Made a searching and fearless
moral inventory of ourselves.

My journey

Step 4...the fear that those words brought up in me was huge. How would I survive it? Could I do it perfectly? It would take me forever. I'm not going to do it. I remember the glow I felt after handing it all over in Step 3. I remember the feeling of surrender. But the fear of this was huge. I came into recovery in 2004 and according to my records it took me 2 years to get the willingness to do this step. WOW! I was a professional procrastinator.

Looking back with a few more 24 hours I now know what my greatest fear of it was. Not that it would kill me but that it would cause me to lose the only person who had listened and helped me. My sponsor. You see I had so much abandonment and rejection in my childhood that when I found my sponsor listened to all my step work and didn't reject me the idea of being shamed or ridiculed was ok but the idea of being left when I opened my heart to her was huge. So I tried and I shared these fears with her. She smiled and gently reminded me. This was step 4 not step 5. I just had to do the footwork and God, who I had found in my previous step, would carry the load for me.

So it began. I started the step and it took me months to do it. I was searching and fearless. I uncovered so many things about myself. I also procrastinated so much that it took me 9 months to do it end to end. The pain that came up was incredible. Most of it built on that little word: Fear. I found I resented ½ the world and was afraid of the other half.

So my Step 4 came along slowly. I used the OA 12 and 12 and answered each and every question for about 4 months. Finally in a fed up moment with my procrastination my sponsor told me she thought I would benefit from changing the way I was writing my step. You see my perfectionism had caused me to be paralysed in fear and I was trying to get it perfect. So we switched from the long version to the columns method preferred by people who work the steps the AA way. I cannot tell you the resentment that came up against my sponsor that day. I thought, "I have to do it all over again." Actually no, she reassured me, I just carry on from where I was and it was just fine.

By the time I had finished my step was comprehensive enough to show my patterns, to list those I had wronged and to point out my utter powerlessness. I was ready to share this with someone to get rid of the pain, hurt and shame I held and ate on for so long. You see for me it was this stuff, not genetics, not my childhood or anything else that caused me to eat. This was a by-product of as well as a cause for my compulsive overeating. I was only by being willing to do the footwork thoroughly and completely that I was going to get any relief.

The gift of getting off the Step 1 2 3 merry-go-round and facing step 4 was that I found freedom in the release of venom and vitriol I had stored up for 30 years of eating.

The Step

Made a searching – So down to our step: What does a searching inventory look like? Well for me it could be and would be as searching as I could make it at the time. I went back to my Step 1 life story and wrote a list of all the people I hated. From the boys who made fun of me out of car windows, to the bosses I had lost jobs over, to my separated husband who didn't understand me, to my parents who abused me and, of course, to myself for stuffing my face for so long. You see the biggest person I resented and hated was me. So I sat using the OA questions as a guide and the AA columns method (more later on this) to write out a list of all the people who had harmed me and treated me like crap. It was searching I went way back and really thought about it. Did I resent my friends for being married at 18 with happy families at 30? Did I really resent all the thin people I knew who could eat anything? You betcha!

The next thing I looked at was who I was fearful of? I listed my brother who had beaten me on a regular basis, my bosses who had yelled at me, my parents who had force fed me, the men who I had allowed myself to be abused by and even God appeared on that list as I was afraid of his wrath for all I had done.

The inventory went through in depth and listed out these things. I then had a look at the next part of the Step.

Moral Inventory – Before OA I was the Queen of Morality. You see I would judge everyone else by what I thought was right. I would paint you a specific way before you even said a word. I would talk about how bad the adulteress on TV was or the fat woman who had failed yet again on a diet all the while cheating on my husband and bingeing on thousands of calories a day. I had no IDEA what morals were.

So looking to the OA 12 and 12 I found a list of things that would help me get in touch with a few more things for my list:

  • Pride
  • Jealousy
  • Fear
  • Resentment
  • Anger
  • Greed
  • Lust
  • Theft
  • Lies

So by looking at my immorality in detail I was able to quickly figure out that I needed a healthy dose of the opposite of these things:

  • Humility
  • Acceptance
  • Honesty
  • Open-mindedness
  • Open-Heartedness
  • Love
  • Forgiveness
  • Self Care
  • Service to Others

So these and a smattering more are the morals in which I live my life today. One day at a time.

