”

A second way of phrasing Step Four is:

“Search honestly and deeply within ourselves to know the exact nature of our actions, thoughts, and emotions.”

Like Step 3, Step 4 involves action. To move through this step on the path to recovery, one must do something – but what is that action one must take?


Many of those going through recovery used their addictions as a means of self-medicating and avoiding trauma, stress, and other hardships. This is where recovery begins to get uncomfortable. You’re not alone, though. Many of those dealing with addictions have experienced some form of trauma. No matter what lead you down the road to addiction, one thing is certain – self-examination is a crucial part of the recovery process.

You wouldn’t try to fix an automobile’s transmission without first running diagnostics on it. The same is true with working to improve a life. You first must understand where the problems lie before you can start to work on fixing them.

Getting rid of the goggles of addiction

Up until now, when reflecting on one’s life, those coping with addictions have been viewing themselves through the lenses of that addiction. That means that for an alcoholic, prone to impulsive behaviors, it’s time to look at the behaviors – honestly. Sometimes, this investigation into self can lead to the realization that things really aren’t as bad as they once had appeared to be. The converse may also be true – that we realize that we are doing as well as we had hoped.

How does one “take inventory?”

The method for taking inventory will depend on the individual. For some, private journaling will be the perfect outlet. For others, blogging, therapy, or talking with a trusted friend or a recovery group may help. This process, because it involves such deep introspection, is a personal process. What works best will be up to the individual, and there is no one right way to do it.

What is important is that one go through the different aspects of his or her life – childhood, relationship history, dependencies, emotions, etc. It’s important during this critical examination of one’s life to also notice the positive aspects. Some may find it beneficial to make a written list when they take inventory.

Having the courage to move forward

This step is one of the more difficult steps. It requires the individual in recovery to have complete honesty with him or herself. Such brutal honesty can be tough to face. Even outside of addiction, it can be tough to take such a thorough self-examination. When one’s default way of handling life has been through an addiction, then it can be even harder to do it without the crutch of a substance.

If you would like someone to hold your hand as you go through the inventory making process, contact our office. We’ll stand by you and help you with your self-examination so you can move forward in your recovery process.