STEP FOUR, PART 2: How.
I'm Penny, a compulsive eater and food addict and your WTS leader for
It's time to put pen to paper and get started. There are Step 4
formats in the Big Book, the OA and AA 12&12's, the OA Workbook and
a host of other non-OA-approved books. What they have in common is
the end result of becoming aware of the patterns of attitude and
behavior that have shaped our reactions to our life experiences and
caused us to behave in certain, sometimes destructive, ways
throughout our lives.
Sometimes we truly believed we were victims of unprovoked poor
behavior, and sometimes this is true. Most of the time we will find,
however, that we placed ourselves in a position to be hurt, either
through our own behavior or from instincts gone awry. We had to
learn - and Step 4 was the beginning - that all too frequently we
played a role in most of our sorry entanglements. Step 4 is a first
formal attempt at letting go of the beliefs that keep us in victim
It's important for me to say that as opposed to being a frightening
experience, one where we remorsefully and unforgivingly beat
ourselves up because we were "bad people," Step 4 is extremely
freeing. It allows for the "Aha" moment where we get a flash of
liberating awareness that we behaved in certain ways and held certain
attitudes and perhaps that's why we were always sore or held grudges
or were miserable. It wasn't other people that had to change, it was
us ... and that is remarkably liberating.
AA and OA literature talk about our instincts running wild. We all
have instincts: for food, clothing, shelter, sex, intimacy, love,
dependence, safety, etc. The literature tells us that when our
instincts are running on "normal," we behave normally and sanely.
It's when they get out of balance - when our needs become
overwhelming - that our lives become unmanageable - and we look to
food for comfort. When my need for love and approval go off kilter, I
do all sort of destructive things to get that love and approval. I
lied, manipulated people, said yes when I wanted to say no, turned
myself inside and out ... and when people rejected my efforts, I
turned on them, hating and despising them, believing that they were
out to get me. I didn't see that my attitudes, beliefs and behavior
had in effect caused them to treat me poorly. Step 4 showed me that.
I'll give a specific example. When I was in high school, I used to
deliberately offer my "friends" a ride in my parents' car up the hill
to their homes. They took my offer - but then ignored and left me
behind when their parents came to pick them up or when it was time to
go to social events. I hated them because they had hurt me so badly.
Step 4 showed me that my part in the situation was my attempting to
buy their friendship, "people-pleasing" my way to their love. My need
for friendship and approval had caused me to behave in a certain way,
and - people being what they are - they had responded without paying
any attention to my desperation. That realization freed my mind and
soul from the hurt and grudge I had nursed for years.
So, let's get cracking. I'm going to offer the format my sponsor used
with me. It will take about 3 or 4 more posts over this and next
week. What is important is that you "just do it" (to borrow a
phrase). Let go of the fear and the ego and the pride, and "just do
To begin: We are going to make a list of all the significant events
(bad and good) that we experienced throughout our lives and how we
feel about each one. You'll have 3 columns: 1. What 2. Who 3. Feelings
For each event, write 1. what happened - as long or as short as you
wish; 2. who were the players involved; and 3. what are your
responses to the event.
Skip a line or two between each event.
Here are some examples:
1. Failed music; 2. My voice teacher, the faculty, me; 3. angry,
sore, betrayed, hurt, sad, afraid.
1. Stole pastries from a local store and ate them on the way home
from elementary school; 2. Store owner, me; 3. Excited, guilty,
1. Entered OA; 2. My family, me; 3. Relieved, determined, excited,
hopeful, grateful, nervous.
You might wonder about things you no longer care about. My experience
is that if it's important enough for you to remember, it's important
enough to add to the list. Honesty is critical. Write down times you
behaved dishonestly, lied, cheated, manipulated. Remember, we said we
needed to be fearless and searching.
So go to work and start examining your life. I strongly urge you to
stay in close contact with your sponsor!
Questions for journaling/sharing:
1. Write your list.
2. There are many excuses to not write an inventory. Are you coming
up with any? Are you willing to move beyond them to recover?
3. The AA 12&12 says, "instinct run wild ... is the underlying cause
of (our) destructive eating." (p. 44) What do you think?
4. As you write your inventory, bear in mind the phrase, "You're not
the first, you're not the worst." Does this apply to you?
See you next time.
Yours in recovery,