"We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves."

Step 3 led you to shift your focus away from inner reflection and turn your will and your life over to a higher power. In doing so, you let go of the ideas and perceptions you held of your "old" self and opened your mind to new possibilities and different ways of thinking about yourself, your addiction, and your life. Now it's time to move on to the fourth step of the 12 steps.

Moving on to Step 4 of the 12 Steps

Step 4 is the next crucial step toward clarity and long-term recovery. Without Step 3, you wouldn't be able to internalize the lessons you'll learn as you make a "fearless and moral" inventory of yourself.

This inventory is a written account of all of the harmful actions you took while you were addicted to drugs or alcohol. The Alternative 12 Steps acknowledges that this is one of the greatest challenges you'll face but promises that the transformation it elicits is powerful.

Defining "Fearless"

Before you can effectively take a fearless moral inventory of yourself, you'll need to understand how something so ripe with potential for agonizing discomfort can done "fearlessly".

At the core of our inability to truly know ourselves is denial, which is the act of ignoring the negative in hopes that it'll disappear. It's the act of justifying or rationalizing our destructive words or actions based on some perceived wrong that was done to us, and it's pretending something doesn't exist, simply because we're afraid to confront it for a number of other reasons.

A "fearless" inventory is one that is brutally honest despite your fear of facing difficult truths about the harmful things you've done. It's one that transcends your tendency to rationalize, justify, and deny. But while it's impossible to try to be "fearless" when in reality the fear of facing the worst aspects of yourself is palpable, this is exactly where it's time to let Step 3 do its job and remember that these deeds are a part of the life you turned over, along with your will, to that higher power.

Withholding Self-Judgment
is Critical for Success

In making a "fearless" inventory, then, you have to trust that your higher power isn't without endless compassion, and you must withhold self-judgment. In Step 4, this is of the utmost importance. You have to accept yourself without condition, past and present, and create your inventory with a detached objectivity, as though you're making a grocery list. Consider your actions neither good nor bad, because they are in the past.

You are in the present, and from this moment forth, you have the power to choose to avoid repeating the same mistakes. If your inventory is punctuated with feelings of guilt and self-loathing, you'll be more likely to remain in total denial about some things and continue justifying and rationalizing others.

Acceptance and self-forgiveness are critical when making your inventory. You can't change the past, but continuing to live in denial about it will block your path to clarity and halt your forward momentum in its tracks. What's done is done, and it is what it is.

Accepting those negative things as a part of you - the bad along with the good - will lead to a truly meaningful transformation in which you begin making decisions that will do right by the good in you, because that's who you are now.

According to numerous mental health professionals as well as the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the only way to make meaningful change is to know yourself - to know exactly where you've come from so that you can better find your way to where you want to go.

It's those negative things in your past that will lead you to discover the possibilities for what you might become. And it's writing down the deeds that will extract them from their their dark hiding places and allow them to be replaced by light. In extracting them, you will come to know yourself better and, if you hold fast to Step 3, nurture the beautiful human being at your core.

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