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A moral inventory of oneself is king in recovering from alcoholism


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Documenting of all the resentments affords one an opportunity to prioritise what to deal with and what to put aside for mulling and even what, at the moment, seems unsalvageable

By Jacob Oketch

Writing about staying away from alcohol is a very hard thing to do because the norm is to do the opposite. The immense pull in alcohol, generating tonnes of money for advertisements, for example, makes it the king. 

Dailies have, for instance, give acres of space to review watering holes and brands of liquor on the market. Other writers just marvel about the thrill of the bottle during their scribe duties. The great humourist of the classic Sunday Nation’s Whispers column, the late Wahome Mutahi, didn’t escape it. He had a unique way of celebrating the bottle. He christened Kenya breweries’ beers Jeremiah’s Waters after the company’s legendary chief executive the late Jeremiah Kiereini.

That is in order but there has to be space for talking about the benefits of not imbibing and what to do once one is ready to call it quits. Stopping drinking is the first step but in order to maintain it, there are certain things one has to do to solidify the sobriety and stay clean for the longest time. One of these things is the act of making a moral inventory of oneself.

Let us take the example of Timothy. He has been drinking for 15 years now. There is no police station in the city that hasn’t hosted him. He divorced his wife of 17 years as a result of irresponsible drinking. Tim is very quarrelsome and has insulted hundreds of people in his drinking career. He has had many love affairs with many women after his divorce. He even had a fling with the daughter of a bar owner and her mother too. His litany of transgressions make of a reading of something akin to an encyclopaedia.

Luckily enough, Tim has a window of opportunity to quit drinking and start his life afresh. Whatever he did during his drinking days hangs on his shoulders like the sword of Damocles. There is no way he is going to successfully recover if he just wishes away these issues. Besides, he doesn’t seem to instantly remember all the bad things he has done to people. Hence, there is need to undertake a deliberate recollection of his life during the period when he was drinking.

There is something therapeutic about writing. I have always wondered why every important thing has to be inked down. The moment Tim started writing down his misdeeds, they came in torrents. Even the wife of his friend who he slept with was included. This is the one transgression that tears him apart. By writing it down alone, a tonne of emotional burden left him. Tim set out to ask for forgiveness from those he could comfortably reach. He also identified all the character defects that he inhabited. He then knew what he was guilty of, what he was ashamed of, what he feared and who he had harmed, whether sexually or otherwise. He also clearly identified who he resented and why.

It is understandable that there may be resentments that cannot go away just because one has decided to quit drinking. Nonetheless, documenting of all the resentments affords one an opportunity to prioritise what to deal with and what to put aside for mulling and even what, at the moment, seems unsalvageable. There is an element of relief that engulfs one who is ready to make amends in an intractable situation. 

The recovery of an alcoholic is impeded by baggage that arises out of one’s background as far as drinking is concerned. Unless one achieves that level of humility, it becomes difficult to deal with resentments. In a situation where asking for forgiveness worsens the situation, it is best to let the matter rest. In Tim’s case, it became very difficult for him to confess to the bar owner that apart from having an affair with her, he was also involved with her daughter. He felt that it would bring about chaos between the two.

When you write something, you create a record of it. There are tonnes of records on so many things. However, an inventory that one has made in recovery should be expunged as soon as the alcoholic has made amends. It is not wise to keep records of transgressions that you have made amends for. Keeping these journals is a preservation of energy that one has committed to exterminate. It is therefore advisable to destroy this document as soon as you have finished using it. The kind of relief an alcoholic feels after making an inventory and acting on it is comparable to a quencher of a very deep thirst. The feeling is exhilarating.

When an alcoholic makes amends, they start on a clean slate. It gives one room to dream afresh. Resentment, guilt, shame and fear are negative energies that hold us back. You cannot have self-esteem with such issues weighing you down. People put brave faces out here but inwardly they are carrying mountains of burden related to the said negative energies. It is these very energies that drag one very fast into a slip, a lapse and eventually a relapse even when they are committed to recovery. The realisation that alcohol is powerful will enable an alcoholic to adhere to the steps of recovery to the letter. They need not assume that a particular step is inconsequential. That would be a huge mistake.

Self-pride and ego are the greatest impediments to making amends. Pose for a minute and ask yourself what it takes to make amends. That thing called humility is some sort of hidden treasure to those who want to lead straight lives. It is not just for an alcoholic that this tenet holds true. It applies across the board. The gratification that chest thumping and bravado offer is dwarfed by what humility does. 

We may be blinded by the immediate effects of alcohol but the damages linger so long after the liquor has been consumed. It chases us to the grave. Is there pleasure one derives from dragging their problems and sorrows to the grave? That is death that I most certainly don’t want to encounter. ( 


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