The Reverse 4th Step

Discover Your Character Traits, Goals & Purpose

Our 12-step fellowship provides a roadmap to uncover the reasons for our addiction. In our 4th step, we list with complete abandon an inventory of our resentments, fears and defects of character, connecting the dots between our pattern of behavior and our addiction. This self-cleanse allows us to bear witness to all of our deepest ailments and then enables us to let them go and work on our defects in the future. It takes courage to dig into our disease and let that become a part of our growth. Recovering addicts are given strength through their vulnerability when they admit their personal faults and actively work on them.

This process relieves us of the things that are holding us back from discovering our true passions. Now, with a renewed sense of self and clarity, there is no better time to discover your true potential. In reading through a number of books on life, awareness and happiness, I realized that many of them encouraged positive personal identification, which included things like skills, natural born talents, character traits and passions. I found myself surprised that I there was no worksheet on taking a positive inventory to identify personal qualities, outlining how one could offer their gifts to the world and pursue their passions in life.

This notion struck a nerve because I believe many of us identify, both prior to and after getting sober, with a fear of the future. In truth, how exactly can we have energy and optimism for the future if we have not identified a path to walk toward it?

You may ask yourself: What is my calling? What are my dreams? How can I ever achieve them? How do I deal with life now? We’ve won the lottery by finding recovery. In many ways we have been “reborn”. We’ve also been granted time and mental space to work on what we most desire. Think about how much better your sobriety will be if you put energy into your dreams and goals? Now that is a great way to create a positive foundation in recovery.

You owe it to yourself to discover your passion and purpose. You can start today with an exercise I’ll call a “Reverse 4th Step”. List the personal attributes you value which strengthen your character and what you can offer the world. Start by making lists of these qualities by following this simple guide:

  1. List the talents you are born with (your natural abilities, aptitudes)
  2. List skills that you have developed or mastered (sports, technologies, art, singing)
  3. List your education & experiences that have made you uniquely specialized (training, travel, etc.)
  4. List your character traits of the spirit (courageous, empathetic, optimistic, grace under pressure)
  5. List your top, most memorable accomplishments (winning a race, best-in-class)
  6. List your values (family, honesty, freedom)

Next, discover your passion and purpose. Most people don’t know what their passion and purpose is because they have never tried to figure it out. You can begin reaching your dreams by first writing them down. According to Dave Kohn, professor emeritus at Virginia Tech, people who regularly write down their goals earn 9x as much over their lifetimes as the people who don’t. Make this list positive, specific and measurable. You would be amazed at how attainable your dreams are if you take the time to identify your ambitions.

By connecting your natural abilities and character traits with the things you are passionate about, you can pursue goals in your life that align with your real purpose. For example, if you are a naturally gifted skier and have a high level of patience, perhaps becoming a ski instructor would be a well suited job for you. Maybe you are extremely good under pressure and love high-energy. You might want to consider a profession in an emergency room or trauma center. If travel is a passion of yours and you’re an excellent writer, decide to embark on a travel blog and share your experiences with the world.

If you follow your passion money and success will naturally follow, not the other way around. The same goes for your journey in sobriety. While identifying our character defects helps us work on being better people in the future, focusing on our character traits can help us pursue the dreams of our innermost soul. Think of your life ahead as an empty canvas: visualize life’s coming attractions by identifying your unique traits and by setting goals because possibilities, adventure, accomplishment, contribution and happiness are waiting.

Addiction – It’s A Family Affair

Many addiction specialists worldwide refer to substance dependency as a “family disease” – and anyone who has had a family member suffer from alcohol or drug addiction will concede without hesitation this fact. The family plays a central role in the treatment of substance abuse, seeing as the interdependent nature of familial relationships makes it so any one individual suffering from the disease of addiction will inevitably have an effect on those they live with and love. The purpose of family therapy is to intervene in the complex interactive patterns that have persisted within the family, and alter them in ways that will prove productive for everyone involved.

Addiction Affects Everyone

In many instances, the role the family plays in the life of the individual afflicted with addiction will change drastically immediately prior to the intervention – considering one is held. If part of a standard, in-person intervention, the family will meet with the interventionist before the addict or alcoholic is brought into the picture, and will be asked to formulate boundaries and ultimatums. In many cases, the true dysfunctionality of the family will be revealed during this step in the process. It is not uncommon for families to be so accustomed to living with personified disease that the unit as a whole will not properly function once the addict has gone to treatment. For this reason, it is usually important that the family of an addict seek counseling as well.

Once an addict or alcoholic is safely in an inpatient facility, the inclusion of the family in regular therapy sessions becomes an essential part of the overall recovery process – for everyone involved. Families will sit down with a licensed therapist and discuss issues that are directly related to the exacerbation of the addiction, such as codependency, lack of boundaries, and manipulation. Frequently, other family members will struggle with addiction as well, thus they may be recommended 12-step meetings or regular counseling in order to help protect the sobriety of the individual in residential treatment. Al-Anon meetings will also be highly recommended for family members of the addict. These meetings are geared towards those whose loved ones are suffering from the disease and they have been proven extremely effective in both coping and understanding.

Help Is Available For The Whole Family

While the disease of addiction is undeniably the most immediately devastating to the afflicted individual, the family of an addict or alcoholic will likely suffer overwhelming emotional and mental destruction. It is crucial that when one member of a family seeks help, the rest follow suit and heal and recover alongside one another to prevent falling into the same damaging patterns that lead to the initial familial downfall.

Should I Stage An Intervention?

While interventions have been proven to be extremely helpful in nudging loved ones towards treatment, even a correctly executed intervention will not always be successful – and in some instances, can do more harm than good. While there is no immediate risk involved in an unsuccessful intervention in relation to the worsening of the disease (by way of symptoms), there is a huge risk in the sense that your relationship with the addict may be extremely disrupted. Read up on what an intervention is, and why or why not this method of support will work for you before deciding to stage one for your beloved friend or family member.

What Is An Intervention?

During a typical intervention, a group of close friends and family gathers to share with an addict or alcoholic how much they love him or her, and how his or her addiction has been affecting them directly. Recently established boundaries are presented to the addict, and an ultimatum is given. A trained and licensed interventionist will lead the process, directing the family if need be to make sure things do not get out of hand.

What Is The Purpose of an Intervention?

The purpose of an intervention is to show the addict or alcoholic how their behavior is affecting those around them, and to show them how much better their life will ultimately be if they stop using. An intervention is also important in setting up boundaries for the addict, in example, “If you do not accept help today we will no longer support you financially.” It is extremely important for the friends and family of the addict to stick by these boundaries if he or she ends up refusing treatment, for the likelihood that the addict will change his or her mind is far greater if margins are strictly adhered to.

Is An Intervention Right For My Situation?

In most cases, interventions will do far more good than harm. Make sure a professional interventionist is present, and make sure to avoid common misconceptions about interventions, such as “it is best that the addict is under the influence during the process” or “rehab won’t work a second time if it didn’t work before”. Even if an addict does not accept help right away, it will at very least plant a seed and he or she will know where to turn when enough finally becomes enough.