Step Four

Made a searching and moral inventory
of ourselves.

Week One
Week Two
And Some More Stuff Too

This Recovery Group Meditation arrived on October 17th
It seemed like a perfect lead-in to our Fourth Step Work


"The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers."

M. Scott Peck

“For the last 15 years I have been an avid and restless student of “self-help.”
I read popular books, spent years in therapy, and attended various support groups. Because I didn’t see any improvement in my life, I was consumed with anger, shame, bitterness, and a pervasive sense of injustice. I blamed my Higher Power, my family, my partner, and my life circumstances. Only since joining The Recovery Group have I discovered the source of my toxic stagnation. It was myself. When doing a thorough examination of my life, I was absolutely shocked to find that I had been repeatedly practicing destructive acts of self-sabotage.

I was in love with my suffering. I was addicted to my misery. Sometimes we cling to our illnesses and weaknesses because they are so familiar to us. Though they hurt us, we find them oddly comforting. It's what we're used to. And change is scary. The unknown is scary. I found that my self-sabotage stemmed from shame, anger, low self-esteem, my lust for being a Victim -- and even a Fear of Being Well. I had to reach the profound darkness of depression before I could admit that the damage I did to myself had become unbearable.”

(These feelings have proven to be relatively universal in addicts – so don’t worry)

Hi Everybody,

My name is Neil, and abstinence is the most important thing in my life without exception. By that I mean that I was unable to achieve any sustained level of order in my life, or find the means by which to achieve difficult objectives, or the desire to pursue a spiritual dimension until I first got abstinent. I could not have sustained my marriage, learned to be a step-father, and certainly could not have elected to pursue the life of a practicing observant Jew. Working an honest, structured program prepared me for those things

This inventory is a critical step in moving toward for the life that you always wanted. The fourth step is an opportunity to set aside our fears and choose a journey of self-discovery from which we can create a map that will help us find our way out of the darkness and back into the light

If we approach the process properly, we will expose specific events that changed the course of our lives. We will begin to see patterns of behavior that undermined or limited our growth and development. We will understand the roots of persistent issues and problems that interfered with our ability to make lasting relationships, attract healthy partners, or simply to feel comfortable in our own skin I’ve included several attachments to help you select a format, define relevant terms, or just to refer to during the process.

*** Before you get started --- Remember – You’re not doing this process alone ***

For the next two weeks, you will be uncovering and highlighting aspects of your personality and character that will evoke feelings of discomfort, and maybe activate some serious negative self-talk. This is not uncommon, and so you must not take the bait to dwell in the negative or become melancholy. As tempting as this type of moralistic labeling is, it is neither true nor helpful. It simply shows a lack of objectivity or humility (we’ll get to that later).

In order to derive the greatest benefit from Step Four, I strongly recommend (just do it) that you share your process regularly with your sponsor and close friends in program. And before you get started, you might like to forewarn your loved ones and innocent bystanders that you are going to be immersed in a period of self-discovery that might make you a bit….ornery.

Allow yourself to go there. You will be seeing yourself more objectively than you ever have before. Just build in some boundaries around the amount of time that you spend there, and don’t forget to live the rest of your life while you’re writing your Fourth Step.

I usually recommend scheduling a regular time and place to do this work. It can be 30-60 minutes a day. Or longer sessions less frequently. Since we only have two weeks, I estimate that probably have to put in a minimum of a number of hours to do this step in a remotely thorough manner. Block off the time. Stick to your schedule. Doing this phase of the process in a haphazard way will make it virtually impossible for you to continue in this 13-week exercise and have it make any sense whatsoever.

Before you start, ask your Higher Power to allow you to open your mind and your heart, without prejudice or judgment, and for the ability to see how these defects were formed, and the things that YOU did…. Your thoughts, your reactions, their repercussions and how they influenced the future course of your life.

Here are some guidelines that I’m hoping will help you steer clear of typical distractions to getting maximum value from this work.

