Step Four reads: “Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves”. And that, my friends, is why we want to put it off as long as we can. We have all heard that the steps are in an order for a reason and this is more true of this step than any of the others. A friend told me that he is convinced that when a person has a problem with Step Four, it has less to do with his ability to recall his life and more to do with being unable to turn everything over to a Higher Power. The person still wants to be in control and run the show. If Step Four hangs out there long enough, the chances of recovery grow dim.
In beginning Step Four I believe there is some intimidation about doing it the “right” way. I know that for me, because I feel the need to do things perfectly, it took me longer to get started than I had expected and that didn’t have anything to do with my actual inventory. It was all about the “presentation”. How you write out this step is not important as long as you have the four components: person or thing you resent; why the resentment; what area of your life was affected; and what was your part (what behavior did you exhibit?). The key word is “write” and that is, in fact, the only requirement of this step.
I am not sure what I expected to get out of Step Four. Initially I saw it as an examination of conscience one takes prior to confession. Having been brought up Roman Catholic and a student of parochial education for 12 years, confession (now called reconciliation) was a part of my life, like it or not. In the elementary grades, it was seldom our choice as to when we would receive this sacrament so when the time came we were given time to examine our wrongs. How many wrong things can an eight-year old do? So, most of us would admit or make up common, everyday sins, like disobedience to our parents because we had to come up with something!
It was obvious to me as time went on that I didn’t need this examination of conscience any more than I needed to confess anything. As I look back on all of this I realize that the reason I didn’t need it is because I did not want to be honest and as the Big Book tells me, I was “spiritually bankrupt”. Honesty meant exposing my self and my actions and I wasn’t prepared to do that and didn’t know why I should.
After I got over the fact that I did not have to write this step perfectly and also got over the fact that this was a far cry from my experiences with confession, I was anxious to move forward. My biggest reason was this: I wanted to know and to understand my behavior. I wanted to know why I was dishonest; why I had to control; why I loved to be the victim and all of the other whys that had been a part of my life even long before I became addicted to alcohol. I could make an excuse for bad behavior when I was drunk because drinking does that even to normies. But what excuse did I have for my actions without alcohol?
Each and every time I sat down to work on this step I had to pray that God would open my heart and my mind so that I would have the courage to be honest. When I felt I had completed this step, I sat back and marveled at what I had found out about myself. I found out more about “me” in this step than I could have in ten years of therapy. What did I find? I don’t mind telling you that my entire life has been fear-based. Fear, as I had been told is not getting what you want, losing what you have, and not looking good. I believe that every character defect I have is tied to fear. I almost find the word “fearless” in Step Four kind of ironic because until I completed this step, I had no clue what the word meant. Courage is the principle of Step Four and if courage is the absence of fear, I have a lot of work before me!
Steps Four and Five just seem to go together like show-and-tell but I believe you must look at them independently. As a matter of fact, work Step Four like there is no Step Five! Only you can do Step Four. This time it really and truly is ALL about you. It is the story of your life and no one knows it better than you. If you have not done this step be mindful that you are not writing it for your sponsor but for yourself. Hold back nothing. You can have no secrets. It is also important to know when you feel you have completed this step to the best of your ability and work with your sponsor to move forward. Step Four is probably never 100% complete. You will remember people and circumstances that you forgot not because you wanted to but because they weren’t all that memorable or important in the scheme of things. If and when that happens it is a good idea to do a mini Step Four if only to write out the situation for your own review.
My last tidbit of advice in doing Step Four may be one of the most important things to remember. Unless you are single and live by yourself, keep your written step in a place where no one can read it either accidentally or purposefully. The harm that can come to you or to a loved one can be quite devastating if it were read. This is not dishonest. You will have the opportunity to make the proper amends when the time comes but until then, I would advise you to be extremely cautious.
Step Four is like the best self-help book you could ever find combined with therapy. It does give us a rather glaring picture of our defects but it also gives us the opportunity to begin replacing these defects with principles that will offer us a freedom and happiness beyond our wildest dreams and we will know peace.
Namaste’. May you walk your journey in peace and harmony.
Like Grateful Recovery on Facebook. Kathy L. is the author of The Intervention Book in print, e-book, and audio