Step Four

Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

STEP FOUR, PART 3: Unlayering the onion.

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

To paraphrase our literature, now that we've made our list of all the things in our lives that have and continue to have an impact, the first obvious thing is that there are a lot of people, places and things that make us awfully angry - a lot of things that we are afraid of. (Those who agree, please raise your hand??? Thought so. ) The Big Book (I believe) tells us that for some of us that's about as far as we got. The world is out to get us, and we are its victims. And if Step 4 were only about writing down how people, places and things "done us wrong," we'd be done and could enjoy a good gripe session. Obviously there's more to it.

As difficult as it is, we are going to continue searching our lives for the reasons that we are so angry at and afraid of the world. There's an OA sayings like "when I point a finger at someone, there are three fingers pointing back at me" and "the person who angers me, controls me." So true. And the Big Book says, "Though a situation had not been entirely our fault, we tried to disregard the other person involved entirely. Where were we to blame? The inventory was ours, not the other (person's)." (AA, p. 67) We are searching out "the flaws in our make-up which caused our failures." (AA, p. 64) I think this part of Step 4 can be best summed in "Doctor, Alcoholic, Addict" from the Big Book: "I need to concentrate not so much on what needs to be changed in the world as on what needs to be changed in me and in my attitude." (AA, p. 449)

It is so important to remember that we are not trying to make ourselves feel miserable or to dump all over ourselves. The point of Step 4 is "to see clearly how some of our reactions had served us well while others had unbalanced us emotionally, setting up patterns of negative thinking and self-destructive behavior." (OA 12&12, p. 32)

I will tell you that I was very wary of this part of Step 4. I mean, there's a certain safety and comfort in being a victim. No one can blame me (hey, it's not *my* fault); I'm safe from being disappointed in myself; I can enjoy my resentments and nurse those grudges as though they were babies. And I complained regularly that no one was going to tell me that *I* had anything to do with all those times people did something wrong to me. Nope. Not a bit. The two issues that I was SURE weren't my fault or responsibility at all were things I had carried around for 15 - 20 years. I had nursed grudges and hatred for two people for more than half my life. I was convinced to my core that these people had permanently damaged my psyche and my essence. These two episodes DEFINED my life.

Then I worked Step 4, and came to enjoy the peace and serenity that comes from quitting the blame game and finally accepting personal responsibility. Huge weights fell off my shoulders because I wasn't shlepping around the accumulated weight of resentments and fears and grudges. I'm still not completely sure how it works, but I can personally testify that working Step 4 does miracles. Those two resentments? Well, several years ago I had the opportunity to meet up with some women with whom I had been friends during these two episodes. They were all over the place, brimming with resentment and yuckiness about these people that just a few years before I was convinced were positively evil. Me? I honestly couldn't relate to my friends' misery; yeah - they had been yucky people, probably unethical, definitely not nice ... but I was no longer stewing with hatred. Talk about miracles.

Let's keep writing.

Now that we've made a list of the major impacting events/experiences in our lives, we're going to start to fill in the gaps. Because so much of our compulsive eating and unmanageability of our lives is caused by instincts run amok, our ultimate goal is to figure out those out-of-whack instincts and the corresponding defects that are generated as a result, and we are going to start with the instincts that were affected.

My sponsor suggested that there are four basic instincts that each of us have instilled within ourselves. They are (1) basic - food, shelter, clothing, rest, money; (2) emotional - having people in our lives who love us the way we want to be loved and whom we can love in return; (3) sexual - seeing that our intimacy and sexual needs are met; and (4) social - being involved in a community.

We need to look at each event in our lives and determine which instinct is/was being affected. For instance, in my last post I talked about my birth and my mother's insistence that her resulting paralysis was caused by the anesthesia she was given. I felt betrayed, hurt, angry, frightened.

In this next part, I am going to write the instincts that were affected by this event: life itself (basic), the sense that I was not really loved - how could I be if I had caused this horrible trauma to my mother - a desperate need to be loved (emotional), a sense that I never really fit in (social).

Another example I used: I stole pastries from a local store and ate them on the way home from elementary school; involved: Store owner, me; feelings: Excited, guilty, desperate. Instincts involved: basic - needed food; social - eating that stuff made me feel like I fit in with the group of popular kids; emotional - food helped me feel safe and secure.

In my next post (the last one), we're going to list our fears and explore the character defects that are symptoms of instincts gone awry and are out of balance.

Yours in recovery,



Step Three

Step Five

WTS Home
The Twelve Steps
Step 4, Part 4
Recovery Home

Copyright 2002 THE RECOVERY GROUP All rights reserved