Why I Hate the Saying, ‘Taking Inventory’

by Bill Brenner on November 10, 2010

A lot of my 12-Step brothers and sisters have a saying: “I’m taking inventory.” It’s supposed to be about reflecting on your own growth and behavior. But it’s really about trash talking other people.

Mood music:


One of my friends in the program always follows the sentence “I’m just taking my inventory” with a long tirade against everyone who stared at him the wrong way that day. I give him crap about it every day.

This behavior tends to be an epidemic among the recovery crowd, especially folks who move from AA to OA. It’s all part of the whack-a-mole problem addicts have. We put down the addiction that almost destroyed us, only to use other, smaller addictions as a crutch. For some people, the crutch is a stink eye they give everyone who doesn’t act exactly the way you would act yourself.

At the risk of exposing my own hypocrisy, I admit that I take inventory at times, and it can be just as bad as when others do it.

I don’t like this about myself, and I’m working to change it.

I just wish others would try to do the same.

I’m mixing with the AA crowd a lot more these days, perhaps because one of my sponsees has been in AA for decades. We have the big things in common. We developed addictions that made our lives unmanageable. Having found recovery, we latch onto each other pretty tight.

But something’s different.

In OA, there’s a tight fellowship in meetings and on the telephone. But the AA crowd really sticks together. It’s more like a gang. Recovering addicts often live together, several in a house. Not a halfway house. They just live together, watching out for each other. 

It’s cool to see. But I’ve also found that there are some real animosities among the AA crowd. One of my sponsees, an OA drop-out for now, spent a lot of time telling me about how I shouldn’t trust this person or that person because one likes to tell lies and the other likes to steal money. The lying part didn’t shock me. All addicts lie.

To be fair, sometimes people like us can’t help ourselves. It’s the same tick in the brain that made us into addicts in the first place. We developed a hole we couldn’t fill, so we frantically tried to plug it with food, drugs, alcohol, porn, and trash talking other people.

It just goes to show that when you clean up from the junk it doesn’t automatically make you a better person.

It can be hard to know how to act without your crutch. I’ve been there many times.

Instead of becoming the salt of the Earth, you just become the salt in someone else’s wound.

Fixing yourself is a task that’s never done.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Penny November 10, 2010 at 3:03 pm

“Fixing yourself is a task that’s never done.” With respect to you, your brothers and sisters, and the daily struggles, I don’t ever want to be done fixing myself. That’s the day I stop, and I have don’t have any plan to do that any time soon.

Dan O'Leary November 10, 2010 at 7:29 pm

So true. The other truth about trash talking is it really hurts yourself. I know this from experience and causes regression. Pointing out another’s faults only sheds a spotlight on your own, whether you choose to see it or not. You become one who judges, neglecting to reflect on your own existing faults.
I try every day brother. Sometimes I succeed, I fail a lot…but I’m aware.
The focus is lost when the finger points at some one else. There’s only one person who controls me.
I love your posts.
Your brother in Christ,

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