A common problem in making the decision to quit drinking revolves around a person’s identity. For me, the thought of quitting was so scary because alcohol had become part and parcel of my identity- it was literally and figuratively a part of me. Giving up such a large a part of my identity was anxiety-provoking, if not for the alcohol, who would I be? What would replace this large part of my existence, and how could I guarantee that I would be replacing my addiction with something healthy?
A good friend of mine, who also happens to be my sober mentor, has a Ph.D. in Ethics. In grad school, I took a class from him about ethical leadership in the criminal justice system. He placed a big emphasis on value ethics. The key foundation of value ethics, is establishing what your values are. By establishing your values, you basically start building a framework and guidelines for how you conduct yourself in life and why.
In early sobriety, I realized: I had no personal framework or guidelines for gauging if my life and what I did with it were valuable. As a data guy, I appreciate having firm metrics which allow me to assess my actions and make a determination on where I stand, good or bad.
The fact that I had no personal metric for my own life was astounding. Up until this point, my life value was not based on my own metric, but was based on others perceptions of me. I found value only in what others thought was valuable about me. I thought people valued things about me that I thought I did best when I was drunk.
Most people probably have a decent idea of what their values are, I did- or at least I thought I did. However, our values often get formed without a second thought- they form during our life experiences and manifest most strongly in times when we are faced with ethical dilemmas or big life changing decisions. Most of the time, they lie silently underneath our consciousness and we barely give them any more thought or attention. A value inventory exercise is an intentional act and brings your values to the front of your consciousness while you work through why they are important to you and how you carry them out in your life.
Here is a quick value inventory exercise that I highly recommend doing:
- Pick 5 values that are most important to you. If you are having trouble thinking of your values- just google “values list” and you will get a bunch of results returned.
- For each of the values you selected, describe them. I am not talking about the dictionary definition, I am talking about your personal definition. For example, trustworthy is defined as “able to be relied on as honest or truthful.” Your description would be how you would expect to see trustworthiness manifested in your life.
- Next, for each value, describe why these are important to you. For example: its important for me to be trustworthy because I want to be someone my kids can trust to do what is right for them. If I lie, my kids my kids will not believe that I am credible or they may believe that I put my self-interests ahead of their own.
- Finally, for each value, write about how you will live this value in your daily life. For example, In order to be trustworthy, I will be honest and upfront (Even when it makes me uncomfortable) with those I care about.