Step Four

Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.



STEP FOUR, PART 8

Hi friends.

My name is Shlomo and I am a food addict and compulsive overeater.

After dealing with our fears we come to the most interesting subject, SEX. The Big Book is very disappointing in that area. It does not have any opinion on sexual preferences, or sexual partners, or sexual positions, or quantity of sex, or sex before marriage or any other kind of sex with or without precaution, or with or without partners. Quite a disappointment. And here I was looking for some entertaining reading.

The Big Book wants us to examine one thing only. Who was hurt by our sexual conduct, and by "who" it means other people that I harmed NOT how others hurt me, and NOT how I hurt myself.

But what if I was a victim of sexual abuse you may ask, where do the people who abused me appear in my step 4? They probably appear in my resentment table and my fear table, but not in my sexual conduct table. Maybe it is a disappointment to some of us, but that's the way step 4 is built. It is our inventory not the inventory of others, and we are here to discover how OUR defects manifest in our life, since they are what is blocking us from H.P.

Let us give some examples of how we can hurt others by our sexual conduct. I can hurt someone by having sex with him or her, or by having sex with someone else instead of that person. I can hurt people by being demanding in sex. I may ignore my partner's desires and preferences and insist that he or she has sex with me on my terms or not at all. I may hurt my partner by appearing cold and disinterested, and withholding sex to punish him or her. I may create jealousy by flirting with someone in front of my spouse or even behind my spouse's back. I can hurt my spouse by cheating on her/him, and if my spouse finds out about it, than I have created more problems and probably hurt my children and other family members too. It can even hurt the other person I am having sex with. If my secret lover has a family, than I am hurting them too. As you can see, we can hurt a lot of people by our sexual conduct whether we have sex with them or not.

Let us see what the Big Book has to say about our sexual problems.

"We all have sex problems. We'd hardly be human if we didn't." page 69.

So I am not the only one with sex problems. That is nice to know. Working the steps will help us develop a new manner of living in our sexual life too, in such a way that we will not hurt others and have a happy joyous and free life.

Here is what we do about our sexual conduct in step 4.

"We reviewed our own conduct over the years past. Where had we been selfish, dishonest, or inconsiderate? Whom had we hurt? Did we unjustifiably arouse jealousy, suspicion or bitterness? Where were we at fault, what should we have done instead? We got this all down on paper and looked at it." BB page 69.

So as you may have guessed we make a sexual conduct table. The heading of the first column will be: "Whom did I hurt" (by my sexual conduct).

In the first column we list all the people we have hurt by our sexual behavior. Then we add all the institutions and principles (principles: the values I once held about sexual behavior that I betrayed by harming the people on my list).

We may use our resentment and fear tables to help us jog our memory. We pay special attention to the cases where we wrote that we were inconsiderate, since by being inconsiderate we usually hurt others, and of course we concentrate our having hurt others by our sexual conduct. We can also use the resentment prompt list that listed examples of people, institutions and principles, to help us fill the first column. Then we try to remember if there are other people that are not on any of our lists, which were also harmed by our sexual conduct, and add them too.

When we have finished filling column one, we begin with column two. This columns is headed: "What I did." For each person, institution or principle in column one, write down in column two what you did to hurt them.

After filling the whole column, we go over to the third column. The heading of this column is: "Did I arouse" (bitterness, suspicion, or jealousy). In this column I write down one or more of those three basic bad feelings that my actions aroused in each person. For an institution, I relate to the relevant persons in that institution.

After filling the whole third column we deal with the fourth column. This column is headed: "The cause" (parts of self). In this column I list which part of my inner self caused me to perform those harmful actions. The parts are: self-esteem, pride, personal relations, emotional security, financial security, physical security, and ambitions. I took out sexual relations from this list since in this table we are dealing with sexual relations. We will also find out that we usually hurt others by our sexual conduct, not because of our sexual instincts but because of other parts of our inner self.

Before I continue, just a remark about sexual disorders, including compulsive sexual behavior, and sex obsession. This is a disease, and requires separate treatment. It can be a 12 step group like Sex and Love Anonymous and of course professional help. We don't deal with such a case here.

Now let us return to how our sexual conduct is connected to our inner parts of self. This calls for a little more explanation, so let me give some examples on how those inner-self parts may cause me to harm others.

I may use sex to build up my self-esteem, by having sex with a lot of people and of course hurting them in the process. As you can see sex is involved but it is not the cause of the problem. The cause is the desire for greater self-esteem and sex is the vehicle I use to fulfill this desire.

I may use sex as a means of having a relationship with someone, for companionship, or to get attention. So sex is the vehicle, but the real motivation is the desire for companionship not the sex instinct.

I may use sex to bolster my pride, to punish my spouse by having sex with others. Again sex is the vehicle but I am doing it for revenge, or to fulfill my desire for pride.

