Step Four

"Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves."

Step Four Contents:

Introduction
Part 1 and Questions for journaling
Part 2 and Questions for journaling
Part 3 and Questions for journaling
Part 4 and Questions for journaling

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Step Four ~ Introduction

"Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves."

Our loop coordinator has just today asked me to step in and write questions for step four. I appreciate the opportunity as this step has been integral to my recovery.

I will post questions to WTS by this evening. Before then, one immediate issue comes to my mind is what WTS members expect before doing a fourth step. Many people anticipate a hideous experience. I was so fragile when I came into recovery that everything terrified me so this step was only one of seemingly endless fears. (I was even afraid to be alone in a room with any kind of sweets).

so, before the actual questions, consider your expectations of studying the fourth step.

with love,

vicki w.

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Step Four ~ Part 1

"Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves."

I find writing about this step today a bit ironic. I will be celebrating my 10 year birthday in OA in two days and I base a great deal of my recovery on the 4th and 10th steps.

When I came into program, I was unable to envision myself in any honest way. I was very in touch with my low self-esteem and was able to discuss that for hours. And, indeed, I thought very little of myself; a bulimic/anorexic, alcoholic and codependent, I had not strung together more than 10 days without vomiting since the age of 11. I hated myself and came to program as a last resort before committing suicide. Underneath all of it, I had no idea why I could not eat like other people.

At the same time, I also spent a great deal of time feeling "more than" other people exactly as discussed in AA's Big Book. How many times did I look at another woman and think, "I cannot believe she wore that" or watch someone in charge of something and think "This is taking so long. If I were in charge..." I was quick to note, if not to comment on, my siblings, parents, friends relationships to me and to others. Bank clerks, men I dated, family members, total strangers in line at a fast food restaurant - I judged their behavior endlessly. The bottom line is simple: I thought I knew what was best for others. A bit funny given that I couldn't even control the sustenance that went in my mouth. I was an egomaniac with a low self-esteem - a fundamental characteristic for addicts of all kinds according to the founders of 12-Step programs.

So, while I mired in hating myself and carefully avoided looking at my own arrogance, I also refused to acknowledge my great qualities. I am a funny, sharp, engaging and compassionate person. Yet, I could not list a single appealing aspect when I came into program. As stated by Bill W. (founder of AA), I was driven by 100 forms of self but I had no clue who I really was - my self-image was terribly distorted.

The purpose of a fourth step is basic. As Bill W. writes, like any store, we need to take inventory. Period. This step isn't about self-flagellation or self pity. Its an assessment, a way to take stock of my good qualities, my defects and from there figure out who Vicki W. is. Where it gets messy is with my ego. Either I want to deny my responsibility in problematic person relations or I want to soak in self loathing. Ironic because if a business conducted its inventory in such an extreme, erratic fashion, it would close quickly.

If you do not have a Big Book, I encourage you to acquire one for this step. (Even major bookstores carry them now). It outlines in concise fashion, how to begin a fourth step. For the fourth step particularly, I rely heavily on 12-Step literature. If I knew today how to take an honest look at myself, I wouldn't remain so afraid of food, people, places and things.

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Step Four ~ Part 1: Questions

"Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves."
  1. Whether in the OA 12X12 or the Big Book, our literature stresses to COE's that the "liquor [food] is but a symptom" of our condition. In your heart of hearts, how do you explain to yourself your inability to act sanely with food? (said another way, what are the "causes and conditions" behind your COE?)
  2. Can you see yourself honestly? Discuss your three best qualities, things you really enjoy about yourself. (Is this hard? why?)
  3. Why is it hard or easy for you to take responsibility for your part in relationship problems?
  4. Can you see how you may have a low self-esteem but also carry an arrogance or "more than" attitude about yourself in relation to others?
  5. Why would the founders of AA stress so emphatically that without a thorough, honest and balanced personal inventory we are bound to eat compulsively again? Why does so much of abstinence hinge on this inventory?
Thank you for letting me share. Personally, I still find a fourth step to be difficult and I deeply appreciate you all helping me do one individually.

vicki

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Step Four ~ Part 2

"Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves."

