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Taking Personal Inventory

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Medically Reviewed By: Diana Vo, LMFT

November 17, 2023

Table of Contents

Taking personal inventory as part of the well-know 12-step program is defined as: take personal inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admit it. Sounds simple enough, right? But it goes much deeper than admitting mistakes. It takes the ability to understand that when we’re at fault, we must put aside our ego and defense mechanisms and freely admit that our action (or inaction) had conssequences to those we love.   The concept of taking personal inventory is integral to working the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). Indeed, making a personal inventory is AA’s step 4: “Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.” The step involves listing character assets and areas of life and accounting for decisions that have led the person to this stage. The personal inventory provides a frank assessment of weaknesses and strengths so that work can proceed on the remainder of the 12 steps. Other self-help and support groups that utilize an adapted form of AA’s 12 steps also require a personal inventory be taken as part of this work.   This requires an honest self-assessment of deeds, past and present. To get to this step, you will have to have come to the realization that no human is perfect – even ourselves – and that we have indeed created issues through our actions, reactions, or personality. This can only come from a person who displays remorse and humility.   A person who is going through addiction recovery will eventually get to this step, but not before the brain has been re-trained to give rational responses to challenges.   While taking self-inventory is a crucial part of the recovery process, it is important to understand that this is not the end-all-be-all of addiction recovery. Instead, step 4 – personal inventory – is just one aspect of a more holistic approach to treating addiction and just part of the process. Taking a fearless moral inventory of yourself helps you get at the root of the issue. It is not about fixing everything all at once. Instead, taking self-inventory helps you realize that you can’t change the past – but you can equip and strengthen yourself for the future.


If you are revisting Step Four, the National Institute on Drug Abuse recommends you ask yourself the following questions as part of the process of taking personal inventory:

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1. How does my addiction affect me?– physically, emotionally, spiritually, financially, in terms of my self-image, etc

2. How does my addiction affect those around me? – at home, at work, financially, in social situations, as a role model for children, with regard to the safety of myself and others, etc

3. What character flaws in me feed my addiction? – insecurities, fears, anxieties, poor self-image, lack of confidence, excessive pride, controlling behavior, anger, and others? A character defect is defined as, “qualities of your personality that may impede recovery from addiction or decrease your quality of life.” These qualities may have been present before your addiction, and in some instances, may have contributed to your addiction. Other qualities may have emerged as a result of the addiction. You may also want to add one other question:

4. What character attributes strengthen my recovery? – hopes, beliefs, dreams, changes, personal strengths, self-awareness, self-acceptance, acts of love, kindness, and generosity? Your personal inventory will help you take responsibility for your actions, accept yourself for who you are, identify changes you wish to make, and promote self-awareness. In order to be effective, however, you must be thorough and completely honest. Examining yourself so closely can be tremendously difficult, especially when you do not like what you see. This process of self-scrutiny, however, moves you closer to recovery and further away from addiction. It also enables you to envision and pursue a better life. While taking personal inventory has a specific place in the treatment and recovery process, it is not a one time only event. It can be incredibly helpful to take a personal inventory on a regular basis. How often you do so depends upon you and your specific needs. The personal inventory can serve as a way to check-in with yourself and provide moments of clarity. You will be able to chart your progress and see what changes you have successfully made. You will identify areas to focus upon, but you will also discover things about yourself that you like, and in some instances, treasure. By reviewing where you have been, where you are, and where you would like to go, you will be able to remain in recovery and move towards an even happier and more fulfilling future.

A Healthy Recovery Plan

Any addiction recovery treatment including aftercare will include some form of taking personal inventory. It’s just one of many stepping stones on the path to recovery. It should not be feared, it should be embraced as a merit badge of sorts, one that shows you’re completing the steps and moving closer to your goals.   An Admissions Director can help explain how our addiction recovery services are structured and can ease your mind by telling you about our supportive, structured addiction treatment options.  



At Renaissance Recovery our goal is to provide evidence-based treatment to as many individuals as possible. Give us a call today to verify your insurance coverage or to learn more about paying for addiction treatment.

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Joseph Gilmore has been in the addiction industry for three years with experience working for facilities all across the country. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn.

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