“A man’s true greatness lies in the consciousness of an honest purpose in life, founded on a just estimate of himself and everything else, on frequent self-examinations, and a steady obedience to the rule which he knows to be right, without troubling himself about what others may think or say, or whether they do or do not that which he thinks and says and does.” — MARCUS AURELIUS
I get frustrated with my computer. Occasionally I sit down, begin to write or pay bills, only to find it slow or unresponsive. When this happens, I resort to rebooting the thing and starting over. It seems the act of just restarting solves many of the bugs that cause the machine to slow down and not function as it was intended.
In recovery, we call this an inventory.
The practice of inventory (or self-examination) is essential to sustainable recovery. It is often a “sobering” experience when we look at how our addictive behaviors have impacted ourselves and others. Having a regular, standing appointment to press our restart button will help break through any thinking errors which may be present and ground us in reality.
Here are three things to consider when you hit reboot.
Self-Examination begins with external behaviors. This implies we have clear bottom lines. We are more likely to achieve our goals in recovery if we write them down and compare them with our behavior. If not drinking is a bottom line, then asking the question, “Did I drink today?” will be a powerful way to reset any flirtation we may be having with leaving reality. I call this Level One Recovery, but it is only the beginning.
Self-Examination includes both liabilities and assets. Miserable is the recoveree who only dwells on his or her character liabilities. A balanced, spiritual program of recovery must include a sense of gratitude for what we have to offer to the universe! A commitment to honesty should include the ability to not apologize for being a faithful partner, a good employee, or a strong leader. Inventories help prevent these positive traits from turning negative.
Self-Examination is most effective when it includes things that are not easily seen. Like an iceberg, our motives, emotions, inappropriate pride, and self-will are only seen when we look beyond our behaviors. We should ask ourselves about these icebergs regularly and adjust course when our radar exposes the hidden dangers below the water's surface.
I am often asked what inventory tool is best. I always respond, “The one you use.” Just as our bodies lapse into atrophy, so does our recovery when it is absent of self-examination. Inventories, self-assessments, and other resources are great as long as we use them! The point is to develop the muscle memory of being present in our mind, emotions, and thoughts and apply that experience to our recovery.