Step Study - Step 4

Old 02-07-2008, 08:20 AM
  # 1 (permalink)  
Forum Leader
Thread Starter
CatsPajamas's Avatar
Join Date: Aug 2002
Location: In my little piece of heaven
Posts: 2,870
Step Study - Step 4

If you are just joining in, this is an online Step Study. Each of the 12 steps will have its own thread, so you can participate at whatever level you are comfortable.

Most of the information here comes from the books Paths To Recovery, Al-Anon’s Steps, Traditions and Concepts and How Al Anon Works for Families and Friends of Alcoholics, along with some readings from Courage to Change, One Day at a Time in Al Anon II.
The first 3 steps are “stickies” at the top of the page.

The following is from Paths to Recovery, Al Anon’s Steps, Traditions, and Concepts. pp 38 and 39.

Steps One, Two and Three taught us about the disease of alcoholism, that we are powerless over the disease and that a Power greater than ourselves can return us to sanity if we so desire. As in climbing a staircase, we are at the next Step – a Step for spiritual self-discovery. In nine simple words, Step Four challenges us to take a thorough look at ourselves, the positives as well as the negatives.

The decision to turn our life and will over to the care our Higher Power is demonstrated when we follow it up with the action of taking our moral inventory. The word “searching” has an important impact. This word tells us that it is going to take some research into our past, looking for all the personal issues that are a part of our makeup. When we lose our keys, we will search for them until they are found or until we are satisfied that they are gone forever. Similarly the search through our moral character must be equally thorough. This is where we begin to learn that it is important to write out this Step. If we need to make a list before grocery shopping, doesn’t it seem logical that, in something as important as the personal study of our lives, we keep documentation as well?

In studying the wording of this Step, we now examine the word “fearless”. Some members say fear stands for false evidence appearing real. What better way to find out if we fear reality or an illusion than to plunge into the fear itself? With a phone call to our sponsor or program friends, we find that beginning to list our fears is another way to start our inventory. Until we take our inventory, we don’t’ know which character defects blocked us from recovery. “Just do it” we are repeatedly advised. We don’t’ need to do it perfectly, there will be time to do it again. If we don’t make a start, nothing about us will ever change. When we courageously and carefully examine where we are, the door to change is opened.

Finally, we read the last phrase, “moral inventory of ourselves”. The self-analysis required in a fearless moral inventory is an essential step toward recognizing our responsibilities and find appropriate, healthful release from our physical, emotional and spiritual experiences. We can begin by writing about the events and people we resent or distrust,. Writing becomes important because few of us can remember the many incidents and people that affected us. Writing also helps us to step back and gain a little detachment before we explore our behavior and the characteristics it reveals about us.
CatsPajamas is offline  
Old 02-07-2008, 08:30 AM
  # 2 (permalink)  
Forum Leader
Thread Starter
CatsPajamas's Avatar
Join Date: Aug 2002
Location: In my little piece of heaven
Posts: 2,870
Step 4: Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves

Wow. This was a huge step for me. And in my experience I can tell you this: if you haven't really worked steps 1,2 and 3, Step 4 will kick your butt. I have mentioned before that I really just dabbled with recovery for the first few years. I went to meetings, listened to what they had to say, read over the steps and decided I understood them and could do them fairly easily by myself. I just wanted my life to improve and for HIM to stop doing all the crazy stuff he was doing!

Step 4 was big and huge and scary and daunting. I procrastinated on this step more than I have ever done anything else in my entire life. First I read a bit about it... then I asked a few people how they had done it. Then I started, and it was just too overwhelming so I put it away. I rationalized my way out of it by saying I was too worried to put anything on paper as HE might find it and use it against me. (a realistic fear as he had already done this with my journals).

I slammed into that proverbial wall of shame, denial and fear, and I crawled into a safe mental place. And I stayed there for awhile. Only after my life crumbled all around me again did I crawl back into the rooms of Al Anon ~~ again. I knew where to go. And this time I knew what I needed to do. I started over at Step 1 and didn't move on to Step 2 until I had at least answered most of the questions (the ones that are posted in the Step 1 Step Study). There is no time table... no rush, no final exam. You work it how you work it.

