Step Four

Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.


I'm Penny, a compulsive eater and food addict and your WTS leader for this quarter.

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 mentality.

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 it."

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, desperate.

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,



Step Three

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