Addiction is often perpetuated self-deception, in which excuses, denials,and justifications keep you from realizing the full extent to which drugs or alcohol are affecting your behavior and disrupting your life. Yet at the same time, substance abuse is often closely tied with traumatic events, hard things that happened in your past that still cause pain you try to dull.
Many victims of abuse struggle with blaming themselves for what happened, tuning to self-hatred because of things that were not their fault. Thus, there are two faulty, destructive ways of thinking that can be clouded by substance abuse and addiction; either making excuses for things you were responsible for, or taking the blame for things not your fault.
That is why an honest self-inventory (the fourth step in 12-step recovery programs) is such an important part of the recovery process. Learning how to evaluate yourself and your past trufully will help you be able to take empowered steps into a brighter future.
A moral inventory simply means taking time to think about and process what has happened in past events. Under the influence of your addiction, you might not have always been aware of the impact your actions were having on other people, and the ways you stole from, lied to, or hurt other people. Tensions may have arisen with other people because of your behavior, and now is the time to try to understand their side of the story.
If you have been the victim of abuse, this self-reflection may feel like a really difficult process. You may have gotten used to blaming yourself for everything, as the trauma caused you to approach the world in a shame-based way. It is important be perfectly clear: someone who gets assaulted or abused is not at fault, even if he or she was drinking heavily. Both blaming ourselves for everything, or not taking responsibility at all are false ways of looking at our past, and ones that can get in the way of
Recurring memories, that play again and again in our heads have an incredible amount of power over us, in ways we might not even realize. Our perceptions about things that we did or that happened to us affect the way we think about and behave in present. That is why it is so important to think critically about our narratives about the past, to really make sure we are understanding them correctly. There are times things could have been handled differently, and other times we were not at fault for what happened, but showed strength in surviving and moving on. Seeing the past through this lens can be enormously empowering.
When doing this work of critically revisiting the past and evaluating yourself, it can be easy to get stuck on bigger questions of who is at fault. There are also smaller issues that also should be evaluated and understood more deeply. You are not at fault for what happened to you, but there may be ways that holding onto resentment or a victimhood status has lead you down negative paths. There are smaller ways you can begin to take responsibility and control to live your life in different ways, and this is an important part of true recovery.
Journaling, talking through things with a qualified therapist who makes you feel safe, or creating art can be all be potentially good ways to work through your past, taking inventory in a way that is truthful and gentle on yourself. Learning how not to fear the past, but accept it, is an important prerequisite to being able to evaluate it honestly.