Then I did the same for Steps 2 and 3. I got a sponsor, and I committed myself to getting better. It is my opinion that Step 4 is best worked with a sponsor. He or she can share his/her experience, strength and hope, and can hold your hand thru the scary parts.

This is a big step. I'll post more about the process after others have shared their experiences.
CatsPajamas is offline  
Old 02-07-2008, 06:53 PM
  # 3 (permalink)  
get it, give it, grow in it
Spiritual Seeker's Avatar
Join Date: May 2007
Location: Calif coast
Posts: 3,167
"Step 4 leads us to take a thorough look at ourselves. Until we take our inventory, we don’t’ know which character defects blocked us from recovery."
The first time I worked this step, I too procractinated. Then took a qick long look that produced an overwhelming inventory.
This time around working step 4, I have decided to spend as long as it takes on this step. I will only put 1 - 3 items on the inventory at a time and then address them, again with as much time as ea. takes.
Spiritual Seeker is offline  
Old 02-07-2008, 08:20 PM
  # 4 (permalink)  
Jujubee Queen
mooselips's Avatar
Join Date: Nov 2003
Location: Port Charlotte, Florida
Posts: 3,582
I've just started doing another 4th step.

I am using the "Blueprint for progress" handbook, I picked up at my last Alanon meeting.

Using the handbook makes it alot easier to do a 4th step, because it goes through everything, every area you need to concentrate on, and it asks questions for you to write in and answer.

For example, the first section covers: Honesty, then it goes on to Self worth, then fear...(that's where I am at present...)

The handbook says "step 4 is an exercise in perception, a way to distinguish between what works in our lives and what is no longer useful, or necessary."

I may be somewhat sick...LOL but I like to do an occasional 4th step every few years. It's simply amazing to see how much you've grown, it gives you a clear reference point.

I will most likely be working with this handbook, doing my step 4, through the end of Summer...I'm a SLOW girl, and seem to over analyze sometimes.

Thanks Cats for previous help on my earlier 4th step...
mooselips is offline  
Old 02-07-2008, 08:59 PM
  # 5 (permalink)  
Forum Leader
Thread Starter
CatsPajamas's Avatar
Join Date: Aug 2002
Location: In my little piece of heaven
Posts: 2,870
Step 4: Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves

As we begin to consider the questions below, we need to remember to keep it simple and pray for guidance and courage. The following are not all-inclusive, but rather point to a beginning.


Am I willing to look honestly at myself? What stands in my way?

Have I sought help from my Higher Power, my sponsor or other Al-Anon members?

What suggestions have I tried to see if they might work?

Do I understand the spiritual principle of an inventory?

What do “searching” and “fearless” mean to me?

What does a “moral inventory” mean?

Those are simple questions, but it was important for me to answer them before I continued with this step.

Am I willing to look honestly at myself? What stands in my way?
My answer was simple. I was afraid of what I might find out. What if what all those things people said about me were true? What if I dug deep down inside and I didn't like what I found?? And if I didn't like what I found, THEN what??

This is where it helped me to have a sponsor and to talk with others in the program who had gone before me. They gently guided me to answer those questions... and then I started to do my inventory.

There are many ways to do an inventory.

Some people just start writing about their life, in a chronological order. There is a lot of emphasis placed on how things made you FEEL.

Others turn to the Blueprint for Progress as Moose suggested.

Still others use the questions found in Paths to Recovery. Those are the questions that I post here for each step. They are fairly straightforward and thought provoking.

How did you work yours?
CatsPajamas is offline  
Old 02-07-2008, 10:03 PM
  # 6 (permalink)  
greeteachday's Avatar
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: a better place
Posts: 4,047
My first time through the fourth step, I discussed the ideas and concepts with another Naranon member and then did a checklist inventory. I had also procrastinated too long in getting to this many ways because of the daunting aspects...the time commitment, soul searching, writing and writing. So the checklist inventory helped me to move forward; to find that it wasn't as scary as I thought, but rather liberating.
I'm currently on my second go round of Step 4...Also using the Blueprint for Progress and Melody Beattie's Codependents Guide to the 12 Steps. I am lingering this time and sharing with another member (I guess a sponsor of sorts, but not by the official name because she wasn't sure she was ready to sponsor...But for all intents and purposes... ) I tend to keep certain things inside, so there are things I am writing that I am not yet ready to share except with a person I trust implicitly, but I hope to work through that as I work through the step again...And if not, that is part of the next step!

