Step Four of AA

“Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.”

Step Four

I remember thinking about all the people who had wronged me–how they were to blame for everything. There were a lot of them, too. From old bosses, to ex-boyfriends, to my parents, to my “friends.” The list was endless.

Funny, though, when I think back to the last days of my drinking. I thought I was the “happy-go-lucky” girl who “just wanted to have fun.” I was out with the guys, drinking with the boys…but by doing so, I was drowning out the part of me that wanted to have more than a life of drinking. I didn’t even know there was a part of me that thought about a life without alcohol–because most everything I did centered around booze. Baseball games. After work. During work. Before work. With the guys. At home.

Thus, when the booze was removed, what was left? I had a noisy brain, one that would not shut up and made it difficult for me to sleep. Like a rat in a cage. Then came the questions: who did I blame for all of the crap in my life? (Deep down, I blamed myself, but that comes later. I didn’t have that epiphany until my brain, wet from alcohol, had managed to sober up more than a few days in a row.)

Step 4: Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

Intimidating. Of course, I had the opportunity to do the three steps before this step to guide me, give me strength, and courage. But I balked. I didn’t know what this was all about. I wanted it to be “perfect.” I wanted…okay, well, there was the first problem. Starting a thought with “I wanted…” when doing the Fourth Step is just the tip of the iceberg. If I did not do this step, I was sure to drink. After I found myself hurting enough, I put pen to paper and finished my 4th Step.

 

What is a searching a fearless moral inventory?

Like any business, in order to be successful, one must take stock of what is on hand–of what is worth keeping and what is not. Like most businesses, failure to do so will result in poor management of goods. In our case, not doing an inventory leads to built up resentment, fear, dishonesty, anger, and other non-desirable assets. For many of us, there are goods that are worth keeping in stock: morality, sincerity, hard-working, dedication, etc. Unfortunately, when resentment and fear and jealousy cloud our actions and behaviors, our good assets seem to go by the wayside.

So this is our chance to “clean up our side of the street.”

When I first started out on this Step, my sponsor told me to just complete the first three columns of Step Four and that we would address the fourth column at a later date. What that meant was I could write down the names of the people who had “wronged” me, what happened, and what part of me was hurt or threatened (my self-esteem, pride, emotional or financial security, personal relations, sex relations).  That part, I thought, was kind of easy.

I could list the people and the places that upset me/wronged me. In fact, I could go on and on about how this person did this little thing and how it made me so angry or upset, and then they did this, which caused this…and then they did that. Now, keep in mind that some of these actions happened long ago–and here I was, years later, still harboring resentment and anger! What a concept. My anger, caused by something so minuscule that they probably long forgot about it, had permeated my life, my soul, and my mind, making me a crazed, resentful person.

While it felt good to write it all down, it also started to sound ridiculous. As I was writing down the things that upset me or made me angry, I started to notice a pattern. A pattern about myself. I may not have been able to fully comprehend it, but something started to disintegrate. Something inside of me opened up, letting a little light in where before there was only darkness.

While I did the best 4th Step I could at the beginning of my sobriety, it wasn’t my last. Over the years I have had to reevaluate and do a “mini” 4th Step, if you will. This, I believe, is in part because I have slacked on Step 10, but that comes later.

What I know is that after I finished the three columns to the best of my ability, my sponsor told me to then go back through and state my actions and what my part was in the situation. Yikes! I had never truly sat down with that and looked at myself or what I did that contributed to any ill feelings. In fact, I was oblivious to my actions. On the surface level. There was another deep-seeded part of me that blamed myself entirely for the mess I was in. It was just under the surface, enough so to make my actions self-perpetuate and continually manifest itself through a personal disregard for myself and others.

So I put pen to paper and finished the fourth column of my Fourth Step and found: fear, fear, jealousy, anger, financial insecurity, and fear (again) driving my actions and behaviors. I had a more clear understanding about myself and how I was behaving. I will admit one thing: I didn’t feel better right away. Looking at all of those behaviors and actions made me slowly feel worse about myself. But, luckily, I had my dad who told me, “Remember, you don’t just take inventory of your bad goods. You also need to take stock of your valuable goods.”

And that is true: I needed to remember who I was and what value I did have. Drudging up the past and “rehashing” it, if you will, can be a little disturbing. But remembering that there were good values and morals inside of me helped me stay level-headed. It was done. The 4th Step was written.

Side note: I often heard in AA meetings about how you cannot keep even one secret–that if you do, that secret will “take you out” (you’ll drink). I thought I had done some pretty terrible things. And they were pretty bad. I didn’t want to share everything. I thought about who I was and who I was becoming and I didn’t want to tell my sponsor one of those things. But I didn’t want to drink. And I heard, from other people’s experiences, that if I didn’t put everything down, I would most likely relapse. So I included it all. I held nothing back. And for that, I am grateful.