Continued to take personal inventory and
when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.


While it is always a good idea to work all twelve Steps from time to time, there is a certain sense in which Step 10 sort of obviates Step 4. Now, I have had the custom of working the Steps thoroughly at least once a year, but each time I do, I find Step 4 gets less and less lengthy, and less and less difficult.

The idea is that in Step 10, and also 11 and 12, we are building into our lives the spiritual awakening that has occurred in working the steps. In this step, we will find release from the coils of anger and resentment, and any desire for revenge. How can I hold a resentment if I promptly admit it? One of the things I have learned that is that when dealing with my own feelings aloud with someone, it is crucially important for me to own my own feelings and reactions. You cannot make me angry. I make me angry, when you do something I do not like or that violates some boundary of mine. It may be that your behavior is reasonable and proper in your eyes; it is only in my eyes that there is a problem. So I must never say, "You make me angry." What I must learn to say is, "When you do/say such and such, I get angry." And then say why I do.

There was so much anger slopping over everywhere in my old days of addiction. I was stuck in it. I resented almost everyone and everything. The first Step 4 cleared out a lot of baggage, and subsequent ones have done even more. But it is the act of incorporating this way of living into my own life on a daily basis that has changed me more than just Step 4.

There are some things that I must do to live a life of recovery. One of them is to take a daily inventory of anything I have done that may have been wrong, and deal with it directly. It does not have to wait until the period at the end of the day that I set aside specifically for the purpose. It can come immediately after the event.

And then, as time passes, and the practice becomes more and more ingrained, I begin to think through what I am saying/doing, and what I am feeling toward another in the moment. I begin to avoid creating a situation in which I need to make an amend! I have not yet perfected this, but after many years, I am much better at it than I was once, when I sat in anger and self pity so much of the time, with one hand in the refrigerator. Life is better. The Promises of the Program begin to be fulfilled. Yes, it takes time, but I think I have come a long way from the addictive hell I was in once.

This step, and the ones which follow are the things we do to maintain our healthy recovery and out spiritual fitness.



1. Do you/ will you set aside a certain time each day to review what has happened between you and others, and how you have felt about it?

2. What sort of discipline would serve you best in doing your daily inventory?

3. Would feeling self pity or anger awaken you to the prospect that you might be wrong, or have done something in the relationship that was wrong, even if the other person was more so? Are you willing to develop the habit of looking at your feelings when they happen? It is possible that some of us may need or have had therapy to help with this. I did, and I am thankful for that wonderful resource that was given me. Where are you on this subject?

4. Have you ever been stuck in resentment, rage, self pity? Did it do anything at all good for you? Perhaps there is an example you could share.

5. How do you go about promptly admitting it when you are wrong? Can you share an illustrative experience?

-- Love,

My Answers

1. Most people I know of do their inventories at the end of the day, and that is a good time. However, I do not find that the best time for me. I am a morning person. I tend to go to bed early and get up early. (I am healthy, but not wealthy, and I'll let you decide if I'm wise. For those who do not know what this means, it is a play on a saying by Benjamin Franklin, one of the founders of the American Republic.)

By evening, I'm brain dead. But early in the morning I am alive and full of energy, alert and able. I can remember anything that may be left over from the day before, and decide how to deal with it when the others in the household finally do awaken. The early time of the day is also the time I do most of my email with sponsorees and friends, and I read two major metropolitan newspapers. Others do tend to sleep late, but also, I do read very fast.

2. This discipline of reflection has worked well for me.

3. It took me years to reach the point where, at least most of the time, I know what I'm feeling in the moment. In fact, I would say that when I first came into the rooms, I rarely knew what I felt at any time. Therapy was a big help to me in reaching this space, although I think it can be done by simply working the steps with a good sponsor vigorously over and over. My therapist was a twelve stepper, and I think my therapy was simply a very sophisticated working of the steps! But the result is that now I can feel my feelings, and know what kinds of signals they are sending me.

Once I was afraid of feelings. Like so many, as a child expressing anger was considered a no-no, and was not allowed. An expression of anger, however genuine, was likely to bring down wrath from the adults around me. Often painfully. So for many years I would go around with my teeth clamped and grinding, saying, "What, me angry? Are you insane?"

But now I have learned that feelings are just feelings. I can read them as symptoms of something I need to know about myself and my life. I can use their energy to fuel my recovery. I don't have to stuff them at all. They cannot overwhelm me, or harm me in any way, if I use them properly. And no one is going to whip me any more for having them.

4. Once a good many years ago I kept a journal. I don't know why, exactly. A few years back I came across it and reread it. I was simply stuck in resentment. Stuck as fast as could be. Nothing ever resolved, nothing ever got done, just anger, resentment, sometimes rage, and always self pity, and stuck stuck, stuck. I kept the journal for quite a few months, and nothing changed, and I ate and ate and ate, too.

5. The rages, the outbursts of anger not really connected to the present moment, were frequent and hurtful to those I loved. In recovery, these did not stop at once, but they did begin a process of becoming less and less frequent. More and more, when I would blow, I would stop in the middle of it, and apologize for my inappropriate behavior. Nowadays, about the only time it happens at all is when I am both very tired and stressed out. And I still make an immediate amends for that. It is fairly rare! Ask my wife.


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