Thanks Cat...
greeteachday is offline  
Old 02-08-2008, 02:07 AM
  # 7 (permalink)  
Nature Girl
Ann's Avatar
Join Date: Mar 2002
Location: By The Lake
Posts: 60,328
Step 4 had a reputation for being difficult and painful, or so I thought. When I actually worked it, I found it that although it took me to places emotionally that I had not visited in a very long time, it was very freeing to expose them and deal with them and move past them. It was like a very thorough housecleaning that left me feeling renewed when I was finished.

I worked my Step 4 the first time, guided by my sponsor. She had working papers for me to use and that helped me, but I cannot recall where they were from. She also had me just write, going back through my life and identifying incidents. no matter how small, that had affected me and then analyze what happened and why and how I was affected.

Some of the things I remembered had been buried a very long time, yet were incidents that had had a profound affect on me. To "call them out" and say it out loud (well, through writing), brought some surprises for me, but again, also freed me of the pain of the past.

I have worked this step several times since, although it has never been as big a job as it was the first time (like housecleaning again), because it keeps my soul free and prevents me from accumulating new garbage. Like any inventory, it also is a good thing for me to affirm the good characteristics about me and keep it all balanced.

Today I use Melody Beattie's Codependent Guide to the 12 Steps as a guideline and find it helpful.

If I could offer any suggestions to anyone beginning this step, it would be to work it with a sponsor or the help of someone who had already worked it themselves and had some strong recovery. It's an important step, the first one that required lots of work and deep inner examination and doesn't have to be painful. Taking lots of time for this step helped me stay balanced as I did it.

Again, Cats, great thread and something that I hope will help those who have got as far as Step 4 and then got "stuck".

Ann is offline  
Old 02-08-2008, 05:58 AM
  # 8 (permalink)  
Jujubee Queen
mooselips's Avatar
Join Date: Nov 2003
Location: Port Charlotte, Florida
Posts: 3,582
I do have something that confuses me.

My father was a functioning alcoholic.

My brother an alcoholic, and drug abuser.

My mother drank to keep my father company..
(so she says) she doesn't drink now that he has passed on.

My oldest son is an addict.

My younger son, now sober, an addict. question is..the questions seem to point to an individual that you have/had a problem I focus on one, like my sons, or combile this all together?

For example: If a question concerns being fearful related to your addict/alcoholic, which way do I go...I seem confused. (not a new thing for me )

mooselips is offline  
Old 02-08-2008, 06:25 AM
  # 9 (permalink)  
Nature Girl
Ann's Avatar
Join Date: Mar 2002
Location: By The Lake
Posts: 60,328
My thoughts on this, Moose, would be to take time and write how each one affected you at various times in your life. I know that I had "stuffed issues" with many members of my family that had nothing to do with substance abuse but that were instrumental in my codependency forming and growing.

For example, I feel today that my codependency is based on a fear of bad things happening to those I love, so I have spent my life from childhood protecting them and feeling responsible for their safety.

My father had cancer and died when I was 6. I knew nothing of cancer or death, and thought that if I was his little nurse and took care of him that he would get better. He didn't and I felt that I had not done "enough".

About a year later, my mother was almost murdered by a stranger who had got into our house and attacked her with an axe. Luckily? he just struck her with the blunt end and she was able to get away and grab me and run to a neighbours where we were safe until the police came and got him. It was just a freak thing, we lived in a good neighbourhood and didn't live a life conducive to violence, it was just a mentally disturbed man who happened to choose our house. She told me that it was the thought of getting me out of there that saved her, but she suffered from epilepsy the rest of her life due to the trauma to her head. I felt that I could have saved her from that too, although I know today that I could not have.

