Step Four

Made a searching and fearless
moral inventory of ourselves.

Leader's Share and Step Questions
Step Four, Part One

“Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.”
“Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.”

We’re going to do step 4 and 5 in 3 weeks, and steps 6 and 7 in 1 week. So – steps 4 and 5 will last from April 23 to May 13, and Steps 6 and 7 will be from May 14 to May 20.

At the end of Step 3, the Big Book says,

“Next we launched out on a course of vigorous action, the first step of which is a personal housecleaning” So my first message to you about this will be about


Let’s not talk much right now then. Let’s just act on three things:

1. For Step 5, you’ll need to have someone you can talk to, and you’ll need to set up a time. Step 5 reads, “Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.” Don’t get hung up on the “exact nature” and the “wrongs” for now – just go and find that other human being who will lend you their loving and non-judgmental ear for an hour or so, when you will talk about the discoveries you have made in Step 4. Making that appointment NOW will help you move forward with your Step 4. Ideally, you want to do this with a sponsor. No, your spouse or best friend is not a good idea for that one (believe me, I’ve tried) If you don’t have a sponsor, get yourself a temporary one. There was a message about that early in April. If you’ve lost it, email If you still haven’t identified that “other human being” by May 1, email me or Erin. Deal?

2. Go back to your shares from steps 1, 2 and 3. You’ll find plenty of things that bug you. Collect them in a list. That’s your inventory, or at least a start of it.

3. Steps 4-7 are about relieving us of the burdens that have caused our eating and life management problems, or at the very least are intimately connected with them. Now think about a time when you’ve relieved yourself of a burden of a physical, emotional or spiritual nature. How did that feel? What were your thoughts? Please share that with us.

BIG CAUTION: Doing a step 4 is not, I repeat, NOT, a tool to beat yourself up. If that’s where you want to go, mark it down as a character defect. Beating yourself up does not help anyone.

The Big Book says,

“A business which takes no regular inventory usually goes broke. Taking commercial inventory is a fact-finding and a fact-facing process. It is an effort to discover the truth about the stock-in-trade. One object is to disclose damaged or unsalable goods, to get rid of them promptly and without regret. If the owner of the business is to be successful, he cannot fool himself about values. We did exactly the same thing with our lives. We took stock honestly.”

I'm exciting about moving into action with you!


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Leader's Reflections


Thank you all for your shares so far. I am also very happy that so many of you are sticking with this. Doing the steps brings up all kinds of things, and some of them are a bit difficult to deal with. I've been to step study groups where after step 3, only 3 people were left, and recently I talked to an OA friend who said he's been only in one step study group where everyone actually finished it. So I'm super excited to still have so many of you here. Thank you for working so hard!

I was very inspired by hearing your stories of what it was like to have a burden lifted. Here is one of my stories.

Back in the 90s, when I was still married to my second husband (I'm on #3 now - third time's the charm :), I went to see a friend in Toronto, right across the country. We had a wonderful visit. I don't know how it happened, but somehow she convinced me I should see this psychic. The psychic was a delightful old lady; I can still hear her strong Maritime accent, with the rolling r's and Irish overtones that are so typical for that neck of the woods. What she kept saying was, "throw away the shackles and chains!" It sounded great but I didn't know exactly what she was getting at. But somehow, from then on, it was as if I was in a trance. Everything just had a bit of a different colour. I did all sorts of things that I didn't normally do. One of them, after coming back, was to decide to get my financial life in order. I went to a bank to ask for a consolidating loan; the loan officer didn't give it to me but instead asked me some budgeting questions. That was interesting - I realized that I was paying all the bills while my husband was saving up for his trip to Australia. Hm. My husband had always been a difficult man - eccentric, a difficult temper, hard to understand. But - you have to make sacrifices if you want to keep your family together, right? Well, one thing led to another, I also had some very interesting dreams, and about two month later I decided I should separate from him. When I discussed that with one of my children, some really terrible things came out. At that point, my husband was working out of town; I told him he could never come back. To this date, I still refer to the day I told him that as "the day of the revolution."

The relief was incredible. I didn't have to look over my shoulder anymore. My children didn't have to be afraid anymore. We were able to have unadulterated fun, without wondering when it would be cut short. We didn't have to watch someone get stoned and drunk all the time. And ... we didn't have to make sacrifices anymore. By that I don't mean being willing to pay a high price for something highly valuable; I realized that the sacrifices we/I had made were of the "killing young virgins for the Gods" type. No; I was never again going to be in a relationship where the other was a God who could exact whatever price from my children or me.

All of this happened before I got to OA. I'm telling this story because it shows how my Higher Power has always watched over me; I just didn't know it. I now realize that my Higher Power intervened there. HP placed that strange old lady from the Maritimes in my path; HP put me in that trance that gave everything a new light; HP sent me those dreams; HP led me to talk to that loan officer; HP helped me make the decision to separate. There were many more people and things; a wonderful police officer, for example.

