Topic for the week: Step 4 – Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
When I came into the rooms of AA in Miami Beach in the early ’90s I kept hearing that if you don’t do a Step 4 you’ll go out again; I didn’t want to drink again so I thought I should do a 4th Step – makes sense, right? However, there was a little problem – I hadn’t formally done Steps 1, 2, and 3 with a sponsor, so jumping ahead to do a 4th Step proved to be just about impossible. I even had a sponsor, but as with most things I didn’t bother mentioning my plans to her and instead just took it upon myself to do a 4th Step on my own.
While I’d accepted Step 1 and wasn’t totally opposed to Step 2, I definitely hadn’t turned my will and my life over to the care of a Higher Power. I didn’t trust most people and wasn’t comfortable putting my trust in a nebulous entity that had let me down time and time again, or at least that’s how I saw God/a Higher Power at that point in my life. After struggling with the 4th Step for a few weeks I finally told my sponsor what I was up to and she suggested we start from the beginning – what a novel idea! – so I went back to Step 1 with her and progressed to where I was ready to begin Step 4.
I’d never looked too hard at my behavior while drinking other than being vaguely aware that a lot of it wasn’t acceptable, or even legal. I excused a lot of my behavior because I felt I was owed BIG time for all the difficulties I’d experienced growing up; I had a huge chip on my shoulder that fueled my drinking and much of my regrettable behavior. So, when I was finally ready to take a look at my behavior and how it had affected others, I found it difficult not to rationalize what I’d done. But fortunately my sponsor got me to put aside that huge chip on my shoulder and focus specifically on what I had done to others, excluding what I felt/believed others had done to me. This was a great help, and started me in the right direction as far as making a searching and fearless moral inventory of myself.
It certainly wasn’t easy to look at my behavior so scrupulously; at times I felt like I must be the worst person on the planet to have done what I’d done and lived the way I had. But my sponsor pointed out that she believed the 4th Step isn’t only about the “bad” stuff; it’s a 360-degree view of an individual – the bad, the good, the useful, the non-useful, and so on. The outline provided in the Big Book focuses on resentments, fears, sex conduct, and harm done to others, and digging into each of those categories was illuminating as far as allowing me to uncover motives, the patterns of my behavior, and why I react to situations or people in a certain way. Eventually, the more I wrote the more I wanted to find out about myself because I came to understand that this would enable me to break the cycle of destructive behavior and mature emotionally, both of which I desperately wanted.
Along with the resentments, fears, sex conduct, and harm done to others, I also had a column stating what I felt was worth keeping, e.g., my sense of humor, my organizational skills, my love of nature, and so on. This column gave me something to build on, while the other columns gave me direction by showing me what needed to change. In the end, I found Step 4 to be liberating and yes, quite useful as far as helping me stay sober. Doing the 4th Step with a sponsor was a turning point in my sobriety, and although it was difficult facing up to some aspects of myself, I had to look at the active-alcoholic me in order to change into the sober me…I had to go through the mess that was my active-alcoholic life in order to see what I was, what I no longer wanted to be, and who I could be as a sober woman.
We are all invited to share on Step 4. The steps are our blueprint for living sober lives
*** 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/