Step Four - Learning About Myself

When I taught World Religions a couple of years ago, I worked with one of the most famous historians in the country. We covered all major faiths in the Eastern and Western traditions plus several indigenous groups. Finally, we examined agnostic and atheistic philosophers. The single outstanding feature among all of them was the need for individual introspection, honest self-examination, willingness to correct one's behavior and, lastly, renewal. As I start on another fourth step, I remind myself that this process leads me closer to my HP - whether that be nature's regeneration in spring time or more conventional faiths. Before I get there, though, I have to look at myself.

Almost ten years ago, a therapist told me that I was greedy. It still stings to write those words. If you knew me, you would know that I hardly covet money, sex or material possessions. I rudely interrupted and asked her what she meant (hoping to follow this with a discussion of where exactly she had received her Ph.D. and self-righteousness :). Fortunately, she ignored me and asked me to read the first part of the fourth step in the AA 12 X 12. This probably saved my life.

The reading first asks us to look at "what the basic problem is." Obvious examples are when we put our thoughts about food, money, sex before those about our HP. These are obvious, though. How about our quest for security? I would hate to count how many times I have acted out of fear that I will not get what I want or that something I have will be taken away. "Every time a person imposes his instincts unreasonably upon others, unhappiness follows." If we are depressives, how many times have we been "swamped with guilt and self-loathing?" We lose all perspective and somehow forget that we are not the center of the world. People make mistakes. Then there is the other side. What about those of us who are self-righteous - who truly cannot see our role in conflicts or problems? In my experience, an inability to accept true responsibility for our resentments almost always leads to relapse. Two problems follow. First, we think that problems with food cause our life issues rather than the reverse. Second, our problems are caused by the behavior of other people. All of us have such people in our lives - mine include an abusive boss and a philandering, abusive ex-husband. I resent them so much lately that now undergoing a fourth step is less painful than my resentment. And, resentment seems to build on itself. When I am already feeling like a victim (which, indeed I was but I was also a participant), everybody bugs me. It seems like slow drivers deliberately get in front of me, the grocery store clerk calculated a way to make her line go slower, and everybody rushed to the local drugstore to buy my diet coke. The thinking is crazy. My behavior would be crazy too without a regular tenth step and several fourth steps. Quite simply, although I am a very honest, direct person in many ways, my role in some relationships baffles me. Worse, when I figure it out, I get really, really resentful at myself and others.

Speaking of self-renewal and present day responsibility, I am going to walk on thin ice. My childhood was almost unimaginably violent. Thank God I have had years of therapy, program and loving sponsors to help me through some very bad periods. I do not, nor will I ever, assume responsibility for the abusive behavior of the adults in my life as a child. At the same time, when I walked into OA, all that really mattered was that I was dying. I am in no way suggesting anyone work a fourth step on childhood abuse. But, my recovery is mine today. No one can change what happened although I still have days when I desperately wish they could. The bottom line is that we have to recover today. I had to do many painful things to deal with my childhood memories. Again, however, my recovery is mine today. I don't want to live the dysfunction, addictive life of some of my family. It almost killed me. Whenever I am ready to give up, I remind myself that my HP loves me and wants me to feel loved and be abstinent. I have to look at myself today. Without doing so, "whatever our defects, they have finally ambushed us into compulsive (over)eating and misery-" in effect, recreating the pain I grew up with - a far cry from renewal and contentment.

My therapist was correct. I did greedily demand security in the form of safe finances, happy relationships, and getting my own way. When I didn't get those things, I acted on all of my defects. Recovery hinges upon working an honest fourth step. Paraphrasing the AA 12 X 12, the defects deep down in us have been buried in self-justification and pride (or a morbid lack of pride. The fourth step is our first action step in 12-Step programs and when you look at relapse, one of the most significant issues is not doing a fourth step or not doing it thoroughly.