Of ourselves – These are the most important words in the step. It was all well and good me doing a moral inventory of every other bugger but the truth was I needed to get deep inside and write about the bits that I didn't like. I found out that I was prejudiced. I was ageist. I found out I had lied to just about everyone and everything I had ever known or loved for fear of loss or self seeking. I was manipulative and controlling. I was "nice" to everyone and resentful of them as well. I binged behind their backs to show them that I could be fat and they couldn't stop me. I used food to control how I saw the world and the world saw me. I needed to get deep inside and open up the infected wounds and let all the horrible puss out so HP could heal me.

Now about this time in the step writing process I about lost the will to live. HOW could my Higher Power, let alone my sponsor, love this worthless piece of crap that was me? So I shared this with her. I was in tears and she helped me to write out my list of character assets. You see for me it was VERY important that step 4 did not become a weapon for my addiction to food to use to keep me fat. I can eat on that shame for years if not decades.

So as per the OA 12 and 12 page 33 I was guided by my sponsor in writing a list of my character assets that I had used in my life.

We looked at the things I had done and accomplished and I was able to come up with many.

I wrote: brave, intelligent, caring, thoughtful, good at my job, tidy etc by the time I was done the list was a full page. WOW! I did have things that made me ok as well. God didn't make junk.

So by the time I was done with my assets I felt ok. I then needed to get down on my knees and say my third step prayer and make the telephone call that would bring me to the 5th Step.


Once again a gentle set of reminders of how I worked this step that may help you:

  • Select a home group (this can be on-line, on email, in person etc.) and attend meetings regularly and share about your step work and your feelings.
  • Get some numbers, email addresses of people you can speak to and share with.
  • Get a journal and write down your feelings around this step. I am a great procrastinator and tend to put things off. Journaling helps me.
  • Think about asking someone to be your sponsor if you don't have one. A sponsor is like a kind older brother or sister. They are a bit further down the road and they have what you want.
  • Work with that sponsor on what comes of this step work. They are a great source of inspiration, clarification and support.


Read Step 4 in the OA 12 and 12 page 29-33 stop at the paragraph entitled "One good way...". Don't finish reading it at this stage as we are going to take it in sections.

Share your feelings around this what you have read with your OA home group(whether on line or in real life), this step group and a trusted friend or sponsor.

Ok... lets get going! Please take these words from Step 4 to heart, "There is no perfect way to do Step 4. Just do it." Your step 4 will be beautiful just as it is, just as you are!

  • Why do we need to do a Step 4? P.29
  • How can I get the willingness to start on my Step 4? What am I willing to commit to for today? (even 5 minutes of writing is enough I use an egg timer and set it for 10 minutes of writing and 5 minutes of rest to do step work)
  • How will I write my inventory? Answering all the questions? Doing the columns and listing my fears, resentments, dishonesty, self seeking, lust etc? Ask a sponsor or friend to share with you how they did theirs. It doesn't have to be perfect and I will give you a suggested format later that's pretty easy to follow if you need it.
  • Why do I need to list my character assets as well as my moral shortcomings (defects)?

Phew! That was easy, now let's get down to the meat of the Step. Now I promise you this won't kill you. It's not going to be easy but it will be great.

You can do this a few different ways but we only have a week so let's keep it simple.

NB: A fellow COE shared this with me today. I live alone so did not need to consider this situation but it may be applicable to some on the list. The step work you are about to begin is confidential so please keep it secure. If you store it on a PC unsecurely or leave it laying around it may be read. This is your step and only when you wish to share it should it be read.

This week we are capturing the information so I would suggest that you share it next week in Step 5 with the group and/or your sponsor/trusted advisor. There is on obligation to share it with the list. You may wish to and you may not. You can share parts of it or none at all. Again progress not perfection in this step. The step 4-9 process will work best with columns in this study but can be worked either way. It's important to be able to see clearly your part in the resentments, fears, anger, lust, pride dishonesty. All of these things are listed in the OA 12 and 12 in Step 4 and I used the questions to help me fill in the columns. When we move onto steps 5-9 you will see how the columns can be used to get deeper into the step writing process your sponsors and others can guide you if you get stuck.

Use your PC to create the below in any word processor or spreadsheet program like Word or Excel or use a piece of ruled A4 (US Letter) paper to do the same. Now we are only going to do the first two columns for this step. The others are placeholders for later. It makes it easier if we do it this way now.

Place the following headings as you see in bold below down the left side. Please leave plenty of room between the headings.

