Step Four

Made a searching and fearless
moral inventory of ourselves.


I everyone, I'm rose compulsive eater and your step leader for this quarter

Step 4 is an important turning point in recovery. None of the other steps can be accomplished w/o first taking step four. And while it does indeed look daunting, it's important to just do it, and as quickly as possible. There's a lot at stake, if we procrastinate on this step.

From the AA 12 Steps and 12 Traditions, P. 42;

"Step Four is our vigorous and painstaking effort to discover what these liabilities in each of us have been, and are. We want to find exactly how, when, and where our natural desires have warped us. We wish to look squarely at the unhappiness this has caused others and ourselves. By discovering what our emotional deformities are, we can move toward their correction. Without a willing and persistent effort to do this, there can be little abstinence or contentment for us. Without a searching and fearless moral inventory, most of us have found that the faith which really works in daily living is still out of reach."
My experience w/ the fourth step is that it really has to be done, and as soon as possible. It is best done w/ a sponsor's guidance, although of course everything in the 12 step program is technically optional. You can do it lots of different ways, there is no one "right" way, but some ways are better than others.

I did my first fourth step in one of the less better ways. I didn't have a sponsor-I didn't actually want one, I was too scared to give up my control and everything seemed to be going along swimmingly w/o one, so I thought I could just do it my way. I did a long, biographical prewrite which was somewhat helpful, but took months. I had been journaling for years, and so thought that would be the best way for me. I was wrong about that; it's a great way to do prewriting, but it's not the best way for me to actually accomplish anything, it turns out. I like writing, and do it a lot, so I can use words to rationalize my actions and complain about others for pages and pages, and think I'm actually writing in a way that helps my recovery, when I'm not, really. And so it turned out that doing a lot of journaling was not all that helpful for me, personally. I think it is very helpful, generally, and I still write every night, but I'm careful about how I write. More about that in step ten.

So I then took a look in the Big Book and made some lists, sort of along the lines of the ways that are suggested on pages 64-70. I found that making lists seemed a lot more helpful for me, but I didn't ask anyone to help me, b/c I just didn't really do that in those days. I did talk to my therapist at the time about it, and she had some familiarity w/ the OA program, so she was able to be somewhat helpful to me. She sort of acted as my sponsor, although b/c she was not an OA member, she really wasn't. And I talked to my OA friends about it a lot, but most of them were as new as I, and didn't know any more about the fourth step than I did. Now, I can't say that writing this fourth step was not useful and powerful in it's own way, b/c a lot of things did shift afterwards that wouldn't have otherwise, and I was able to move on to the next steps, and more growth generally. And I kept my abstinence, which I very much doubt I would have been able to do if I hadn't at least taken a stab at a moral housecleaning. But since then I've done other fourth steps that were much more powerful and much more helpful, primarily b/c I learned to accept guidance and discipline from sponsors and more experienced people in the program. So I hope if you don't have a sponsor, you'll look into finding one ASAP. Even if it's only a temporary step sponsor, that's fine. It's much better not to do this step by yourself. But the main point I want to make is that it's very important to do this step, and not get too caught up in whether you're doing it exactly perfectly. You'll have lots of opportunities to clean up any spots you miss this time in the future!

As an example of cleaning up missed spots I can say that there are several fourth steps I've done for specific aspects of my life that needed their own whole inventory to get them straightened up-I had a lot of closets w/ a lot of skeletons in them! I did a separate fourth step for sexual and emotional abuse in my childhood. I did a separate 4th step on relationships, when I broke up w/ my first long-term boyfriend. Both times I relapsed, I found I needed to do a fourth step once I got some abstinence together. I have recently finished a fourth step that my current sponsor told me about, and it has been incredibly helpful. It's a very thorough, Big Book-based 4th step that was posted on this list a few years ago by the step leader at the time. Check out to learn more about this particular 4th step.

I've done 4th steps from workbooks with study groups-the OA Workbook is great, if you can get a study group together. These are very powerful, and my closest friends are all people with whom I've been in study groups. I can't recommend it highly enough.

From the AA Big Book, p. 70;
"If we have been thorough about our personal inventory, we have written down a lot. We have listed and analyzed our resentments. We have begun to comprehend their futility and their fatality. We have commenced to see their terrible destructiveness. We have begun to learn tolerance, patience and good will towards all men, even our enemies, for we look on them as sick people. We have listed the people we have hurt by our conduct, and are willing to straighten out the past if we can."
While it may seem highly unlikely from where you are sitting now, if you've never done this step, the above is absolutely doable and true, in my experience. The fourth step is the beginning of the real miracle of OA. Please don't leave before your miracle happens! If you have a sponsor, and you've completed the previous steps to the best of your ability, it's quite likely you're ready to move forward. Please don't post your inventory on the list, but do find a sponsor or experienced person to help and guide you, and try to move as quickly as possible. If you can't get it done in a week, don't worry. You can still read the next steps and share, and I hope you will, there's so much to learn! But you won't be ready to formally continue with the other steps until you finish the fourth step.


If you have done this step before, what methods did you find the most helpful and why? How did you overcome fear and procrastination to complete this step?

If you have not done this step before, but you've been in the program for a while, and feel you have done the previous steps, why are you holding back? If you're afraid, what specifically do you think will happen if you take a moral inventory? Is it actually worse than the possibility of changing and growing into the person God wants you to be?

If you have a sponsor, and you've done this step in the past, in what ways has that person encouraged and guided you in your work on step four? If you have sponsored others doing this step, how have you tried to help and guide them?

thanks for letting me share

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