April 7: Step Four

Topic for the week: Step 4

The Fourth Step is to make a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves. Another word for ‘moral’ is truth. By reviewing our lives — the people, situations, beliefs and fears we have engaged with in our past — we can begin to see the truth about ourselves and the role we’ve played in our troubles.

Why is it that the alcoholic is so unwilling to accept responsibility? I used to drink because of the things that other people did to me. Once I came to A.A. I was told to look at where I had been wrong. What did I have to do with all these different matters? When I simply accepted that I had a part in them, I was able to put it on paper and see it for what it was – humanness. I am not expected to be perfect! I have made errors before and I will make them again. To be honest about them allows me to accept them – and myself – and those with whom I had the differences; from there, recovery is just a short distance ahead…
Sometimes taking somebody else’s inventory can be most beneficial. When I was doing my Fourth Step, an old-timer suggested I list the names of those against whom I held resentments, followed by two or three sentences describing what they had done to earn my displeasure. Then, after putting the list aside for a day, I was to cross off each person’s name and replace it with my own. Grapevine; “Mirror, Mirror, On the Wall,” October 1987, Step by Step
The “truth” about myself?! Must I?? Going waaay back to childhood, I believed that if bad things happened anywhere in my general vicinity, I’d done something wrong, or had neglected to do something I should have known to do. By extension, at least in my brain, that meant I was wrong, bad, stupid. As an adult (ish), I’ve discovered that I’m human. Humans are flawed, every single one of us, some in obvious ways seen with the naked eye, and some of us in ways hidden and unseen, even to ourselves. I’ll continue to make mistakes, but so long as I make amends, and vigorously seek not to repeat the same ones, I can accept me in all my inglorious flawedness, I can accept you in yours — fair’s fair, after all — and we both can grow forward.
Something a sponsor taught me is that if you can name ‘it’ in someone else, then you can almost certainly claim ‘it’ in yourself; You spot it? You got it! Man, I did a lot of naming and blaming. Which means I have a lot to claim, more than enough to keep me busy on my side of the street. If I’m doing it thoroughly, I’ve got no time to supervise you filling the potholes on your side. The first name on my first Step Four, and one of the hardest to contemplate amends with, is my ex-husband of twenty-eight years, the father of our two daughters. Oooo boy did I have a list of grievances against him. I made him out to be such a baddy that the gentleman I dated for a while after my divorce refused to shake my ex’s hand because of the ugly portrait I’d painted for him.
Truth is, my ex is not an evil man. And I am not an evil woman so much as a deeply flawed one. I own that now. There are so many decisions I could have/should have made differently in my first marriage. I don’t know that the marriage could have survived in the long run, but I had to confess that I made moves that were self-serving, disrespectful, self-righteous, careless, and very, very wrong. I have gradually replaced his name with my own on the chart of grievances and resentments between us. My bad, indeed. Shockingly, it feels good and right to accept responsibility, and ultimately is so much easier than the emotional work it takes to keep on deceiving everyone, especially myself.
We are all invited to share on Step 4. The steps are our blueprint for living sober lives. Thanks for attending this meeting!

*** Step 4 ***
“Made a searching and fearless inventory of ourselves.”

This step is listed in Chapter 5, How it Works, from the book, “Alcoholics Anonymous” (affectionately known as the Big Book) (see p. 59). There’s a lot more in Chapter 5, starting on p. 64. And there’s even more about it in the book, Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions.

*** Where to get the books, Alcoholics Anonymous and Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions ***

You can find these books at many f2f AA meetings; you can order them online from many places. And they are available from the AA General Service office, to read online, in English, French, and Spanish. See www.aa.org/