Step Four

Made a searching and fearless
moral inventory of ourselves.

Leader's Share and Step Questions

STEP Four: Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.


SusanB here and still a recovering COE, sugar addict and emotional eater.

Your shares the past week touched me deeply. I see the power of the group and how the God of our understanding is at work AND big time SO in your lives. Thank you for allowing me to be part of your journey. I had tears in my eyes as I read your work on Step Three ~ these were tears of joy… Thank you!!!

Step Four was never easy for me. My most recent Step Four was by answering the OA HOW questions. I worked for hours every day, EVERY SINGLE DAY and still these questions took me weeks to complete. There were 165 questions to answer!!!! And I did it. It was one of the most thorough Step Four’s I have ever worked. These questions started with my live, as far back as I could remember. They are divided into:

A Childhood (35 questions)
B Adolescence (30 questions)
C Adulthood (about 100 questions)

I'm honest, one week (even two weeks) are too short to answer all these questions. Remember, I shared earlier that how you work your programme is between your sponsor, you and (may I add) your HP. I want you to breath in deep, pause long enough to make contact with the God of your understanding, and let the how, when, what and method over to the Director of the show.

Very early on my journey I learned that that I needed to keep Step Four as simple as possible. I often heard in fellowship that perfectionism is over-rated and can in certain cases be regarded as a character defect (CD). I think we can easily choose to allow our HP to take the lead… Do you think we can do it in this way? Let the DIRECTOR take control?

I read the following passage in For Today the past week:

    “… it’s better to jump in and examine my fears, [resentments, wrongs I did to others] than to let them haunt me the rest of my life. I take a fourth-step inventory, skimming the surface at first, then digging deeper. The more honest I am, the more freely I breathe…” (page 299, emphasis mine)

Here is that lovely word again “HONEST”. The truth will indeed set us free!! It set me free and is still setting me free from day to day… after four years and three months in programme.

Remember what I shared a paragraph or two ago about “perfectionism”? Believe me, there really is no perfect way to do step four. The main thing is that we just do it. I did this step in many ways and will share some of my experiences, strengths and hopes (ESH) with you.

  • When I joined The Recovery Group in July, 2009, my first sponsor and I used the AA Big Book inventory form to do my first Step Four. I was very much focussed on the other people's side of the street and my first sponsor allowed me… Only later did I learn that this was my inventory and not the inventory of the people who wronged me. When I read the archives of WTS, Lanya shared back in 2008 (2nd quarter, when she was leader of this study): When I was ready to accept the truth, my sponsor gently shared this important fact with me. It is not conditions that drive us to COE, but rather the illness itself. This was hard for me to take, who was an expert at blaming others. (my emphasis)
  • I did my second Step Four in this loop and we answered questions from the OA 12 and 12. It was very painful and I lost my abstinence in the process of dealing with my character defects. "Poor me, poor me, pour me another drink!" (Slogan)
  • My next Step Four was by using the Big Book Step Study method (by Lawrie) and because I was between sponsors I shared my Step Four with a recovery friend who became my sponsor two years later and still is my sponsor up till today. It was the most thorough way and I cringed many days as I wrote it, but I pushed through!
  • I worked some other Step Fours in between (also those in my daily Step 10s).
  • Then my OA HOW Step Four came earlier this year. It was an amazing and powerful experience. I completed it on June 24 this year. If you want the 165 questions I will gladly provide them for you. Just email me privately at Remember to discuss it first with your sponsor. You have a sponsor, don't you?

This step is daunting and time consuming and it takes time to unpack all that things that we've kept hidden for so long. Don't feel pressured to complete this step within the next two weeks. Talk this over with your sponsor and do the next right thing, AND DO it.

The housecleaning steps (Step Four to Nine) is an ongoing process (Step 10) and we never finish them. I learned through each Step Four that I was (still am) a worthwhile person, part of the human race and still valuable and precious, despite all I've done in my distant and not so distant past.


The principle of Step Four is: Courage.

Step Four prayer:

Dear God, It is I who has made my life a mess.
I have done it, but I cannot undo it.
My mistakes are mine and I will begin
a searching and fearless moral inventory.
I will write down my wrongs.
But I will also include that which is good.
I pray for the strength to complete this task.

Back to the principle of COURAGE: Courage is not about the absence of fear, but feeling afraid and doing it ANYWAY. We DO this inventory, even fearfully, because faith without action is dead. My HP gives me COURAGE (in God’s POWER) to change the things I can (the middle part of the Serenity Prayer). We are not alone while we work this step ~ we have each other and we have a very powerful HP.