These things were never spoken of, at least not in any way that was "releasing" because people thought I would forget if it was left alone, and it wasn't until I was an adult in recovery that I felt comfortable talking about them and examining how it had affected me then and to this day.

There were other things, but I think these examples show what I mean. These were issues that needed to be addressed and emotions that needed to be released.

My son's addiction didn't cause my codependency, it just triggered the worst in me and took me down fast. If I had only focused on that, I would have missed some very important underlying events that had brought me to where I was.

I didn't mean for this to be so long, but wanted to share how so many events at various times in my childhood had a great impact on the person I became as an adult.

Today I can talk about things that were buried for years, and talk without pain because I got to address all of that when I worked my 4th step and then I could begin healing from wounds I had carried for years.

Ann is offline  
Old 02-08-2008, 10:38 PM
  # 10 (permalink)  
DesertEyes's Avatar
Join Date: Jul 2004
Location: Starting over all over again
Posts: 4,427
Blog Entries: 1
Of the myriad facets of recovery, I think inventories are what have helped me the most. Like an inventory of a store, the purpose is to identify what is good and should be kept, and what is not and should be removed. An inventory is the guide I am going to use as I fix _me_ and turn me into a better person.

What works for me is to first read the step _backwards_.

"Ourselves". This is in plural. This is not a step that I am to do alone, it is to be done _with_ other people. That is why there are step meetings, and sponsors. Digging thru my innnermost guilt is _not_ an excercise to be done in isolation, it is to be done as a team. Which is what we are doing in this thread

"Inventory". This is a list. Nothing more. There is no judgement, no grading, no recrimination, no acusation. It is just a list, with a very practical purpose.

"Moral". The list is very simple. It will say what is good and can be kept, and what is not. No justifications, no explanations or excuses, no minimization. Just simply keep or toss.

"Fearless". That's a fancy word for "no cheating". No denial, no pretending, no avoiding for dissembling. Just the facts, nothing more, or less.

"Searching". This means I have to take my time and find all the little, nit-picking stuff that keeps me awake late at night. The stuff that's embarasing, frightening, or just plain disgusting.

"Made". This is an action word, so there is going to be a concrete result. Something on paper. Not just something to think about, talk about, discuss, consider or evaluate. We will _make_ a list that we can hold, review and use in the future.

As someone who has spent a lifetime ducking and dodging the unpleasant realities of life, this was a very different and confusing sentence. It is also liberating. I am going to speak the full and complete truth, without fear, for the first time in my life.

I've done a number of these during my recovery. The first few were broad, and showed me the major areas in my life where I had messed up, and where to start repairs. Later, I inventoried specific issues that had "snagged" my recovery and caused me deep and unexpected pain. I recently did one about my fear of death, and discovered that it wasn't death that scared me. I had been afraid of _living_.

One fourth step I shared with my sponsor a few years ago had to do with my marriage. I had been refering to it as a my "failed" marriage, and although divorced, I was unable to take the wedding ring off my finger. My sponsor suggested I write down _exactly_ why I described my marriage as "failed", and why I still wore the ring.

I do my inventories the old fashioned way; three columns, on paper, the way it says in the grand-daddy Big Book. I'm a rather simple-minded guy, and this method keeps it simple.

I first listed the people, places and things that caused me strong emotions involving my failed marriage. My wife, of course, but after a little thought, my daughter, my mother, my friends.... and pretty much anyone I came in contact with. Even people today, who never knew my wife.

Next I listed the circumstances where those strong emotions came up. I was a little surprised, after I wrote it all out, that every single time I felt those deep emotions about my marriage was when I was trying to make a good impression. When I was trying to get people to think highly of me. Having figured that out, the third column was pretty much superfluous. It was all about my ego.

Somehow, I had picked up the notion that in order to be a good man, I had to have a good marriage. I was using my marriage as proof of my righteousness in the eyes of other people. Not my actions, not my behavior, not my acomplishments. In one of those weird, insightful moments that recovery surpsises us with I remembered my parents marriage, and the train wreck that had been. I realized, in that moment, that I had spent my entire life trying to prove to the world that I was _not_ like my father, and that being married was some kind of public proof of that.

