STEP FOUR

Made a searching and fearless
moral inventory of ourselves.







Part 2

Essay

Hello my friends.

I'm a compulsive overeater and food addict. My name is Isabella.

Let's do step 4. "Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves."

In the Big Book, the chapters that follow steps 1-3 are headed "How it Works" and "Into Action". Work and action. Now we roll up our sleeves and get down and dirty. We can do this now because a) we know we have a problem (step 1); b) we don't have to do it alone (step 2); and c) we have help (step 3).

No wonder we couldn't do it before. We didn't have our ABC's in place. (In the Big Book, people sometimes refer to the first three steps as ABC:
A) I can't
B) God can
C) I think I'll let God).

And what is the "I can't" all about? For sure, it's about food. But it goes deeper. Here is what the OA 12x12 says:

"We carried deep in our hearts the feeling that we were worthless or insignificant. (Page 29)"

Oh, how I can relate to this.

In the beginning, I couldn't. I couldn't let myself know that that was a problem. Couldn't do a step 1 on it. I'm one of those people who have a real hard time acknowledging a problem until there is some kind of a solution in sight.

I still have bits and pieces of these feelings of worthlessness and insignificance hanging around in my heart. It takes a long time to clean them up. They're a little like weeds ≠ once they start growing, just snipping them off or pulling a little bit doesn't work so well. It's better than nothing, that's for sure, and sometimes that's all we can do and we'll just have to keep doing that (that's what step 10 is all about). And other times we can eradicate the weeds.

Of course, spraying the whole garden with chemicals is another option. But we've already done that, haven't we? Tried to deaden our feelings with chemicals: carbohydrates (sugar and starch), ethyl alcohol (booze), sodium chloride (salt), and glycerol and fatty acids (fat).

We're here because that chemical approach didn't work, and it kind of ruins the whole neighborhood anyway.

So NOW what?

"[A] fearless and searching moral inventory was one of the most loving things we ever did." (Page 29)

Have you ever felt that feeling of love come over you just by looking at someone/something you love? Love, I believe, needs a lot of that. Just being there and LOOKING. I've talked to quite a few panhandlers and they all say what hurts the most is when people look away. Never mind the money. But they want to be looked at, acknowledged.

In many ways, this is what this step is about. Opening our eyes and looking. "Oh, look, there is a bit of fear! And this beautiful courage over here! Ow, and a bit of prickly resentment, right next to a lovely flower of compassion."

Notice that the book says "fearless and searching" ≠ it does not say reckless and obsessed. It is LOVING.

I've done a number of inventories, in a number of ways. They've all worked for me, thank goodness. The one that felt the most loving was one where I just started writing free-style, about all the things that didn't work so well in my life, while not forgetting about the things that DID work well. That's the inventory that helped me deal with the fear of flying and of the dark, as I've mentioned in the introduction.

Notice also that the book does not describe the inventory as lengthy and voluminous.

THE BIGGEST STUMBLING BLOCK I've observed in doing the steps is trying to get the inventories "right" (this one here and it can happen again in step 8).

When I participated in WTS here a few years ago (I've done that three times so far), one of the leaders made it very clear. To paraphrase him ≠ "don't TRY to get it right, don't try to get it RIGHT, and don't try to GET it. Just DO it."

Personally, I'd love to get it right. Examine every single weed in my garden till the cows come home, go on the internet and study up on just the right tools to get rid of it.

That's called perfectionism. Goes on my inventory.

And then I want to GET it. Really, really, really, really understand it. Thoroughly and endlessly. I wanna take a course in botany so that I can fully comprehend that dandelion.

As if I'll ever be able to fully understand.

That's pride, arrogance, hubris. In short, self-centeredness. Goes on my inventory.

And what does this particular brand of self-centeredness result in, in this case? Inaction.

That's called procrastination. Goes on my inventory.

And what's the root cause of my self-centeredness and procrastination?

My main weeds "du jour", the ones on the surface that really irk me, are lack of self-confidence and lack of focus. When I'm not aware of my Higher Power's presence in my life (because HP is always with me, I just may not open my eyes to HP), I either don't pay attention to them or I try to get rid of them with more weeds: self centeredness and procrastination. I nurture all these weeds with

... fear.

Goes on my inventory, too: lack of self-confidence, lack of focus, fear.

On the other hand, we also have some fine specimens in the garden. What do you see? I see love, fearlessness, honesty, humour.

Goes on my inventory.

Well, THAT was easy.