According to the Big Book resentment is the number one offender. I had a long list of people and things I was resentful at! No wonder I had to find comfort in food the second time round. “Poor me, poor me, pour me another drink” (programme slogan). It was a very effective coping mechanism.

We all did the best we could with what we had. Our parents did, our teachers did, so did our siblings and even recovery friends and sponsors; whoever. The first paragraph in the AA 12 and 12 explains that all of us wanted to survive and we used our basic instincts to do just this - SURVIVE:

    "CREATION gave us instincts for a purpose. Without them we wouldn't be complete human beings. If men and women didn't exert themselves to be secure in their persons, made no effort to harvest food or construct shelter, there would be no survival. If they didn't reproduce, the earth wouldn't be populated. If there were no social instinct, if men cared nothing for the society of one another, there would be no society. So these desires—for the sex relation, for material and emotional security, and for companionship —are perfectly necessary and right, and surely God-given." (AA 12 and 12, page 42, the first paragraph)

In our quest for survival we stepped on many toes; so did every single human being on this planet. If we did not, we would not be human. This is what the house cleaning steps are about. Cleaning up the debris of the past and help our present lives to become as uncluttered as possible. These survival techniques were/are so simple and so, SO effective.

If you worked a Step Four before and wonder if you should work one again, the AA 12 and 12 says on page 89 that:

    “Many A.A.’s go in for annual or semiannual housecleanings.”

Remember WTS-loopies: We are no longer running the show ~ we surrendered to the Director in Step Three. More will be revealed every step of the way – and you know what? If we miss some things, our Director will remind us along the way and in the not so distant future we will work a daily step 10 that will deal with many of the things we missed in this inventory. So relax and take it easy... while working this step - God has our backs.

    “Since Step Four is but the beginning of a lifetime practice, it can be suggested that he first have a look at those personal flaws which are acutely troublesome and fairly obvious.” (AA 12 and 12, page 50)

    The Big Book also says on page 71 “…an inventory of your grosser handicaps, you have made a good beginning."

(AA 12 and 12) talks about “a lifetime practice”. Mmm… So, we do (or will do) a step 10 on a daily basis for the rest of our lives.

    The AA Big Book states on page 84: ”This thought brings us to Step Ten, which suggests we continue to take personal inventory and continue to set right any new mistakes as we go along. We vigorously commenced this way of living as we cleaned up the past.”

Step 10 makes up for any deficiencies as we take steps 4-9. The God of our understanding is in charge of what is to be written the next week or two.

So where do we begin? We find facts, concentrating on the most obvious and most troublesome resentments, fears and wrongs. We also pray for willingness to see what we need to see about ourselves. Are you ready for some deep, hard and fearless work? I am because I know I’m not the only one ~ we will definitely not be alone ~ I have each one of you alongside me…

I read more about our emotional challenges with regard to our instincts in AA 12 and 12:

    Nearly every serious emotional problem can be seen as a case of misdirected instinct. When that happens, our great natural assets, the instincts, have turned into physical and mental liabilities. (AA 12 and 12, page 42)

For an addict these instincts can ran away with us:

    Alcoholics [addicts in general and individuals with eating disorders] especially should be able to see that instinct run wild in themselves is the underlying cause of their destructive drinking [eating, purging, under-eating, over-exercising etc.]. We have drunk [indulged in our disease] to drown [cover] feelings of fear, frustration, and depression…. to escape the guilt of passions, and then have drunk [indulged] again to make more passions possible. We have drunk [indulged] for vainglory—that we might the more enjoy foolish dreams of pomp and power. This perverse soul-sickness is not pleasant to look upon.” (AA 12 and 12, page 44, changes between brackets my own)

    “As we morbidly pursue this melancholy activity, we may sink to such a point of despair that nothing but oblivion looks possible as a solution.” (AA 12 and 12, page 45)

Then the AA 12 and 12 talks about the person who will sometimes NOT take this inventory. Reasons are:

    1. A person plays the martyr and in a way enjoys the disease (as seen in the above quotation ~ page 45, AA 12 and 12).
    2. Self-righteousness, grandiosity, offence and shifting the blame to over-eating, under-eating, the bottle… So being abstinent (sober) is regarded as the solution, and not taking an inventory (see page 45).
    3. OR shifting the blame for all our problems onto others: “Our present anxieties and troubles, we cry, are caused by the behavior of other people—people who really need a moral inventory. We firmly believe that if only they'd treat us better, we'd be all right.” (AA 12 and 12, bottom of page 45 and also see top of page 46)

In my first inventory, number three applied… even though I pushed through and worked this step. I kept coming back and my sponsor guided me in the direction of self-discovery and today I’m forever grateful she taught me the importance of keeping my side of the street clean and disregard the role of the person on the opposite side of the street.

