Step Four

Made a searching and fearless
moral inventory of ourselves.


4th Step

We hear of people who continually work the first three steps, but never move on to the "working steps", Steps 4-9. Some call it the OA Waltz -- 1-2-3, 1-2-3. Or a two-step program -- 1 and 12. In the OA book, "Abstinence" a writer says he had a two-step program -- "he stopped drinking (1) and bragged about it (2). If we are to truly recover and maintain abstinence, we need to move on with the steps.

I need to start with part of my story, but it is embarrassing to me.

Before I had started on the road to recovery, and my husband and I were both using our drugs of choice, I would wish we would go to therapy. But I would picture the therapist telling him all the things that were wrong with him and I felt kind of sorry for him. I had read lots of self-help books and so there was nothing wrong with me.

My first 12 Step program was Al-Anon. I tried to do 4th Steps in that program. Whenever I thought of looking at myself honestly, my mind just clouded up. I was still in denial about using food -- of course I couldn't see myself clearly.

Soon after I became abstinent, my HP started showing me defects in my character. I had a 20 or 30 minute drive to work and I journalled as soon as I got to work. Many of the insights happened during that drive.

This was in 1987 before the OA book Twelve Steps was published. We had the Big Book, but the procedure for doing a 4th Step seemed beyond my understanding. So I just made a list of all those characteristics as my HP pointed them out to me. I could see that it was a miracle that I could actually see some of my own faults.

The list was one word at a time. Impatient, selfish -- like that. Each time I figured one out, I shared it at my f2f in small group. I decided I was ready for my 5th Step as the new year started (1988).

Although this week is about the 4th Step, feedback from doing the 5th shaped the way I did subsequent 4th Steps.

I made an appointment with a person in OA whom I had never met. I thought I wanted complete anonymity. So I went with my little list to see this woman. I read it to her and she told me that "most people have written more." So I expanded on the list -- like a writing assignment to which you don't really know the answer, so you just keep adding words. I left feeling that I had done it wrong and fairly disappointed.

Then we got the book "The Twelve Steps of Overeaters Anonymous." In the 4th Step, it talks about letting another human being totally know and accept you. At that time in my recovery, I felt I was ready to experience that. So I started answering the questions in the OA 12 x 12. The first question was about control. I wrote for 3 pages in a notebook. It took me about 3 months to answer all the questions. When I got done, I went back and read my answers. Much to my surprise I had used the exact same words in the answers to many of the questions. This helped me to see patterns in my behaivior.

Many of us have buried any inkling that we might have something wrong with us, along with our feelings and covered them with food. We have tried to keep ourselves from knowing it was there. But underneath we have always known it was there. And not knowing exactly what was there left us with the fear that everything about us might be wrong, that we were worthless or insignificant. The OA 12 x 12 says that doing a fearless and thorough inventory can be one of the most loving things you ever do for yourself. You will find out that you have some defects, but that YOU are not a defect.

If you don't think you are ready to do a 4th Step, I recommend getting the OA Workbook. It is meant to be used with the OA 12 x 12 and the questions are designed to get you ready to take the inventory. OA now has a pamphlet with just the questions for an inventory.

I now see the value in a Big Book style inventory. In my city, 4th Step Workshops are held for all 12 Steps groups. Although I have not done the workshop, I have listened to 4th Steps that have used this method and I've used the format for specific problems.

The format for the Big Book 4th Step starts on page 64 -- 3rd Edition. If you use this method, it's important that you complete it by going to page 67.

" Referring to our list again. Putting out of our minds the wrongs others had done, we resolutely looked for our own mistakes. Where had we been selfish, dishonest, self-seeking and frightened? 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 man's. When we saw our faults we listed them. We placed them before us in black and white. We admitted our wrongs honestly and were willing to set these matters straight."

A Guide to the Twelve Steps for You and Your Sponsor suggests that you not have a person in mind when you write the inventory -- that you might tailor your answers if you do.

So I was going back through my three-months worth of writing and getting almost to the point of sharing. But how could I organize it so I could get through it all?

I saw a pattern and then went back and copied my answers in a notebook under one of six headings.

Things I have done that hurt my relationships with others.

Things I have done that have hurt my relationship with my Higher Power.

Things I have done that have hurt me.

Things I have done that help my relationships with others.

Things I have done that help my relationship with my Higher Power.

Things I have done that help me.

Armed with those lists, I felt ready to do a totally honest 5th Step -- to let someone know all the things I had kept pushed down with food for all those years -- someone I trusted to not turn her back on me when she knew them.


1. Do you have the feeling "if you REALLY knew me, you woudn't you like me?"

2. Now that you have turned your will and your life (including your food) over to the care of your HP, are you willing to trust that HP to get you through this process?

3. Are you trying to do a 4th Step, while still using food?

4. Are you anxious to get this work done, so that you can move toward a more fuller living experience? Can you benefit from emotional healing?

5. What are your fears regarding a 4th Step?

6. Does it seem like punishment to look at yourself honestly or can you see it as loving?

7. Are you able to concentrate on the 4th Step and not think ahead to the 5th Step? (one step at a time)

8. Have you ever attended a guided 4th and 5th Step Study? What were the results?

9. Is your 4th Step an inventory of your assets as well as your defects?

10. If you are doing your 4th Step for the first time, I suggest you work on it in depth with your sponsor. If you have previously done a 4th Step, perhaps today would be a good day to read it again. What defects still plague you?

Step Three

Step Five

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