  • Resentments
  • Fears
  • Anger
  • Lust
  • Dishonest
  • Pride

Across the top follow the format you see listing the steps and then the italicised section which is a description of what goes in each column. You are welcome to repeat these at the top of each page to remind you of what goes in them if you like.


Step 4
Step 5 Step 6&7 Step 8&9
Who/What? Short Description of What Happened? Affects my ? Defect/Coping Mechanism? Amends?
Examples: My Father Inability to be present for my brothers and I when my mother was dying You are welcome to use more than one line to describe what you are resentful for or one line per person.
  Told me I would never get a man unless I was thin Do as many as you need to on each resentment. I went through my life story and picked out specific people who were important to me It seemed the patterns of resentments repeated so I was able to see the same thing with different faces.
  Verbally abused me for being overweight I used the questions in the OA 12 and 12 page 38 and 39 to help with this.
Myself Abused my body for 29 years by bingeing      
Leave room here for more lines below
Example: My Brother Scared of his Anger Once you are happy with resentments move onto fears. OA 12 and 12 p37-38 for this.
Leave room here for more lines below
Myself Allowing myself to be abused by so many unavailable men Anger was a hard emotion for me but I now can feel it. Using 12 and 12 page 38-mid 40 for this
Leave room here for more lines below
"C" <-amended to protect his anonymity> Cheated on my husband with C for 6 years I am cross addicted to Sex and Love so this part of my inventory was comprehensive and very long. The questions on 40-41 helped me to answer thoroughly.
Leave room here for more lines below
"Employer A" Lied about time on timesheet 12 and 12 page 41-43
  Stole food Dishonest was MASSIVE for me. I was dishonest in most areas of my life.
  Used expense account for expensive meals      
Leave room here for more lines below
Pride/Self Seeking        
"Employer B" Lied to others to get a promotion OA 12 and 12 page 34-37. It wasn't until I did this part of the step I saw how being nice all the time was only a way for me to get others to give me my self esteem.

Now I am not going to tell you how long this has to be. It's not a race. Some people will come up with 10, 20, 30, 40 or 50 pages of stuff; others will do searching and fearless in a few pages if they have done this before a few times. The most important thing to remember is to try and do it. You don't have to do it perfectly. The miracle of the 12 steps is that they are in a circle. You can come back and do a Step 4 again at any time.

OK, now the MOST important part:

  • I want you to go through your inventory above and look at the good things that you have to offer.

When I was abused and used food to cope I was as brave as I could be so bravery and courage were my strengths. Perhaps you grew up with fighting in your home so you learned to be a peacemaker. There are so many things that we are given that are beautiful. If you need help go to your sponsor, or trusted recovery friend. Don't share your Step work yet just ask for some affirmations and things they like about you.

Here is an example of what mine would look like:

Step 4
Who/What? Short Description of What Happened? Asset?
Examples: My Father Inability to be present for my brothers and I when my mother was dying Bravery
  Told me I would never get a man unless I was thin Tolerance
  Verbally abused me for being overweight Bravery
Myself Abused my body for 29 years by bingeing  
Example: My Brother Scared of his anger Bravery
Myself Allowing myself to be abused by so many unavailable men  
"C" <-amended to protect his anonymity> Cheated on my husband with C for 6 years No contact with C in recovery.
"Employer A" Worked overtime without claiming for it. Misguided perhaps?
Pride/Self Seeking  
"Employer B" Helped others by staying late on Project B

Once you have done your inventories this week you are welcome to share them on the list and/or with your sponsor/trusted advisor etc in your step 5 next week.

Finally, finish reading the Step on pages 43 and 44.

  • Why do you think that doing your positive affirmations and your inventories shows that you made mistakes but are not a mistake?
  • What part does denial play in our overeating?

Now review all the work you have done! Wow, you are amazing. I am so proud of you. Way to go. You have come so far and your Higher Power still loves you. You are incredible!

Take some time out. Go for a walk, call a friend in recovery, have a bath, light some candles, put on some soft music and love you! You deserve it.

Ok, now we've done this.... let's do a Step 3 prayer, the serenity prayer and move on to extra credit.

Extra Credit

Here are a few questions from the OA Workbook which helped me:

  • Now that I've written and reviewed my inventory, am I willing to ask God to help me to add anything I may have left out?

Next week we will look at Step 5. You have come so far.

Walking with you,
Dawn B

-- Abstinence: 3 meals a day nothing in between, no weighing, regular exercise
Results: over 175 pounds release by my HP, friends, self esteem, Happy Joyous and Free

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