1) Start off writing about your character assets. Some of you will find this more difficult than uncovering your defects. Be diligent in identifying them and you’ll be in a better place to apply that level of earnestness to uncover the negative traits
2) This is your inventory, not anyone else’s. If you are making a case that someone else has caused your problems, you’ve gotten off track. Yes, things have happened to you…but we must own OUR subsequent choices to be free from this disease.
3) As you examine various relationships, you will begin to see patterns in your conduct – triggers that put you on the defensive and/or caused you to approach people, places and things with a jaded, cynical, or mistrustful attitude.
4) We are all as sick as our secrets. One area that will eventually provide tremendous relief is to put down on paper all of the events that were sources of shame, dishonesty, disgust…the things that you swore you would never tell anyone…. DON’T be afraid of what comes next…because we’re not there yet, and you are in the process of a spiritual makeover that will help transform you into a new person.
We’ve all made choices that we regret, endured humiliations, questioned ourselves in matters of sexuality, were treated by or treated people in ways that left us diminished, vulnerable and ashamed. This it the time and the place to get them out, and it will begin to diffuse the power that they hold over you.

** OK, now I bet I’ve got you guys all psyched to get started **

I’d like to provide you all with some options -- formats to use for your fourth step. Contrary to what some people might have you think, there is no “right way” to do this.

Your inventory could take the form of:

  • (a) An autobiography – tell your story, or (b) break your life down into four segments (a) 0-6 years old, (b) 6-12 years old (c) 12-17 years old (d) 17 and up. Examine each period in your life for noteworthy, stressful or traumatic events, changes in behavior (food or otherwise), significant losses or changes.
  • Big Book: List resentments: With whom – what happened – how you felt threatened
  • Answer the questions in the OA 12 & 12
  • Relationships Inventory – this format asks that you examine yourself IN RELATION TO every important area of your life: Food, Family, work, money, sex, significant others, friendships, institutions, as an OA member, authority figures.
  • Using a list of character defects, write about each one that pertains to you. You will again find patterns that lead you back to one or two of them (i.e. fear, pride)

    I found the Relationship Inventory the most revealing and effective for me personally.

    I have pretty much tried all of the other formats, but focusing on relationship scenarios kept the focus where it needed to be – All too often, I had tried to pin my problems on other people, places and things.

    When Posting Your Shares:

    Please share ONLY about the process of doing your inventory.
    This is not the place to share intimate and specific details about your story.

    These things are better shared with your sponsor.

    Share your progress, share you resistance; share how doing this work is either empowering you or bringing up the need for additional support.

    For those of you who talk to your sponsors infrequently, ask them if you could call more regularly this week and next.

    Stay focused, stay connected with others…AND STAY ABSTINENT NO MATTER WHAT.
    If you do, you will have accomplished something important that can anchor your abstinence going forward.

    AND – I expect everyone to keep answering your multiple choice question about your tools and your physical abstinence…Everyone.

    Ready, get set, GO!

    Neil R.

    Handouts that I alluded to in my post:
    Varieties Of Fear
    Defects - Assets
    Fourth Step Definitions
    Step Four - Relationships Inventory

    Step Four – Week Two

    I hope you’ve all settled into your process, selected a format (or formats), and have been making headway in your writing. Hopefully, you have created some sort of outline and been systematically working through it.

    For those who have struggled, now is the time to confront whatever is holding you back and channel that energy back at the disease. Tell “it” in no uncertain terms that you are tired of giving in and feeling lousy afterwards. Take the emotion that’s all bound up inside of you and send it back where it came from – the lower power that has taken you hostage for all of these years. Confront it and fight for your recovery.

    If you have to, draw a picture of it and throw darts at it. Give it a funny name and yell insults at it. Or maybe you can just symbolically burn a picture of it each time you prepare to sit down and write again.