There is a short paragraph from the 12 X 12 that summarizes why we do a fourth step besides wanting to stay abstinent. "But it is from our twisted relations with family, friends, and society at large that many of us have suffered the most. . . The primary fact that we fail to recognize is our total inability to form a true partnership with another human being. Either we insist upon dominating the people we know, or we depend on them far too much. . . Of true brotherhood we had small comprehension." I don't know about any of you but I want to stay abstinent and enjoy my life. More than anything, I don't want to let my resentments fester into deep-seated bitterness. I want to do a thorough inventory and find peace in this life. The only way to do reach this goal of renewal is to undergo the deep introspection and self-examination the fourth step offers.

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Step Four ~ Part 2: Questions

"Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves."
  1. What forms do your demand for security take? How it affect others in your life? How does it affect your faith and relationship with your HP?
  2. Why do you think AA/OA/Al-Anon literature stresses introspection and acceptance of responsibility so much?
  3. When it comes to accepting responsibility, in what kinds of situations do your find yourself blocked?
  4. Leading into next week, what kinds of people/places/things create resentment for you? Are you aware of resentment in your life? Why does the Big Book say that resentment is the single greatest cause for relapse?
  5. How would your life be different if you could take an honest self-assessment, without falling into the morbidly depressive or self-righteousness?
As a final note, these questions are very hard for me even with ten years of abstinence. Many people I know with more years than myself say the same thing. I still find it really hard to be honest about my resentments and my role in some situations. I used to look at questions like these and slide through them quickly. I had a number of excuses: I took too much responsibility for others (equally dishonest to taking none); I had done my best; I was sick of self-assessment etc. Then, I almost relapsed. I had to go back over all the steps as if I had never done them before because I had wandered off my spiritual path. When questions like these seem easy to me, its a sign that i am not looking past my surface issues. Like they say, this program is simple but it is not easy. Hang in there. While glib, the truth is that all of us deserve the feelings of life renewal, joy and peace.

vicki

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Step Four ~ Part 3

"Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves."

Step Four - Resentment

When I came into OA at 21 I had one ten day period without purging in over a decade. I didn't know anything about anything. My life was such a mess that I had planned my own suicide. It was OA or nothing. There wasn't a diet or food plan that I had not tried previously. Towards the end of my "bulimic/COE" career, I followed a self-devised, four food group diet: gin, diet pills, cigarettes and any binge food I could find. I had just about given up.

Yet, I didn't want to do a fourth step. The single motivating factor was that I had nowhere else to go. For me, OA was the last house on the block. And, my sponsor, bless her heart gave me no choice. AA Big Book in hand, she said "Do it. You don't have to understand it. Do it." Those few words probably saved me life.

Resentment was not a word I carried in my vocabulary. It was old-fashioned, something my grandmother would have said while quoting the King James Bible. So, when I read the Big Book I was surprised and honestly thought the authors were idiots or desperately outdated.

"Resentment is the 'number one' offender. It destroys more alcoholics [COE's] than anything else. From it stems all forms of spiritual disease, for we have been not only mentally and physically ill, we have been spiritually sick."

Quite simply, I did not see myself as a resentful person. Many of you are way ahead of me. Only in the past year have I begun to understand that I am an angry, resentful person. I was in the grocery store a while ago, overextended and in a hurry. Never mind that I had overbooked my schedule, I had to get out of the store quickly. I stood in the express line and counted the items of the man in front of me. He had twelve things, three over the allowed amount. I fumed. Who was he to break the rules? Finally, I got through the line, ruminating about the injustice of the world. By the time I sat in my car, I felt exhausted. Lately, I have wondered how much these tiny, daily "resentment episodes" undermine my physical health and threaten my spiritual condition. Imagine what the big ones like past employers, friends, family members and husband cost.

As if the founders of AA knew my stubborn nature, they repeat the resentment theme until it began to sink in. "Burn the idea into the consciousness of every (wo)man that he can get well regardless of anyone. The only condition is that he trust in God and clean house (pg. 98)." Finally understanding that my best ideas (see above diet plan for example) bordered on crazy, I started listing my resentments.