In the end, I also understood that my husband had not just been "a little difficult" - he had been abusive, a tyrant, a man too damaged by his own history to be able to be a good father and spouse.

On "the day of the revolution", I threw away the shackles and chains - what a relief!


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Leader's Share and Step Questions
Step Four, Part Two

“Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.”

So this is part 2 of Step 4. Last time we also touched a bit on Step 5, just so that you can prepare yourselves to meet with someone to give your step 4 away. Today we’ll just focus on Step 4.

I just went back to my first inventory, back in December of 2002. Look at that! It was an actual inventory, with assets in the left column and character defects in the right. The “defects” column was much longer and fatter than the “assets” one. To be quite honest, I think that was at least partially because I wanted to be modest. Remember how I said I wanted to be a good little OA girl? Good little OA girls don’t brag. Good little OA girls are modest and focus on what’s wrong. Sigh. I have a suspicion that, given a choice, I would still do the same thing. Guess that’s a character defect that hasn’t been rooted out yet. In my case, that character defect is my ego. My ego wants to look into the mirror and give me “good” labels. Look at me, I’m modest, responsible, compassionate, reasonable! Oh, I so much want to be perfect still; I still haven’t learned how to be “just another bozo in the back of the bus” and REALLY accept myself how I am, warts and all. So you can see, some character defects take a while to be removed …

On the other hand, some character defects are just a distant memory. Even in the area of perfectionism, my Higher Power has changed me. One defect from my first list read “a very limited sense of what's ‘good enough’, which really clouds my judgment in many areas.” I remember that, remember agonizing over my and others’ performance at work, for example. I still have the occasional question about that but there is very little agonizing involved now. I think that’s because all in all, my Higher Power has made me much more pragmatic and practical. And that came because of acceptance – acceptance of myself, others and the situation. Does that make sense? When I can accept the reality of the moment, then I don’t need to worry about my “performance” – all I need to do is see whether what I’m doing is adequate to the situation. When it’s adequate – great! When it’s not adequate, I don’t have to beat myself up, all I have to do is ask my Higher Power to help me fix it as best as I can. That’s it.

Acceptance is a wonderful thing. And it really starts with looking reality in the eye. That’s what we’re doing here with the inventory. Yes, that can be a little sobering. That thing about my ego wanting to put these “good girl” labels on me, that was a bit of a hard thing to swallow at first. Or to realize that some of the arrogance of my youth and my upbringing (my parents schooled me well in that!) was still around. Actually, it still is. Just a little while ago, for example, I caught myself being smug about something. That awareness in itself was a bit like someone had just dumped some cold water over my head. And then, as I looked at it some more, I realized that not only was I being smug, I really enjoyed it and didn’t want to let go of it. Ouch! Let me just grab a bag of cookies and forget about it – wait, I don’t do that anymore. Instead, I talked to my sponsor about it the next morning. I don’t think I could have done that without having learned, heard, read, talked and thought about acceptance they way we’re being encouraged in program. And part of that learning came and still comes for me through steps 4-7.

Today the quote comes from “Daily Reflections”, an AA book with short AA-related writings for each day; this one is from April 3:

“I used to drink because of the things that other people did to me. Once I came into AA I was told to look at where I had been wrong. What did I have to do with all these different matters? When I simply accepted that I had a part in them, I was able to put it on paper and see it for what it was – humanness. I am not expected to be perfect! I have made errors before and I will make them again. To be honest about them allows me to accept them – and myself – and those with whom I had the differences; from there, recovery is just a short distance ahead.”

So people – how are you doing with compiling the list I mentioned last week? It’s really just a matter of cut and paste. Look through your posts from steps 1, 2 and 3 and from that, make a list of the things that bug you. If you haven’t done that yet, do it now. Yes, now. Don’t read any further. Come back when you’re done.


Ok. So you have your list of items that bug you – things you do and feel (and perhaps don’t do and don’t feel). That’s a great start for an inventory, and if you want to, you can leave it at that for now. It’s far, far better to have a short inventory than to give up at this step because it’s all too overwhelming.

If you have the energy and time to work some more on your inventory, here are some suggestions. Pick none or one or many but do me a favour – don’t get all tangled up in trying to do it “right”. Here are some suggestions:

- google “Big Book step 4 work sheet” and you’ll find a number of work sheets that are fashioned after the Big Book pages for step 4
- read through step 4 in the OA 12x12 – there are lots of questions in there
- use the OA 12x12 workbook
- remember some of the more important times in your life and reflect on what part you played (were you controlling? helpful? overly passive? compassionate?)
- remember nice things that people have said about you and add it to the list
- what are some memories that make you cringe? What feelings, thoughts and actions played a major part?

… and remember, this is NOT a tool to beat yourself up with. It’s an encounter with the truth, and the truth, trust me, it will set you free and “relieve of you the burdens of the past.”

