Step Four

Made a searching and fearless
moral inventory of ourselves.

Leader's Share and Step Questions

Made a fearless and thorough moral inventory of ourselves.

Step 4

For this step study, we are allowing two weeks for you to do some fourth step work. Many of you may want to make this as thorough an inventory as possible, in which case two weeks may not be enough time to get the information down and ready for turning it over in a 5th step. In the interest of using this study to tackle some of your fourth step work, you may want to consider doing a mini 4th step at this time, perhaps putting down your top 5 or 10 resentments. That way you will be ready in two weeks to turn over what you’ve written in a 5th step. This is where working with a sponsor is important. If not a sponsor, find someone else with experience in step work to help you do this work.

The first time I did a fourth step was the first time I got to tell someone how angry I was, and at who, and why. It was a wonderfully cathartic experience, because these were painful memories for me, all the people who disappointed me, or shamed me, or left me, or hurt me in some other way. The sum total of all these experiences was my view on life, for which I preferred not to feel much anymore. These experiences were the painful ones I was medicating myself with food over. Naturally I was also socially withdrawn as a result as well. Relationships with the world around had not gone well for a very long time.

The other consequence of numbing myself against reality was that I developed some defensive habits that unbeknownst to me, perpetuated my painful experiences. In program, we call these defects of character. I often think of them as defenses, I was defending myself against things not going my way, a lot. I had no tolerance for that at all. When conflicts arose I didn’t resolve them, I ate over them. With the fourth step inventory, I was able to start sorting out, with the help of a sponsor, what happened, and how I sometimes “got the ball rolling”. I discovered, in many cases, how my own behavior, or attitude was part of the conflict.

I believe wholeheartedly that doing this soul searching self-inventory is the work that sets us free from the psychic pain that drives us to numb ourselves with compulsive eating. Self knowledge, as well as self acceptance, is key. Some humility will be necessary to take in helpful information that will be the beginning of the design for living that will work much better for you. After I did my first 4th step, and turned it over to my sponsor, I felt for the first time like a member of the human race. I was proud of being able, and willing to identify my troubled relationships, and listen to someone help me make some sense of it, and to learn what my part was.

I hope you will take the time to read through some step four literature, either in the OA 12 K& 12, the AA 12 & 12, or the Big Book while you are working on this inventory. The column format in the Big Book is a popular format for many. Please discuss with your sponsors the format that they recommend.

Questions for reflection:

How is the 4th step of O.A. different from simply confessing our indiscretions?

What are my concerns, if any, about discussion my fourth step with another person?

How will doing this fourth step provide a firm foundation for my long term abstinence?

In loving service,

Nancy A.

More on Step Four.....

When I did my very first inventory, it wasn’t so full of “harms done”, unless you count the harms I did to myself. A lot of my inventory was about hurts that I had been carrying around for a lifetime.

Some of us come from dysfunctional families, and have continued the patterns of dysfunction well into our adult lives. A family that is full of addicts, be they alcoholic, or compulsive overeaters, or rageaholics, or gamblers, or shopaholics….is often a family of hurt people hurting other people, not to mention often displaying damaging self centered behavior towards even the most innocent of family members.

I share this because in my experience it is important to name all the past hurts, even those that we had no part in, which is often the case with immediate family. I was sorry I raged at my mother occasionally and accused her of not loving me, but I felt terribly alone and neglected as a young girl in my family. Talking over lifelong anger and resentment is part of the healing process. Perhaps your sponsor, or the person you are sharing with, can help you see these situations a little more objectively. Perhaps you will be able to find some forgiveness. Many painful memories of our early childhood can be transformed with clarity and understanding. The Big Book has a helpful prayer for forgiveness in the third edition, page 67. It says “When a person offended, we said to ourselves, “This is a sick man. How can I be helpful to him? God save me from being angry. Thy will be done”.

Please remember that doing a 4th and 5th step is only the beginning of the freeing, and healing process. The beginning of throwing a light on those dark memories that have haunted us and driving us to comfort ourselves with excess food. That isn’t to say that it is a huge step in spiritual growth to do a 4th and a 5th. It is. But remember that we move forward after this step, to work with God in having the more glaring defects removed from our behavior and attitudes. And that is a lifetime effort.

Questions for reflection:

What has come up with this 4th step work that has been a particular blessing and an awareness that has freed me of a long held resentment?

If I am not at fault, how can I view people who have harmed me?

Have I discovered patterns of my own behavior that have recurred causing me conflicts? Please share if possible.

In loving service,

Nancy A.

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