“Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.” — Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)Step Four
Note: In this blog post, we reference Step Four as outlined in the Big Book of AA interchangeably with Step Four as outlined in the Narcotics Anonymous (NA) Basic Text.
Alcohol and drugs are “but a symptom” of our disease. For this reason, merely taking away the substance/s of choice doesn’t remedy the disease. Instead, to fully “fix” the problem—which is referenced in 12-Step programs as “a spiritual malady”—we must first understand how our tendencies toward love, fear, greed, sex, pride and other natural drives have led to destructive behavior. Step Four provides clarity about how our behavior has affected not only ourselves, but also those with whom we’ve interacted in the past.
The Big Book of AA likens our personal inventory to that of a business. A business, the Big Book says, usually goes broke when inventory isn’t performed. In order to be successful, therefore, the owner must lay everything out on paper in black and white, taking stock of shortcomings. This is essentially what we are doing in Step Four.
Common Step Four Challenges (and Solutions)
Perfectionism: Many of us who struggle with addiction also struggle with compulsive traits. We want to be perfect in one or more areas. But we can’t allow this to be a “rationalization” for avoiding Step Four. The best course of action is to begin this step as soon as Step One, Step Two and Step Three have been completed. The sooner it’s complete, the sooner we can “trudge the road to happy destiny.”
Procrastination: Fear of experiencing shame, guilt or other negative feelings is one of the main reasons people avoid Step Four until “the right time.” But, incorporating self-compassion (read Travco’s blog post about why and how to practice self-compassion) with this step can be incredibly helpful because, yes, it will be uncomfortable. Additionally, documenting our assets and specific examples of times where these positive qualities have played a role in our lives can help create a more balanced view of ourselves.
Intimidation: The prospect of thoroughly detailing our shortcomings can feel overwhelming for anyone. Thankfully, there are many free resources to help with the inventory process. Additionally, we recommend seeking the guidance of a sponsor to get started on this step as he or she can share tips for completing the inventory process.
Thousands, if not millions, of 12-Step members have completed their own searching and fearless moral inventories—paving the way for a successful recovery journey. What are you waiting for?
For further reading on Step Four, check out the AA Big Book (pages 64-71); the 12 Steps and 12 Traditions (pages 42-54); the NA Basic Text (pages 27-29) and “Working Step Four in Narcotics Anonymous.”
If you’re in need of addiction treatment, First Step Recovery can help! Contact us today at 330.369.8022.