Now there's a whole bunch of ways of doing the inventory. I've tried some and have observed others try other ways, and I'll post a list of a few of them. You do what works best for you ≠ as long as it's loving, honest, and doesn't take forever (we've allocated two weeks for this, that's it.)

But, people, it can be as easy as what I've just done. If I follow the rest of the steps and earnestly start working on reducing/transforming the character defects I've just mentioned and strengthening assets such as honesty and love, I'm gonna be just fine, thank you very much.

All I need is one more thing:

Willingness.

"We have found that a simple prayer for willingness works to get us going on the inventory, especially when the prayer is followed by some further action." (Page 31)

"Each of us who completes a fourth-step inventory in OA finds it essential to our recovery and a major factor in changing our lives. As we reach the end of step four, we discover that a promise made in Overeater Anonymous' "Our Invitation To You" has begun to be fulfilled. We are "moving beyond the food and the emotional havoc to a fuller living experience."

As I'm sitting here writing, all of a sudden I lose steam. Willingness. Hm. What can I say about that? What's my experience? Nothing comes up, I draw a blank.

And now it hits me. Writing about that, too, is willingness. Willingness has something to do with "doing the next right thing." Notice it starts with DOING. In my case: Can't think about anything regarding willingness. So I can just throw it in the corner and say, the *&@! with it, or I can sit back, listen to the whisperings of my Higher Powers, and I can be absolutely sure to get direction. Right now, that direction was to talk about what's going on for me right now, right this moment.

To me, doing the next right thing starts with that ≠ being willing to listen FOR and TO my Higher Powers. Listening FOR is a receptive, quiet, patient activity. Unfortunately, Higher Power ain't a fast-food store, so the answer will not necessarily come right away (I find that pretty frustrating sometimes). But it will come, I KNOW it.

Listening TO means to follow Higher Power's suggestion. Even If I "don't wanna!" Sometimes the "don't wanna" is so loud and insistent that I need to get back and get more advice from my Higher Power. That, too, is willingness.

Before we start with the inventory, a few words as to the "why" of the inventory and some things to look out for.

Why do the inventory? The purpose of the inventory is to "clean the wreckage of the past" ≠ so what you want to have on the inventory are the things that stand in your way (the wreckage) but also what makes it possible for you to move on. If you're not sure what a "wreckage" is, the inventory ideas in the next message as well as your sponsor will help you. A rule of thumb is that you're dealing with a wreckage whenever a) you're hesitant to move forward with ANY thought or action, b) are uncomfortable around ANY emotions, c) you're unhappy (not just grumpy ≠ unhappy) and/or d) consistently have difficulties with relationships (romantic and/or otherwise ≠ e.g. you'll see a story of me with my house plants in the next message), it's because there is a little (or big) piece of wreckage in your way.

The inventory is the FIRST step in cleaning the wreckage of the past.

A few things to look out for.

Don't get too hung up on the term "character defect". A good deal of what's written in the OA 12x12 is influenced by the Big Book, which uses somewhat antiquated language. Remember, this is LOVING. It's not about you beating yourself up for being a bad boy/girl. To the contrary. It's a tool to help you grow more into the beautiful person you are meant to be.

Doing an inventory can stir up a lot of emotions. These emotions can bring you back to your unhealthy behaviours around food. Be sure to be gentle with yourself as you do this. Encourage yourself; don't force yourself.

The inventory is YOUR inventory. It's not your significant other's, your children's, your parents', your boss's ... you get the drift. It's about YOUR behaviours and attitudes, or as they say in program, it's about your side of the street.

This is step 4. It's an inventory. This is not the time to get out your hammer and nails and start fixing stuff. For sure, some things improve just by holding them up to the light of this inventory. But please don't have any expectations around that and please don't get hung up on thinking, "Oh boy, how can I ever fix that?!". That's what we have the next steps for, plus you actually don't get to "fix" much. That's your Higher Power's job. (Sounds crazy? Stay tuned ... :)

So. Let's summarize this by asking a few questions to ponder on. Today I will send two messages ≠ the next one will be a few examples of how you can do the inventory. Please start on the inventory as soon as you can. Next week we'll share on how the inventory is coming along.

What passage in OA's 12x12 Step Four stands out to you?

How can the ABC help you with your inventory? A) I can't B) God can C) I think I'll let God.

What are some things that you "carry deep in your heart"?

What are some of your assets and positive characteristics?

What happens for you when you try to eradicate your weeds with chemicals? In other words, what happens when you try to deal with your character defects and assets with food and other compulsive/addictive behaviours?

How can you and your Higher Power make this inventory LOVING?

How can you and your Higher Power help you to avoid the trap of "trying to get it right"?

How do you show willingness?