Importantly, the fourth step has NOTHING to do with action toward another person. There are five steps before we act on anything. This step is actually kind of fun in the beginning. I got to list all the "people, institutions or principles with whom I was angry." Great - I had a long list of injustices. Then, I ask why I was angry. Not to be rude but all of this seemed so self-evident that I considered the intelligence of Bill and Bob (AA founders). I was angry because "they" did ________. Like the stranger in my grocery line, I was self-righteous, self-pitying and angry - a small step from consumed by bitterness. As in the Big Book, I had been "hurt and threatened." Either someone was trying to take something away from me or was not giving me what I wanted, but I was fundamentally afraid. Fear and resentment seem to go hand in hand for me.

Please read this part carefully. The point of a personal inventory is not to disregard that we may have been justifiably hurt. As Bill W. states, "this world and its people were often quite wrong." Many of us have experienced enough unfair abuse to last a lifetime. BUT, this in inventory is not about "them." It is personal - it is mine. For just a short time in my life, a fourth step demands that I look at myself alone. Dealing with others comes later and in other contexts. This is my inventory and mine alone.

After listing my resentments, I had to consider seriously where all of the resentment and anger was getting me. "It is plain that a life which includes deep resentment leads only to futility and unhappiness." When I sit in resentment, I get angrier and angrier. Enough of these accumulated feelings and I turn to food. Then, I hate myself and the whole cycle starts again. The only way out of this cycle for me was a fourth step. I had to go straight to the jugular: I am an compulsive eater and it will kill me if I don't follow this program. In this light, a fourth step seems quite small.

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Step Four ~ Part 3: Questions

"Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves."
  1. Do you consider yourself a resentful person?
  2. Again, how do your understand why you repeatedly turn to food? Discuss only yourself.
  3. How do carrying resentments connect with food? our relations to others?
  4. Is it difficult to list resentments without taking another person's inventory? i.e., "I did it because (s)he did ________________." Or, "if they hadn't done _________, I would not feel this way." My personal one is "It isn't fair. They made me angry."
  5. Can you see how skipping the fourth step is part of relapse?
  6. Consider the following. The Big Book states that "If we were to live, we had to be free of anger. The grouch and the brainstorm were not for us. They may be the dubious luxury of normal men, but for alcoholics these things are poison."
As a concluding note, I have only begun to internalize much of this. The longer I am abstinent, the less I "know" about myself. If looking at ourselves was easy for us, we would not eat ourselves to death. For myself, none of this is natural. My instinctual response to any situation is to immediately look at why I gain, lose or keep. The tremendously freeing part of a fourth step is that it introduces me to a new way of thinking. It relieves me of the "one hundred forms of self." Food never offered me anything but short relief and long-term self-hatred.

vicki

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Step Four ~ Part 4

"Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves."

Step Four - Fear and Faith

Fear is a word that I overuse in my vocabulary and underestimate in my psyche. I am afraid of "getting fat," "not eating," "overeating," "eating in public," "eating in private," "eating ___," "not eating __" - the list goes on and on. Raised in violence, I recognize the importance of caution. But, I carry a tremendous amount of fear that has nothing to do with violence. I am terrified that I will not get what I want and when I want it. Lately, I am increasingly aware of my endless, daily fears. People, places and things - none seem to make me happy for any substantial period of time. Usually after one issue is resolved, I return to my self-imposed fearful state, bogged down in fear and afraid of life's next challenge. A chronic malcontent, I am a fear junkie as well.

At times, I can feel that I am missing the forest for the trees. The issues I drive myself crazy over always get worked out. I look back on ten years of care and protection by my HP. Past fears look small now - resolved, tucked away and forgotten. Today's fears loom so comparatively large. These cannot be solved - or so I tell myself. The need for a quick fix almost overwhelms me - I want my solution and I want it instantly. Today, I am grateful for my asthma because it has been so debilitating that I am forced to slow down. My hectic life of pacing from one issue to another literally makes me sick. God must have some kind of humor as the only way I will slow down is if my very life's breath depends on it.