    This isn’t about doing the “perfect step four”. It’s about making progress in areas that you have been stuck, stuck, stuck. You can always revisit other areas later. If you can work through the most obvious defects and see where they’ve come from and how deeply you’ve been affected by them, you will have really accomplished something

    If you need help, let us help you? Post your question(s), and let those of us who have enjoyed a healthy period of abstinence (one year+) and have been through the steps, support you in person-to-person, individual replies.

    Find whatever it will take for you to stand up to your fear of change, expose what’s holding you back, and use your writing to exercise that spiritual muscle that has been so atrophied, and begin to move forward.

    Start giving some thought as to who you’d like to take your fifth step with. Our job is to find someone who we have come to trust and respect, or with whom we enjoy some sort of rapport. It doesn’t have to be someone in program, but if you want feedback from someone who experienced exactly what you are now, then a program person is probably your best bet.

    I wish we’d had more time for us to digest our discoveries, but staying focused without time to dwell on our negative traits can also be a good thing. Our recovery is as progressive as the disease is, and writing a fourth step is about coming to see things objectively…to connect some of the dots between old behaviors and bad outcomes/

    And we’ll begin to lay the groundwork for some of the later steps by having a better understanding of the people most deeply affected by our attitudes and behaviors.

    Whatever you do, stay in the present – keep chipping away at the process – stay abstinent – and remember to tell your fear to go sit in the corner. Treat it like a spoiled child that needs a time out.

    As usual, please report your findings on our weekly multiple choice question.

    1) I have made an effort to work the tools this week, but I could do much better.
    2) I’m working the tools each day. It’s a regular part of my program and my abstinence.
    3) I really have difficulty finding time to work the tools, but I’m cleanly abstinent.
    4) I really have difficulty finding time to work the tools and I cannot stay/get abstinent.


    And Some More Stuff Too

    I was exchanging emails with someone who was still eating compulsively, but doing better than before.

    They ate, they said, because of a multitude of reasons – it was late, they were preoccupied, there was too much to do.

    I ate because I was a compulsive eater.
    I ate compulsively as a reaction to life.
    I ate for so long because I wanted to that I couldn’t tell that I had continued eating because I HAD to.

    If I’d had too much money, I’d have eaten. If I had everything I ever wanted, I’d have found a reason to eat… because compulsive eaters defend their right to eat compulsively.

    When I saw that for what it was, it made things much clearer.
    I learned the disease has different “looks”, different voices. – all with the same intent – break down my resolve and get me to eat

    Abstinence is not a part-time proposition for me.

    For me, intermittent deviations from my food plan was full-blown relapse. I no longer binged. I didn’t need to.

    My disease became more subtle and devious. It became a game of inches. It dared me to cheat, and when I did, it evoked the same feelings of guilt and remorse that eating volumes of food had done.

    Surely I was abstinent if I just ate “a little extra” of some healthy “abstinent food”.
    So what if I consumed a meal in two minutes because I was so engrossed in my latest anxiety-fueled surge of self-run riot…that’s still abstinent, right?

    I had incorporated enough structure in my program that I could honestly say that “I’d come a long way”.
    My eating didn’t necessarily even affect my weight, so no one even had to know.
    But that just became part of the cycle of self-justification and rationalization.

    I knew – and God knew every time I took my will back and ate – and it weighed on my mind terribly.
    My integrity was blown each time I ate.
    It affected my morale, my outlook, and my ability to hold my head up.

    Either you are a compulsive eater or you’re not.
    And if you are, trying to eat a binge or trigger food moderately is an act of insanity.

    And overeating on healthy food – it’s like drowning in clean water – what’s the difference?

    We eat because you’re we’re compulsive eaters, and if that isn’t crystal clear, we may never get cleanly abstinence.

    Eating compulsively is an act of violence that we perpetrate on ourselves and try to blame external causes for.

    Can you identify with that?


    Step One
    Step Two
    Step Three
    Step Four

    WTS Home
    The Twelve Steps
    Recovery Home

    © Copyright 1995 ~ 2010 THE RECOVERY GROUP All rights reserved