One of the most difficult challenges in the journey of sobriety is working on one’s fearless and searching moral inventory. Once that is completed, the recovering alcoholic then admits to his/herself, God, and another human being the exact nature of their wrongs.
It is always difficult to admit where we have been wrong, our shortcomings, our sins, our misdeeds–whatever we want to call them. It is also difficult to talk about those times when we have been a victim; those stories we have tried to hide and suppress for so long.
Yet an essential part of recovery is opening up and sharing these things.
I remember the work I did on my moral inventory. It was brutal. I faced up to a lot of things I had done that I had tried to forget for so long. It was a difficult process, but it ended up being freeing for two important reasons.
First, I was no longer hiding anything from myself. That may sound foolish, but let’s be honest: we would all much rather forget our worst days instead of dealing with the consequences or fallout.
The fact that I wrote these things down and looked at them on paper (which I eventually burned) was a mentally and emotionally freeing exercise. It was cathartic. I felt a relief I had not felt in my entire adult life to that point. I wasn’t hiding anymore.
Second, when I went through the process of sitting down and sharing these things with another human being, I learned how valuable other people were in my recovery.
As difficult as it was to write these things down and then acknowledge and admit them to myself and to God, the thought of telling someone else was terrifying (and even a little paralyzing).
Yet when I did sit down with another person (my sponsor), I read the first thing on my list: the event, what I did, how I was wrong, and how it was going to be a recurring theme throughout my inventory.
And then my friend did something amazing: he shared a similar experience. Not to one-up me. Not to outdo me. Not to mollify me or gloss over what had happened.
But to show me that I am not the only person who has experienced pain, grief, and shame in my life.
There was so much hurt and shame that I carried around believing I had to isolate myself because I thought I was so much worse than everyone else. And there may have been some intellectual level on which I knew that to be untrue, but I bought into it completely.
Yet here was another human being relating to my pain, to my shame, to my experience. Someone else that I could look to and know they walked a similar road.
And then, I knew for sure I was not walking alone.