Step Four
Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

The restoration of the Sistine Chapel in the latter part of the last century was controversial with some critics, but that is beside the point here.

The fact is, Michelangelo had painted a ceiling with bright colors, and over the centuries, the colors had suffered from many things Ė soot, candle wax, grime, pollution, water damage, etc.

Some fear that any attempt at restoration might do more harm than good, but the process went forward, and the shocking thing that was seen was that the dark frescoes were actually painted in very bright colors.

The interior Steps, numbers 4 Ė 10, are the Steps of our restoration to our original bright colors. Without this process, we will only get darker and darker, that is, we will fall further and further into our addiction to food. Whether we can be ďrestoredĒ to our original is beside the point; we are restored to something glorious, in any case.

But we have to do the work of cleaning and repairing.

Now character is the sum of our habits. Personality we are more or less born with. But none of us was born a compulsive eater. We formed the habit of eating or not eating, etc., in response to life, and kept at it until it became an addiction. So it stands to reason that we want to change some habits if we are to recover.

The process is interesting. We have to fearlessly and honestly root out and list the bad habits, our ďcharacter defects.Ē Some of this process reveals ways in which we may have harmed other people, and we will in due course of time want to make amends. But letís not get ahead of ourselves. God is going to remove the defects, we just have to make a list of them. The next Step will tell us to reveal this list to God and one other person. That person is not specified. But again, letís not get too far ahead of the process.

Many of the questions I have already asked can be used in doing this inventory. But you may also think of more.

Now, we have had excellent work done so far. I have read your responses, and they are wonderful and show heartfelt desire for recovery. Alas, there is usually a drop off between Steps 3 and 4. And maybe someone isnít ready for recovery, but I beg of you, please continue, because there is no other way to recovery except to work the Steps.

I think fear is a great holdback. But fear of what? The bright colors that we will find underneath all the soot and grime and damage? Fear that recovery will take away something? It will only take away our addictions, but in place of them it will give us serenity and health. Seems like a good exchange to me. If we are only as sick as our secrets, this is the beginning of the end of secrets Ė and the beginning of our recovery of health.

When I first did this step, I realized that thorough does not mean forever. (I realized this because my sponsor drilled it into my head, not because Iím so smart.) And the other thing he stressed was that I had some good habits or characteristics as well as bad ones. Taking his advice, I found it better to get the Fourth Step done in reasonable time, with the understanding that I was going to be doing it again and again for the rest of my life, and this time didnít have to be so complete that I was paralyzed by the prospect. I can always return tomorrow. In fact, I have many times, in addition to doing the Tenth Step, which is a daily inventory.

Telling someone wasnít hard for me, because I realized that if I chose someone in program, they had heard worse, possibly even been worse! If I chose a counselor, there was professional privilege, and no counselor or therapist of any experience was going to be all that shocked by my foibles. I have now, at least, a friend good enough to tell all to. So I didnít let that prospect frighten me away from doing this Step, and then dealing with the next Step when I got to it.

So, letís all go wash our hands and faces, and see what a beautiful person there is underneath the grime.




Answer the questions as fully as you reasonably can. If there are items you can share on the loop, please do so. Other things you can share in private in Step Five.

1. A. List ways you may have used anger inappropriately. Have you held resentments? Struck out in rage? Physically struck someone? Destroyed things?

B. Anger is also a fuel that can be used to set good boundaries and to maintain them. Can you think of times you may have used anger appropriately?

2. Fear can be paralyzing. Can you think of times when you allowed your fears to keep you from doing what you should have done? Has fear ever saved you from something bad?

3. A. Lust, envy, greed, and gluttony are names for states in which we desire something inordinately. Can you think of times when you had desires that drove you beyond what you knew was reasonable? ( Note, if you havenít had such a relationship to food, what are you doing here?)

B. Can you think of times you have given love appropriately, and felt good about it?

4. Have you ever engaged in risky behavior?

. 5. A. Can you remember times when you have ducked your responsibilities?

B. Are there times when you have behaved responsibly? Done the right thing?

6. A. Do you have things that cause you shame? Are there ways in which you hate yourself?

B. Have you some real achievements of which you are justly proud

7. A. Life has losses, pain, and sadness. What are some important losses you have had? How have your responded to them? How have they affected your life.

8. Can you view yourself as a truly worthwhile person, deserving your love and deserving recovery?


1. A. Because I was not allowed to express anger as a child, I did not learn how to express it appropriately. As a result, through much of my life I would hold my anger in until I exploded, often over little or nothing. People thought me strange at best, and were hurt at worst. The people I exploded at were often the people I love most.

B. In recovery, especially, I have come to use anger appropriately. One thing I have learned is that there are far fewer things that need an angry response than I imagined. Today, I usually take appropriate action to maintain good boundaries when needed. I can baby sit a four year old all day and not get upset. I went to a neighbor who was not curbing her dog (in my yard), and told her she needed to do so, or I would have to call the police. She was angry, but I just kept polite and insistent.

2. A. I was not able to deal with the fears I had from being clinically depressed, and so allowed them to disturb me greatly. I dealt with them by self medication with food. It was in recovery that my depression came out clearly, although I had been depressed all my adult life, at least, and the fears come out in anxiety attacks. In recovery, I could deal with these matters, and today I am able to deal with realistic fears appropriately, and to let the other kind go when it rears its head.

3. A. I always wanted to be rich, among other things. And when I was in my mid fifties and unemployed, it seemed clear that I was never going to be. But then a strange thing happened, since I was in recovery at that time, and in the next several years the Promise of the Program came true, that the fear of economic insecurity would leave us. And I retired at 63 with quite enough to live comfortably on. When I stopped being greedy, the very thing came to pass, in Godís way.

B. I have been blessed with a truly great love affair with my wife.

4. It was always more like me to be too afraid to take any risks, even good risks.

5. A. I probably shirked responsibilities, but my main dysfunctionality lay in being overly responsible. I had to take on responsibilities in my family of origin that were far too heavy for a child to be bearing, and I became adept at codependency on this issue.

B. In accordance with the above, what I have learned is that I do not need to act when it is not my responsibility to do so. This has led to being responsible when appropriate in better ways, too.

6. A. At one time I had many things of which I was ashamed, although some of these were not my doing, actually. Incest leaves one feeling shameful. In recovery, however, I have managed to deal with all my issues in a reasonable way, and shame and blame take up little of my time.

B. I could say that one achievement is that I have avoided being hanged. I am proud of what I have made of myself, and proud of my children and grandchildren. They are some of the best people on earth, and I like to think I had a little something to do with it.

7. Yes, there have been losses, pain and sadness. I have lived long enough to have experienced the deaths of parents, grandparents, great grandparents, and great great grandparents. Yes, a family of long lived people, but one who spaced out the generations considerably, too. The men usually lived only into their nineties; several of the women got to the century mark. I experienced the loss of the expectations I had of life, and that, of course, was part of what drove me to recovery. We do not get over losses, we go through them, and learn to live with them. I have done this rather well, I think.

8. In recovery I have come to see myself in a wholly new light, and to love myself with the kind of love I found in others in the rooms. I take so much better care of myself these days than I did, because I want to continue to enjoy life and love.




Step 5

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