My parents were long dead. Nobody would ever know, nor care, if I were like my father or not. Yet I was hanging on to the ghost of _their_ marriage, and using it as a standard for _my_ life today.

What an incredible waste of my time and energy, to try and prove to the ghosts of my parents that I was better than them. They are _dead_, for heavens's sake, what ever am I trying to prove?

That quick, all my tangled, strangled pain just simply vanished. My marriage was not a failure. It was a wonderful, beautiful gift that God have given me for twenty years. I helped raise a young child into a grown woman, who now had a family of her own. I had looked after the elderly in-laws, built a home and welcomed friends to our love nest. I had done my very best as a husband to make my corner of the world a better place, and done it very well indeed.

Pride had caused me to hang on once the marriage was over, and in turn caused me to enable my wife's addiction. For that I am to blame. But the end of my marriage was not some kind of failure on my part. It ended simply because it had reached it's natural end, just like all things do some day. It was time to move on to the next adventure in life, this one had run it's course.

The very next day I went to the Salvation Army and donated my wedding ring. It was time for that ring to start it's own new adventure, to help some struggling young couple start their own marriage, and their own path in life.

I am on a new path myself. I have been blessed with a wonderful marriage of 20 years, and all manner of amazing gifts from the HP. I have left that marriage behind, but I will be forever grateful for each and every day, even the ones that were filled with pain. I am living in a new town, with all new friends and even a fresh new relationship. Today I know I have been the man I always wanted to be, and that my life has been far more succesful than I ever dreamed. Had it not been for that painful fourth step, I would not know that, I would still be stuck in the past, judging myself by the shadow of my father.

DesertEyes is offline  
The Following User Says Thank You to DesertEyes For This Useful Post:
Readreadread (06-08-2014)
Old 02-10-2008, 07:59 AM
  # 11 (permalink)  
lightseeker's Avatar
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 1,688
Blog Entries: 12
I'm chiming in on this one late because I've been mulling it over. This was a step that I was compulsive about. I found every guide for this step that I could - it was an exhaustive search. What I discovered is to trust that whatever you find to be your guide is the one that you need right then. I must have understood that this step would begin to unlock the mysteries of my disease (which is why I was so exhaustive)....and it has. For me, it was important to be prepared for this step by doing a thorough 1,2,3. I also had to do it with a sponsor and be willing to be fearless. The most important thing that I have learned from step 4 is that it is an answer for me to deal with my resentments as they surface. It is a place to turn whenever I can't find the way out. I'm grateful that I discovered that this is a step to use like I would use the Red Cross after a tornedo. I see the 4th step as a great big red cross. When I have resentments, I am learning to immediately go to my part in it...most of my actions and reactions are fearbased. The 4th step helps me to list out my fears....and then look at which part of "self" is needing attention (my self confidence, self-esteem, self-reliance, etc) and then get to work on those defects of character. What's left after that I say the fear prayer over and turn it over to God. There is great peace in knowing that I have done what I can to address a situation and then I remember to let it go.

I recognize the protective mechanisms that I have within me - I've never discovered anything that I wasn't ready to deal with - HP is so wise that way.
lightseeker is offline  
Old 02-10-2008, 12:48 PM
  # 12 (permalink)  
Forum Leader
Thread Starter
CatsPajamas's Avatar
Join Date: Aug 2002
Location: In my little piece of heaven
Posts: 2,870

An inventory is not just our faults; we must also assess our positive traits and accomplishments. If we are stymied by this task, it can be useful to think about qualities we like in others and whether we may possess that same trait.

In what ways am I caring? How do I empathize with other people? Am I kind to myself? Am I kind to the elderly? Children? My family? My friends? Those in need of my assistance? Am I agreeable and courteous?

How am I tolerant?

Am I open to another’s point of view?

Do I listen in meetings and accept that others have needs different from mine?

Do I practice patience with a newcomer?

How am I trustworthy? Do I pay my bills? Am I prompt? Do I fulfill my commitments? Do I act responsible in my job? How much can my family and friends depend on me?

How am I honest? Do I tell the whole truth? If not, what stops me from telling the truth?