What are some ways in which you can deal with the "don' wanna syndrome"?

What footwork are you willing to do today? i.e., what's the NEXT RIGHT THING?

Also, please make a plan for setting aside at least one hour this week to work on your inventory. It can be 15 minutes here, 15 minutes there. Please share this plan here, with your sponsor/buddy or some other trusted person.






Part 2

Hello everyone

my nameís Isabella. I'm a compulsive overeater and food addict. I am grateful for this program, and grateful to do service.

This is week 2 of step 4.

"Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves."

As I mentioned last week, this is going to be a shorter post. Itís best if we spend most of this week finishing our inventory and perhaps also starting to think about whom we can share this inventory with (Step 5).

So let me just share a few things here, inspired by what I've read so far in the Step 4 shares. Then there will just be a few "questions to ponder" ≠ including an invitation to ask any questions you might have about the inventory.

Someone mentioned the promises. Often when we "program people" refer to "the promises" we think of the promises that come after Step 9 in the Big Book. But I think itís important to remember that the Big Book as well as the OA 12x12 is full of promises. Indeed, each chapter in the OA 12x12 ends with a promise. In step 4 itís about "moving beyond the food and the emotional havoc to a fuller living experience".

From a body and/or mind that is to full - to a fuller living experience.

Wow. Letís let that sink in for a moment ... imagine it ...

I had a bit of a revelation about that last week. It occurred to me that really, there wasn't much wrong with how I eat. Whatís not so useful is how I THINK about it.

And I got a glimpse of what it feels like to live a life that is not filled with second-guessing every second bite I put in my mouth.

So that goes on my inventory ≠ how I think about my eating. Something I don't need to keep around anymore, something I can give up to my Higher Power.

Framing my experiences in unhelpful thoughts is one of my core defects. (Some would call it "stinking thinking"). If all I do in this inventory is to thoughtfully and honestly address even just a few of my core defects, I'm doing myself and those around me a good service. Because my core defects are like the roots of those weeds we were talking about last week. They have a vast underground network and can show up all over my garden.

A propos "stinking thinking". Of course thatís a cute term (hey, it rhymes!) and if it works, why not. But for me itís important to balance off a humorous, rough-hewn term like that with phrases like "unhelpful thoughts". My Higher Power, as someone mentioned here, is not in the business of shaking her/its/his finger at us, or into cutting us down. To the contrary, GOMU wants to build us UP, wants us to live in freedom. And because language is such an important part of how we perceive the world, itís important for me to watch my language. I don't think my Higher Powers hold their noses when they hear me think. Rather, they might say something like, "Hm, interesting way of putting this. Do you think you cold describe this in a kindler, gentler way?" Remember Step 2, how we want to be treated by our Higher Powers? Well, guess what ≠ our Higher Powers want us to treat ourselves that way, too.

And while we're at this Higher Power business, letís also remember we can ask HP to help us with Step 4 EVERY STEP OF THE WAY.

Again ≠ lets let that sink in. Every. Step. Of. The. Way.

Every comma, every letter, every time we start up the computer to add a little to the inventory.

HP is with us every step of the way.

And as we walk with HP, "more will be revealed". That happens to me all the time. I walk into something like an inventory with half an ounce of willingness and a bit of trust, and HP takes me by the hand, and all kinds of things are uncovered.

And talking about "uncovered" ≠ here is something from the OA 12x12: "We had never faced our wrongs honestly and acknowledged them, so we were left feeling ashamed." Thatís one of the gifts of HP here in program ≠ we don't have to hide anymore. We can "uncover" and rather than stand in shame, we stand in freedom.

For me, much of my shame is/was about being ashamed in front of myself. I so wanted to delude myself into thinking that I was who my ego wanted me to be. For example, I loved thinking of myself as a "tough survivor" (goes well with the triaging I was talking about earlier, doesn't it?) So of course, all my tender, timid, vulnerable parts ≠ for example, my less-than-robust mental health ≠ needed to be hidden from myself.

What a relief it was to uncover that part.

Okay, friends, enough for today. As I said, letís spend most of our time working on the inventory itself.

Questions to ponder:

Think back to what you shared in Step 1. We were imagining what benefits we might get from doing the steps ≠ i.e., we were dreaming up our own promises. How will doing Step 4 help you fulfill those dreams?

How is your Higher Power helping you with your inventory? If you haven't had that experience yet, how would you LIKE your HP help you with it?

Share a little bit about the freedom you will experience as you and your HP are liberating you from your character defects.

Please also share any questions you have in regard to doing the inventory, and/or your experience of writing it.





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