All of these symptoms ultimately stem from a desire for something other than sex. As we fill this column we think about how the desire for self-esteem, pride, personal relationships, security (emotional, financial, physical), and ambitions, has affected our sex conduct.

After finishing filling that column, we go over to the next one, the fifth column headed: "Where was I at fault." Now I can read all I have written till now, and ask myself what motivated my actions. Was it one or more of the following: selfishness, dishonesty, fear, inconsideration, or self-seeking? After filling this column we will usually see that it is not our sex instinct that causes our sexual problems. The causes are selfishness, dishonesty, fear, inconsideration, and self-seeking.

When these character defects direct my actions in pursuit of self- esteem, pride, personal relations, security, or fulfillment of my ambitions, I end up hurting others and myself. My sexuality may be what I used but it is not the source of my problems.

In order to know how to continue with the next column: "What should I have done instead," I have to have more help from H.P. So let us turn to the Big Book for some more directions.

"In this way we tried to shape a sane and sound ideal for our future sex life. We subjected each relation to this test - was it selfish or not? We asked God to mold our ideals and help us to live up to them. We remembered always that our sex powers were God-given and therefore good, neither to be used lightly or selfishly nor to be despised and loathed." page 69.

The Big Book recommends that we shape a sane and sound ideal for our future sex life and we pray to God to help us do that. So here is the first sex conduct prayer.

"God please mold my ideals and help me live up to them."

Now back to the Big Book.

"Whatever our ideal turns out to be, we must be willing to grow toward it. We must be willing to make amends where we have done harm, provided that we do not bring about still more harm in so doing. In other words, we treat sex as we would any other problem. In meditation, we ask God what we should do about each specific matter. The right answer will come, if we want it.

"God alone can judge our sex situation. Counsel with persons is often desirable, but we let God be the final judge. We realize that some people are as fanatical about sex as others are loose. We avoid hysterical thinking or advice.

"Suppose we fall short of the chosen ideal and stumble? Does this mean we are going to get drunk [binge]? Some people tell us so. But this is only a half-truth. It depends on us and on our motives. If we are sorry for what we have done, and have the honest desire to let God take us to better things, we believe we will be forgiven and will have learned our lesson. If we are not sorry, and our conduct continues to harm others, we are quite sure to drink [binge]. We are not theorizing. These are facts out of our experience." pages 69-70.

The Big Book tells us to treat sex as any other problem. How do we treat any other problem? By turning to God for guidance and direction. Therefore the Big Bock suggests another prayer.

Second sex conduct prayer.

"God please direct me in what I should do about each specific matter."

As we can see the Big Book emphasizes that we can ask people for advice but only God (not my sponsor or anyone else) is to be the final judge. We are also told that if we are not sorry for our conduct and continue harming others we will return to our compulsive eating.

Back to the Big Book.

"To sum up about sex: We earnestly pray for the right ideal, for guidance in each questionable situation, for sanity, and for the strength to do the right thing." page 70.

Here the Big Book gives us a third prayer that sums up the previous prayers. I will call it the summing up prayer.

"God please help me have the right ideal, guide me in each questionable situation, grant me sanity, and strength to do the right thing."

Let us put our sex conduct table aside for the moment and do what the Big book asks us to do about our "Sexual Ideal." We take a blank sheet of paper and say the summing up prayer. Then we write our ideal sexual goal: what we want our sexual relations to be like in the future and what we want in a sexual partner. In doing this we consider all the qualities we would like to have in our sexual relationship with another. I think it best to do this in list form (one under the other). This will help us define what is important to us and how to achieve our goals in relationships.

After writing my ideal I continue with the sexual conduct table. We add a narrow prayer column. We read again what we have written for the first person on our table, say the summing up prayer, and put a mark in the prayer column.

Then we continue to fill the next column, which is: "What should I have done instead." We write what are the right things we should have done according to our ideal for a sane sex life.

After finishing with the first person we do the same for the second and so on till we go over the whole table. It is important to have written our ideal and to pray before each entry in that column. This will help us to identify what we should have done instead of the way we conducted ourselves.

The Big Book also gives us some general, very useful advice.

"If sex is very troublesome, we throw ourselves the harder into helping others. We think of their needs and work for them. This takes us out of ourselves. It quiets the imperious urge, when to yield would mean heartache." page 70.

This advice is very sound and can be used with any problem or desire, not just sex, since it is the opposite of self-centeredness, and as you all know, self-centeredness is the root of our spiritual malady.

There is one more table we have to fill in order to complete step four. The Big Book mentions it very briefly on page 70.

"We have listed the people we have hurt by our conduct, and are willing to straighten out the past if we can."

So we have to fill an additional table: "Harm done by my general conduct," in addition to the sex conduct table.

We can harm others financially, by stealing for example. We can harm others physically by physical violence, and we can harm others emotionally by verbal violence, by gossip, by lies, and by acting out our character defects.