In essence, I continue to miss the forest - the process by which fear is transformed into faith. Yet, that simple process is unchanging, rooted in its simplicity. The subject of most major religions and discussed by secular philosophers, the private "secret" to obtaining faith is distinctly public. I do all that I can to solve the problem at hand and then give the outcome to God. Regardless of the type of problem, God consistently has demonstrated that there is a divine plan for me. Problems arise because I don't know what that plan is, it isn't here quick enough and it may not fit with that of my own. Self-will run riot. Every time the solution to my many woes is simple. Instead of languishing in fear, I need to turn it over to my HP. It sounds so trite to my overly active and underproductive mind. In practice, however, it is as complex and foreign to me as quantum mechanics.

So many of us as addicts live in fear that the Big Book addresses it head on in the fourth step. "This short word somehow touches about every aspect of our lives. It was an evil and corroding threat; the fabric of our existence was shot through with it. It sent in motion trains of circumstances which brought us misfortune we felt we didn't deserve. . . Sometimes we think fear ought to be classed with stealing. It seems to cause us more trouble."

At that quote, I give pause. The founders avoided words like "evil," perhaps out of recognition that this word has religious connotations for many. Fear, though, doesn't rank up with stealing in my mind. The first is just an emotion while the second is a punishable action. As we think back to our demands for security, discussed earlier, i wonder if fear doesn't do an equal amount of damage with our fellows and certainly with our spiritual conditions. Fear is what makes me want to control you. I am extremely hypervigilant with some issues, constantly on the alert to make sure that my needs are understood, considered and acted upon by those around me. Sure, my list of fears has shrunk. Should, however, we talk about fear of financial insecurity and my antennae go up like a shot. No matter how many times my HP has protected me, I am convinced that this time God will forget. This time, God will abandon me in my time of need. All I see are isolated trees.

More and more, I am praying for consistent faith. As an intellectual and empiricist, it boggles my mind that I can conduct the same experiment with God repeatedly and still hold such shallow faith. We often talk about insanity as doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results. Usually, this references our insanity with food. But, doesn't the same principle apply to our spiritual condition? I have yet to disappointed with my HP. As I look back on my life, I can see so many times that I should have died and was protected. It sends shudders up my spine. For those who know my life story, I am proof of imaginable luck or some kind of being greater than myself. Of all people, I feel that I should know better and trust more. But, missing the forest for the trees, I become quickly absorbed by the week's crisis and forget to let God help me. Ego, some say, stands for "edging God out." Makes sense as to this day, I would prefer to be "self-reliant" rather than depend on my Higher Power. Despite my track record at solving my life's crises, I continue to believe that faith is only necessary if I have proven that I cannot solve the problem myself. Trees, trees and more trees.

Issues of fear and faith resound in the BB and all 12-Step literature as do those of self-reliance and accepting God's help. Still is not easy for me and I remain envious of individuals who feel no fear. The BB states that "The verdict of the ages is that faith means courage. All men of faith have courage. They trust their God." What straightforward words and how complicated my life looks like in comparison. So, following the BB, our task is to "...commence to outgrow fear."

Very clearly, Bill states that we begin to outgrow fear by writing a personal inventory. We list the people we resent, look at how we hurt them by our conduct and move forward to the fifth step. Underscoring that the fourth step helps us develop our faith, Bill concludes this chapter by writing,

"In this book you read again and again that faith did for us what we could not do for ourselves. We hope you are convinced now that God can remove whatever self-will has blocked you off from him. If you have already m>

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your grosser handicaps, you have made a good beginning. That being so you have swallowed and digested some big chunks of truth about yourself."
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Step Four ~ Part 4: Questions

"Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves."
  1. Can you think back to a crises that at the time seemed insurmountable or hideous but now seems part of a larger plan in your life?
  2. Do you think of yourself as "willful" and "fearful"? Do those words relate to each other?
  3. Why does the theme of faith and fear reappear so often in the BB?
  4. Are there ever times when you feel "blocked" from your HP? In these crisis of faith, what do you do to get yourself reconnected with God?
  5. For those of you who have done a fourth and fifth step, how have they changed your life?
These questions do not do justice to considerations of fear and faith as discussed in the fourth step. Feel free to disregard them and come up with your own responses.

thank you for allowing me to be of service with the fourth step. I look forward to the fifth.

sincerely,

vicki w.

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