In what ways do I take care of myself? Do I make needed medical appointments? Do I dress appropriately? Do I eat healthy foods? Exercise? Meditate?

How am I respectful? Do I take care of material things, whether mine or others? Do I show respect for the law?

How am I generous? Do I contribute to my group? To the World Service Office triannual appeal? Have I contributed by volunteering to be a trusted servant?

In what ways do I look for the good in others?

How am I kind? Am I considerate of other people? Do I listen patiently to a friend in need? Do I offer help when asked? Do I think to point out the good in others?

How do I open myself up to others?

How am I practical? Do I have a budget? How often do I recognize what needs to be done and then do my share?

How am I dependable? How often do I meet work deadlines? Do I organize well and carry out what I decide to do?

What are my talents? Do I have any artistic gifts? Do I beautify my surroundings? Do I have mechanical skills?

Do I make friends easily? Why or why not?

Do I have trouble with intimate relationships? Why or why not?

In what ways do I express myself clearly and concisely?

How do I see the humor in life and express it?

How am I optimistic?

How do I practice my faith in a Higher Power? In myself? In others? How do I share my faith? Do I have an attitude of gratitude?

How am I humble? Do I ask God for guidance and follow it to the best of my ability? When have I allowed others to share their wisdom with me? Do I ever admit mistakes? How patient am I with myself?

We should now have a list of good qualities to fortify us for the rest of the inventory. With each and every good quality we surveyed, we may have considered a quality we find uncomfortable to acknowledge. A thorough inventory, as we stated in the beginning of this chapter includes our positive as well as negative behaviors and thoughts.
CatsPajamas is offline  
Old 02-10-2008, 12:49 PM
  # 13 (permalink)  
Forum Leader
Thread Starter
CatsPajamas's Avatar
Join Date: Aug 2002
Location: In my little piece of heaven
Posts: 2,870

Now our task is to deal with the difficult issues of our lives, past and present. Nothing will be solved by hiding from the truth. Justifying and rationalizing our actions and blaming others for all the problems in our lives will never produce serenity. Remember, we are only asked to take an inventory, not to do anything about what we learn. If we trust in our Higher Power and the guidance of our sponsor, these issues will be dealt with in a loving way as we continue to work the Al-Anon program of recovery.

In what ways am I resentful? Do I harbor grudges? Why?

Whom do I resent from my past? Why? What is my part in it?

Whom do I resent in my immediate environment? Why? What is my part in it?

Do I resent authority figures? Why? What is my part in it?

When do I judge other people harshly and resent their not doing what I think they should?

Do I hold everyone and everything to an impossible standard of ideal perfection?

How do I judge myself?

Am I fearful? What do I fear? Why?

Am I dishonest? Am I holding secrets? Do I lie rather than “cause a scene”? What dishonesty have I hidden from others?

Do I feel sorry for myself? Am I filled with self-pity? How do I feel I have been made a victim? What is my part in it?

Am I a fixer? Do I like to be in charge? Do I get upset when I don’t win? What consequences have I had from taking care of others instead of myself?

In what ways do I trust myself in dealing with others? Do I go to safe places? Do I remove myself from potentially dangerous situations? Even if it’s my own home?

In what ways am I comfortable with my sexuality? Do I enjoy sex? If I am having sexual difficulties, do I know why? Have I sought professional help?

Do I have a God of love or a God of fear in my life? How can I change my attitude toward my Higher Power?

Do I take on responsibilities that are not mine? Why or why not?

Do I feel responsible for someone else’s learning, marriage, or sobriety? How?

In Step Four we have begun the journey to self-trust through self-knowledge. As we continue the journey through the Steps, we gain trust in ourselves, our Higher Power, in other people and in life. The path to recovery using the Twelve Steps – one Step at a time- continues. Before taking the next step, congratulate yourself, call your sponsor, and share at your next home group meeting the excitement and relief you feel from doing your own personal Fourth Step.
CatsPajamas is offline  

Currently Active Users Viewing this Thread: 1 (0 members and 1 guests)
Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are On
Pingbacks are On
Refbacks are Off

All times are GMT -7. The time now is 03:58 AM.