Dear Fellow Travelers,
Step Four Essay
This step continues the process of transformation begun in Step One when we admitted that we were powerless. For the first time on our journey we are given a glimpse of the pathway ahead. In writing our "searching and fearless moral inventory" we are not only highlighting the areas of our character where modification is needed or perhaps where we need to consider discarding the old in order to make way for the new, but we are also accentuating qualities we need to retain, nurture and emphasize.
Step Four asks us to be open and honest with ourselves, probably for the first time in our lives. Many like me may hesitate in taking this step for fear of what it may or may not reveal about them. In delaying this step I was simply fall stalling my recovery.
I found it easier and less daunting to begin by writing my story as I saw it. This had two main advantages; one was that what I included were obviously the key events in my life and as such probably the ones from where many of my behaviour patterns displayed today originated. Another advantage in writing my story was that now I had a detailed account mapping the roots from which my addictions, compulsions and co dependencies stemmed. By journaling my life I was able to look back and see situations where my needs were not met, where negative experiences initiated the building of my fortress and where damaging and destructive messages about myself, my presence on this earth and my place in society were activated.
By the time the picture is complete, well for this time around, more may be uncovered in revisits to this step, any unfinished business, over compensation, bitterness, trepidation, blame and shame will be brought to the fore.
Now is as good a time as any to reach for the God of our understanding for strength, courage and wisdom in placing our past where it should be, in the past. I feel that one of the aims of this step, if not the most important, is for us to send the past back where it belongs and gather knowledge to stop it from destroying our future. We have learned that we can only make this journey with the help of God and as such we should seek His guidance when it comes to completing this step.
Next we need to weigh up the full extent of our dependencies, we need to look at our relationship history and make a note of all those we have harmed as well as those who have harmed us. We need to log feelings of resentment, fear, pain, guilt and humiliation but more importantly we need to balance our inventory with the good things too.
Counterbalancing should include the positive legacies we have obtained from our history. For instance as a people pleaser, I became good at organizing and problem solving, as a perfectionist I became good at self-motivation, as a compulsive eater I became knowledgeable on nutrition and subsequently interested in Human Biology and now Science is my specialism subject at university.
In completing the fourth step we should not feel discouraged, since if we were perfect, if we were normal, if we felt totally right with our world, then we wouldn't need the 12-step program of recovery! In this step we are moving further away from the symptom, food, and closer to the real issues of our spiritual and emotional recovery. Whilst I believe all three need to be in equilibrium, I feel one is the symptom of the disorientation of the other two!
Over the years a farmer learns how to tend his crops, he knows how to prepare the soil, how to feed and nurture his harvest. If he continued to make the same mistakes as he made in the early years his yield would be the same. For progress to happen, he needs to redress his ideas.