Step Four

Made a searching and fearless inventory of ourselves.


Dear Fellow Travelers.

Step 4 reads: "Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves." Well. No biggie there, right?

Of course, I am just kidding. If we are honest, Step 4 can be a breakthrough in our recovery. Many fear step 4. Those of us who have a poor self-image may shrink from it; we have disliked ourselves enough for a lifetime, and to detail it again seems tedious and repetitive. But, if we step forward in faith (in the HP who we have asked, in step 3 to help and to guide us) and take an honest, accepting look at ourselves (the kind of accepting look which we began, in step one) it can be a healing time and a way to move forward in recovery.

The first time I did Step 4, I did treat it as a way to (again) list the things I do not like about myself. I listed every fault and shortcoming. I thought of every time I let myself and others down. I even trotted out the time I stole a scarf from Macy's when I was 8!) Ohhhh, I was bad. I did a searching inventory all right... and my search proved just how unredeemable I thought I was. How unworthy of recovery. How right I was to dislike myself!!

But even though it can be valuable to recognize and list our faults, as part of our effort to have our shortcomings removed (which will occur in Step 6) the Big Book shows us a clear pattern by which we should do our inventory. In my second email today, I will show you a template of how I recommend, to my sponsees, that Step 4 be done. You may use this template, or, if your sponsor knows of another Step 4 guide, you may use that. The important thing is to get started. The template I use is based on the Big Book, and also on a book called "A Hunger for Healing" by J. Keith Miller, a 12-stepper who has inspired me in many ways.

The purpose of Step 4 is NOT to point out what a loser you are. It is not to make you feel worse. Miller says the purpose of step 4 is to: "acquire deeper self-knowledge; face the truth about our own behavior and to identify patterns in our behavior". It is his contention, based on years of stepwork in recovery, that we humans have 3 basic instincts which affect our happiness: 1) the social need (need for companionship and belonging) 2) financial need and 3) sexual needs. If we were able to enjoy these instincts in a moderate way, we would live a happy life. But, as addicts, often these instincts become swollen and lead us to behaviors which further spin our lives out of control.

Step Four is the place to get real. In Step 3, you faced the God of your understanding, and expected unconditional love and acceptance. You asked for this, even as you asked HP to control and guide your life. In Step 4, you will begin to see in detail just what it is you have asked God to deal with, and what it is that HP will need to clear away, one day at a time, as you journey toward recovery.

If you are not comfortable with my template, then I ask that you either ask your sponsor to give you a guide for Step 4, or just go ahead and honestly list your faults and shortcomings. It is as good a place to start as any.

No matter which way you choose to do Step 4, I urge you to do it! Don't shrink back from it. If you continue to do the ThreeStep Waltz (1-2-3, 1-2-3) you will be going in circles, and will never experience the joys that the rest of the steps can bring to your life. This Program is simple, but no one said it was easy.

I wish you boldness and courage as you begin your inventory. I especially wish you peace, acceptance, and self-love.

Blessings in the Program,
Donna-food addict


Hello all

Before I get started, I think it is important to say that I do not think it is appropriate for anyone on this loop to share their inventory with the entire loop.

As much as we are all in this together, I believe that Step 4 is VERY personal and should not be shared with anyone except yourself, your sponsor, your HP, and perhaps another person with whom you choose to share your inventory in Step 5.

If you choose to comment on Step 4 in this loop, I ask that you comment on how it felt to DO step 4, or a difference that the inventory has made in your life.

That having been said, the Big Book suggests that we begin with resentments. Make a list of every incident that has caused resentment. Make three columns and list each resentment as follows:

a) the person or object of my resentment

b) what happened to cause the resentment

c) the effect in my life

J. Keith Miller suggests, in addition that we add a fourth column: any behavior of mine which may have contributed to the person's actions. An example might be: I am resentful at my ex-husband. He is verbally abusive to me whenever he comes to our home. This makes me angry, frustrated, guilty, humiliated, irritable, and causes financial anxiety. I am often sarcastic to him, which spurs his verbal abuse further.

The next list will be of your fears. List all the fears you have had, since your childhood. List what you are afraid of, and why.

Now, you will inventory each of the basic instincts you have, and how you may have distorted them.

A. Financial Security - ask yourself what character defects drove me to exaggerate my financial needs? If making money is not your obsession, are you preoccupied with spending money? Have you always been honest in all of your financial affairs? Have you always represented your income and deductions honestly, on your tax return? Or, do you have a fear of spending money; to the point of neglecting your family's needs?

B. Social Instinct/Emotional Security - the distortion of this instinct can lead us to be overdependent and controlled by a stronger person, or to be controlling of others. Our emotional insecurity often leads us to fear, depression, worry, anger and self-pity. Think of the relationships in your life. Are all of your relationships based on mutual trust and respect? Are you feeling as though there is someone who would not accept you if you do not go overboard to please them? When looking for a relationship, do you feel as though you must "settle for what you can get?"

C. Sexuality - this is not just about being "in bed with" somebody. This part of the inventory is about the relationships you have had with the opposite sex (or the same sex, if you are gay). First, ask yourself what sexual incidents you recall, which have hurt you or other people. Now, take a piece of paper and divide it into two columns and list those incidents. The columns should be headed "behavior" and "attitudes".

An example might be:

Behavior - when in a relationship I am very affectionate, looking for any opportunity to touch my partner. I am also looking for every appropriate opening to make a joking reference to the fact that we are having sex.

Attitude - because of my inability to like myself, I often feel that sex is one of the best things I have to offer, and possibly a big incentive, to my partner, to remain with me. So, I always want to remind him of what I offer him, so he will not leave me.

Try to be as thorough as possible. The Big Book has a lot more details about this inventory. I give you only an outline, and I wish you much self-insight with it.

Donna, food addict

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