There are some people who prefer to leave this table for step 8, but the Big Book tells us differently.

"Let's look at STEPS EIGHT AND NINE. We have a list of all persons we have harmed and to whom we are willing to make amends. We made it when we took inventory. We subjected ourselves to drastic self-appraisal." page 76.

So we see that we make a list of ALL the people we have harmed in step 4, and the sex conduct list certainly does not have ALL the people we have harmed generally.

I think that a lengthy explanation on how to fill the last table is not needed here. It is exactly the same table as the sex conduct table. Only it's name is different. We fill it in the same way. We can use the same prayers for our general conduct, and we can write an "Ideal" for general conduct.

Here, too, we can jog our memory by going over our other tables and checking where we were inconsiderate, since this usually means that we have hurt someone. We can also use the resentment prompt list to jog our memory. We will also have to consider the possibility that there are people I have harmed that are not on the resentment or fear list.

Let me give an example.

I buy a cup of coffee somewhere, pay with a dollar bill and get change from a ten by mistake. I pocket the change without saying anything and go out. I don't know the guy there and I don't resent him, but still I have stolen money from him, which means that I caused him harm and I have to put him in my general harm to others list.

We have to remember that those tables should contain ALL the people we have harmed.

Now we have finished with the inventory. Let us see what the Big Book has to say about it.

"If we have been thorough about our personal inventory, we have written down a lot. We have listed and analyzed our resentments. We have begun to comprehend their futility and their fatality. We have commenced to see their terrible destructiveness. We have begun to learn tolerance, patience and good will toward all men, even our enemies, for we look on them as sick people. We have listed the people we have hurt by our conduct, and are willing to straighten out the past if we can.

"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 made a decision, and an inventory of your grosser handicaps, you have made a good beginning. That being so you have swallowed and digested some big chunks of truth about yourself." pages 70-71

To all the perfectionists among us, the Big Book says that this is an inventory of our grosser handicaps only, and it is just a good beginning. So don't look for a perfect inventory and don't wait for a perfect inventory. There is no such thing. We have begun to undergo a change, which is the beginning of the spiritual awakening process (personality change), since we began to see the fatality and futility of our resentments. We began to learn patience, tolerance and good will to all man, and to pray to God to help us in that. We are willing to straighten out the past if we can. Realizing that, we become convinced that God can remove whatever self-will has blocked us off from him, since we see the beginning of the change already.

If this is not a nice beginning of a personality change than what is? This inventory gave us a picture of the truth about ourselves, but not all the truth - just some big chunks of it. As we work and progress we will discover more, and there will always be more to discover. That is what the daily work of steps 10-12 is for.

Let us look again at page 65 and write an example of a sex conduct table, just to sum it up.

Whom did I hurt: my wife
What I did: I took a mistress
What I aroused: Bitterness, suspicion and jealousy
The cause: self-esteem (wanted to bolster it), pride
Where was I at fault: selfish, self-seeking, inconsiderate, dishonest and frightened

Now I take a piece of blank paper, say the summing up prayer and write my sexual conduct ideal.

After doing that I return to the table:

Summing up prayer: *
What should I have done instead: should have been faithful to my wife.

Now a short example of the harm done to others by general conduct. Again, let us look at page 65:

Whom did I hurt: my boss
What did I do: padded my expense account, came to work drunk
What I aroused : bitterness and suspicion
The cause : financial security, self esteem
Where was I at fault: selfish self-seeking inconsiderate dishonest, frightened

Now I take a piece of blank paper, say the summing up prayer and write my general conduct (relationships) ideal.

After doing that I return to the table:

Summing up prayer: *
What should I have done instead: should have been honest, should not have come drunk to work.


INTO ACTION AND SHARING SUBJECTS:

REMARK: in filling the tables, follow the examples I have given here, including saying the prayers and writing the Ideal.

1. Fill a sex conduct table and write your sexual ideal

2. Share two cases from this table with us if they are not too private to share.

3. How do you feel after completing this table?

4. Fill a "Harm done to others by general conduct" table, and write your "General Relations Ideal."

5. Share two cases from this table with us if they are not too private to share.

6. How do you feel after completing this table?

7. Now you have finished taking your inventory. Read what the Big Book has to say about it, and tell us if this describes what you have been through and how you feel now.

"If we have been thorough about our personal inventory, we have written down a lot. We have listed and analyzed our resentments. We have begun to comprehend their futility and their fatality. We have commenced to see their terrible destructiveness. We have begun to learn tolerance, patience and good will toward all men, even our enemies, for we look on them as sick people. We have listed the people we have hurt by our conduct, and are willing to straighten out the past if we can.

"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 made a decision, and an inventory of your grosser handicaps, you have made a good beginning. That being so you have swallowed and digested some big chunks of truth about yourself." pages 70-71.

See you in step 5.

Have a nice day.
Shlomo





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