Step 4 of Alcoholics Anonymous

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Addiction created delusional thinking that limited our ability to understand the damage and havoc it caused in all our relationships. So before we could safely move forward we needed a framework through which we could sort out our past honestly. The 12 Steps of AA are a set of principles outlined for people struggling with compulsive, out-of-control behaviors that desire to seek recovery and lasting sobriety from alcoholism or drug addiction. At this stage in your recovery, you have already worked through what is alcoholics anonymous Steps One through Three. In the process, you have accepted that you are powerless over alcohol or drugs, thatGod or your personal higher powercould help you achieve sanity, and that you have put your faith in your God or your higher power. The idea is that you’ve been sober long enough to find the humility you need to really examine how you came to be an addict, what kept you addicted, and what needs to change in your life moving forward. While this step can seem overwhelming, there is no time limit.

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Following the suggestion outlined in the Big Book,I took pen to paper and I listed my resentments. I should say in the interest of honest disclosure, that this occurred only after a long period of time had passed that might have appeared to some as procrastination. Perhaps to a great extent it was, but it was also during this time that I was contemplating and preparing myself for what I believed would be an important and transformative experience. I started drinking at an early age, and alcohol became my medicine. It numbed my emotional pain, it masked my fears, it hid my insecurities, and it helped me forget — at least for a while. However, in time, the very elixir that I discovered as a child began to turn on me in adolescence, and by the time I was a young adult, it made life absolutely impossible. Most striking of all, and unbeknownst to me at the time, alcoholism had warped my thinking so that eventually I was divorced from reality altogether.


We do this “fearlessly” meaning that we do not let fear, grief, or shame stop us from looking deeply at our own lives. Another study found that a twelve-step program’s focus on self-admission of having a problem increases deviant stigma and strips members of their previous cultural identity, replacing it with the deviant identity. Another study asserts that the prior cultural identity may not be replaced entirely, but rather members found adapted a bicultural identity.

Partly, because of the length of my Fourth Step, and partly because my sponsor was hard of hearing, making it necessary for me to often repeat myself. More about that later, as well as why one should never do the Fifth Step in a city park. I listed my resentments on paper, but not necessarily in chronological order. I started with what I knew was my most serious resentment and my most painful memory, and once I wrote down that resentment, the dam was burst. I wrote for hours in one sitting, resentment after resentment, and in every instance I asked myself how I was affected — and what I learned surprised me. In the third column where I listed how the resentment affected me, I had repeatedly written “security”. Up until that time, I never thought of myself as an insecure person, but there it was on paper, and I realized it was the truth.

Cons of the Twelve Steps

Like with any new experience you encounter, you are unsure of the ground you are treading on and will find yourself taking shaky small steps as you move forward. Additionally, there is the fear of failure and what it can mean it terms of moving forward meaningfully in recovery. The Fourth Step of Alcoholics Anonymous is an excellent example of the apprehension that you can feel in trying to make a breakthrough in your sobriety.

  • When the time was right for me, it seemed as if the pen in my hand had a direct connection to my mind, and the memories of a lifetime just poured out onto the page.
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  • The reality is that the “drunkalogues” and war stories that accumulated over the years of using are so embroidered into the fabric of whom we think we are.
  • The Steps are meant to be addressed in sequential order, but there’s no one «right» way to approach them.

While there is not set way to get to the end point, so long as one embarks on this step with honesty, they can achieve a newfound understanding of themselves. Step 4 of Alcoholics Anonymous encourages one to make, “A searching and fearless moral inventory” of themselves. In effect, this step is designed to help those struggling with addiction examine their character and behaviors. Through the process of discovering the true nature of personal character, a participant learns to understand identify the weaknesses that may have helped contribute to alcohol addiction. When one identifies these weaknesses, it allows them to begin to formulate plans to overcome them and changes their habits in the future. As one might expect, searching yourself so intimately can be a deeply uncomfortable and challenging endeavor.

What Is Step 4?

The bottom line is that you are free to use whatever process works best for you, as long as you are completely truthful with yourself and trust in the Steps. When I inventoried my sexual conduct, I decided to include any romantic relationship, even if sex wasn’t involved. This was important because my sexual experience at that time was fairly limited, and drinking played such a huge role in keeping me distanced and detached from others. Had I not been drinking, my sexual life would have been healthier and more fulfilling. Now, this is not a judgmental statement in the sense that I was somehow defective for being insecure or that I was wrong for allowing my security to be threatened, nor was this an indictment of the people I resented. This was nothing more than an inventory of events from my life and how they affected me. In fact, through the process of writing, I actually gained some understanding and compassion for the people I resented.

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On the contrary, most people are very afraid to work this step because it’s difficult to admit to some of the things you may have done in the past. However, working through the fear is much more beneficial than just trying to not feel it at all. When I first started going to AA, I remember feeling like there was a lot of pressure to do everything perfectly. Most of that pressure was pressure that I placed on myself by comparing myself to other people. I was so afraid that if I made a mistake and left something off my fourth step I would relapse, but all I could do was write down the things that were fresh on my mind at that time. If I were to think of something that I left off of my inventory later down the line, all I had to do was add it to my list, call my sponsor, and talk to her about it.

Step 4 of Alcoholics Anonymous

One thing that stuck out to me about this 12-Step study was how scary everyone made the fourth step sound. “Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves” sounded ambitious to me, like finally attempting to climb a mountain that I have been too scared to climb all of my life. The step itself in the way it was written did not seem scary to me, but the way everyone talked about it made it seem quite intimidating. The personal nature of the behavioral issues that lead to seeking help in twelve-step fellowships results in a strong relationship between sponsee and sponsor. As the relationship is based on spiritual principles, it is unique and not generally characterized as «friendship».

  • As stated earlier, you need to dig deep to the roots of your addiction and examine the reasons why you had taken the path that led you to abuse alcohol.
  • Writing down a moral inventory is intended for you to confront the issues you’ve been avoiding so that you can then let them go and move on.
  • Most of the people you will be relying on to guide you through Step Four probably believe there is no exact right or wrong way to practice this step.
  • Failing to be fully honest about your shortcomings is another form of self-sabotage, and it only serves to undermine your success in the 12 steps of AA.