Remember, also, that doing it is way more important than doing it right. I’m so adamant because I’ve seen so many people stumble at this point because they think they need to compose this major piece of confession. Of course there’s nothing wrong with writing reams and reams of paper. But there’s something wrong with thinking that’s what you have to do and then staying stuck for a long time or giving up on the steps altogether. I’ve also been in this situation myself – not in step 4 but in step 8, which is very similar, and I’ll tell you about it once we get there. Suffice to say that I got stuck for many months, paralyzed.

Now let’s turn to the Big Book for a moment. What do you think of this?

Selfishness — self-centeredness! That, we think, is the root of our troubles. Driven by a hundred forms of fear, self-delusion, self-seeking, and self-pity, we step on the toes of our fellows and they retaliate. Sometimes they hurt us, seemingly without provocation, but we invariably find that at some time in the past we have made decisions based on self which later placed us in a position to be hurt.

So our troubles, we think, are basically of our own making. They arise out of ourselves, and the alcoholic is an extreme example of self-will run riot, though he usually doesn't think so. Above everything, we alcoholics must be rid of this selfishness.

Self-centeredness? This is where we in OA often think that the Big Book really doesn’t apply to us. We often experience ourselves as the opposite – too accommodating, too “nice”, codependent. Step on other people’s toes? That’s the last thing we do! Those alcoholics, those drunks, those people with the other, the really bad addictions, they are the ones who are self centered – not us! Have you ever said that to yourself?

And yet … let’s just quickly have a closer look here. For example, earlier I said that my ego only wanted to give me “good labels”. That’s self centered. When I don’t want to be “just another bozo”, I’m self centered. When I agonize over how to evaluate my or others’ performance, even that is self centered, for a number of reasons. For example, every bit of agonizing comes back to wanting to control things, to wanting my expectations to be fulfilled. Wanting to control things are self centered.

Fears and resentments, two things that bother just about everyone, have at least an element of self centeredness in it. In my situation, fear often means that I can’t or don’t want to trust (another instance of control.) And resentment! We could write a whole encyclopedia about it. Resentment, on the surface, is some type of anger. However, when we dig a bit deeper, resentment actually means re-feeling. Resentment, then, is any type of feeling (usually unpleasant) that we can’t let go of. “Every time I look at that dress, I think to myself that I shouldn’t have bought it.” That’s a form of resentment. “I just can’t forget Bob. He would have been the perfect husband.” That’s a form of resentment. And how is that self centered? It’s about not wanting let go of the past – more specifically, MY past. I want to stay there, in that familiar place (control again!), I don’t want to surrender to the moment.

Phew! Talk about encyclopedia. Sorry for making this so long-winded!

Let’s start with the Big Book today. I’ve already presented you with a passage. The pages in question are 61 to 71. Is there anything that speaks to you? Why?

More questions:

Do you have a time set up to meet with the person to whom you will give your Step 5?

How are you coming along with your inventory?

What’s on our “assets” list?

Are you self centered? How?

What do these concepts and feelings mean in your life right now:
- Acceptance
- Truth
- Fear
- Resentment


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Leader's Reflections on the Step ~ Part Two

It’s great to see the Step 4 replies coming in! One of the things I was attracted to were the shares around self centeredness. I’d like to share with you something that I’m working on right now in regard to that.

A few months ago, we had a good friend staying with us for a while. One day he had company, and they were having a grand ol’ time in the living room. As soon as I saw the visitor and heard a few words from him, I shrank back and fled to my office. Which is where I muttered all kinds of things under my breath about how loud he was and that he was “that” kind of person and this and that and the other. At one point my Higher Power opened my eyes – I saw how judgmental and irrational I was. The next day on my morning walk, as I was musing over that encounter, it hit me: It was contempt that I was feeling, and where that contempt came from was from a feeling threatened. Then the thought (HP’s voice?) came into my head: “Replace contempt with love!” That seemed like a wonderful idea. But the next day I just couldn’t find that love. It had seemed so beautiful, that moment of hearing that voice, and it had seemed so right! Now what? Well, what my Higher Powers led me to do was/is basically a daily Step 4 on this. I’m not ready to replace contempt with love but what I CAN do is look at it, every day. In the process of doing that, I realized that contempt is often related to disinterest in the other person (I don’t want to see that person, all I can see is the contempt). So I started looking at disinterest, too. When I do my Step 10, I ask myself, have I felt contempt? Where? How? Have I felt distinct disinterest? Towards whom? This has been most instructive. It is become crystal clear to me that 90% of the time contempt is directly related to feeling threatened, often in a very subtle way. And that disinterest is often just plain self-involvement (I mean, whose thoughts, feelings and behaviour could POSSIBLY be more fascinating than mine?!).

So. I’ll have to keep working on that little Step 4. Take an inventory every day. Slowly, I know, HP will lead me to a lessening of contempt and self-involvement.

Take care!


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