Apr 05: Step 4

STEP FOUR: Made a fearless and searching moral inventory of ourselves.

The AA literature on the fourth step can be found in the 12 Steps and 12 Traditions pages 42-54 as well as in The Big Book, Alcoholics Anonymous 4th edition, starting on the bottom of page 63 with “Next we launched…” and ending on page 71. I encourage everyone to read at least one of these sections in our Literature for a monthly refresher on this step.

I have chosen the following excerpt from the Big Book:

     “If we have been thorough about our personal inventory, we have written down a lot. We have listed and analyzed our resentments. We have begun to comprehend their futility and their fatality. We have commenced to see their terrible destructiveness. We have begun to learn tolerance, patience and good will toward all men, even our enemies, for we look on them as sick people. We have listed the people we have hurt by our conduct, and are willing to straighten out the past if we can.

     In this book you read again and again that faith did for us what we could not do for ourselves. We hope you are convinced now that God can remove whatever self-will has blocked you off from Him. If you have already made a decision, and an inventory of your grosser handicaps, you have made a good beginning. That being so you have swallowed and digested some big chunks of truth about yourself.”

From “The Big Book”, Alcoholics Anonymous, 4th edition, from the chapter How It Works pages 70-71.

Hi sisters, my name is Emily M. and this is the monthly step meeting, April being the 4th month, we are on step 4.

Personally, this whole business of taking a searching, fearless, moral inventory, of putting to paper my resentments, fears, sex conduct, and harms done to other people — especially knowing what followed (telling another human, admitting I was fatally flawed, saying sorry)  is what made me freaking terrified of being a member of Alcoholics Anonymous. It was a big reason I stayed out of the rooms as long as I did.

And by the time I got here, holy mother of God did it show. I was 8 years dry, stark raving sober. I was so filled with fear, guilt and shame my life was more unmanagable than it was when I was drinking and using hard drugs. I was mean to my kids, I was addicted to chaos, anger, sadness, depression, desperation, I was so full to the brim of self pity. I was so so so freaking lost and broken. I was the textbook definition of extreme self will run riot, though she usually did not think so.

Somehow I was divinely guided here to AA, somehow God connected me with the exact sponsor I needed who happened to live across the country. I tried to fight her in the beginning but then I completely surrendered to the program of AA and Higher Power of my understanding.

And before long there I was, face to face with the dreaded step four. My sponsor had sent me the worksheets, the four column inventory BB fourth step worksheets. I printed off the worksheets. I started writing with a fury and then would crumple it up and throw it in the trash. Again and again I would do this. Finally, I could see I was being ridiculous and overcomplicating the dang thing. I did a quick prayer and I wrote. It all came out. From young childhood to where I was that day it came out on paper. And as I did it, oh boy, wow, could I see as I have never seen before.

Suddenly, there I was, staring back at myself. In ways I had never, ever seen myself. I had always thought myself victim, but once they were all sitting there next to each other — wow did I sure have a “my part”. I had never thought I was controlling or egocentric — until I completed my fears and resentment inventory. And the “harms done”, wow I was so naieve I thought there were going to be just one or two people on that list and then it turned out I just kept writing and writing. I also found myself on that list over and over again.

Even before sharing my first fourth step with my sponsor, it was really like the Big Book says: I had swallowed and digested some big chunks of truth about myself. And for the first time in my life, within the program of AA, I wasn’t terrified, it actually felt good and hopeful. What had I been waiting for? As much as I had previously dread it, I could not wait till have this “long talk” with my sponsor that followed this step…which is a story for a different day.

What was your fourth step experience like? If you haven’t taken it yet, what’s holding you back? If you’re feeling a little off…how can you share using this step to get back on the beam?

Thank you for the honor of chairing this meeting. The floor is now open for sharing.


Emily M.