But there is GOOD news, fellow loop buds:

    “When the spiritual malady is overcome, we straighten out mentally and physically.” (AA Big Book, page 64)

We recover spiritually and then emotionally and physically (the Three-legged stool). This is indeed a SPIRITUAL DIS~EASE!!!

    “Clear away the wreckage of your past. Give freely of what you find and join us. We shall be with you in the Fellowship of the Spirit, and you will surely meet some of us as you trudge the Road of Happy Destiny.” (Big Book of AA, page 163)

The Big Book of AA divides Step Four in three major parts:
A. Our resentments.
B. Our fears.
C. Our sexual and other relations.

I'm adding two parts: at the very beginning (see assignment Question (ii)), as well as at the very end of this inventory (see assignment Question (vii)). Both refer to our assets and good qualities.


It is important to understand that there are situations that were entirely NOT our fault. For example: abuse as a child, sexual molestation, rape, mugging etc... In those cases we try to deal with the resentment that we carry today as a result. The resentments are always on our sides of the street ~ our problem so to speak.

    “Resentment is the "number one" offender. It destroys more [addicts and] alcoholics than anything else. From it stem all forms of spiritual disease, for we have been not only mentally and physically ill, we have been spiritually sick. When the spiritual malady is overcome, we straighten out mentally and physically.” (AA Big Book, page 64, change between bracket mine)

Read the story "FREEDOM FROM BONDAGE" (AA Big Book, starting on page 544) in the fourth edition to understand the above passage better. We began our writing by looking at others and seeing how they wronged us. BUT there also comes a time to look inward and see our part.

    “Where other people were concerned, we had to drop the word “blame” from our speech and thought. This required great willingness even to begin.” (AA 12 and 12, page 47)

You see we have character defects (CDs) and coping mechanisms that contributed to our many resentments. Try to identify them by answering the following questions:

  • Where have I been selfish?
  • Where have I been dishonest?
  • Where have I been self-seeking?
  • Where have I been afraid?
  • Where was I to blame?

We answer these questions only if we had some contribution to the event. We don't do it if it was entirely the other person's fault, for example in cases where we were abused as small children, or raped or mugged etc... In all cases we are responsible for carrying the resentment now and we write down our justifications for our resentment and for still carrying it now.

Answering those questions for all the names in our list gives us a detailed picture of our character defects that block us from contact with our HP.


Fear is a basic instinct of survival in all living beings. It is the first feeling that arises when we face immediate danger. The usual reaction is to fight or flee, depending on the circumstances. This basic instinct may also be projected into the future. Those projected fears are the fears we deal with in Step Four.

    "We reviewed our fears thoroughly. We put them down on paper even though we had no resentment in connection with them." (AA Big Book, page 68)

The Big Book says that fear touches about every aspect of our lives. That it is an evil and corroding thread and that the fabric of our existence is shot through with it. Those projected fears are actually behind every character defect we have. The Big Book makes it clear that FEAR causes more troubles than stealing. Why compare it to stealing? Fear steals our faith away from us. It steals all the work done in Steps One, Two and Three and we become powerless again… This was the exact reason why I relapsed when I worked a Step Four in the past. FEAR!! Remember the words in Step One? “WE WERE POWERLESS”. After we took Step Three we are EMPOWERED by the God of our understanding. This is awesome!! We are no longer powerless... The moment fear slips in, we become powerless again.

    “Fears are future projections. They take [us] away from the here and now and make [us] dwell on the future and on the past with connection to the future. My connection with H.P., is only in the here and now. Therefore my fears take me away from my connection to H.P., and my recovery.” ~ Shlomo, in WTS 2nd quarter, 2013.

Shlomo also talks about PHOBIAS for example fear of heights, closed places, public places, etc... We usually don't know the reasons behind phobias, and often need professional help as they can be manifested in dramatic anxieties and emotional problems.

Our fears demonstrate our spiritual illness in different areas of our life ~ also in addictive food behaviours.

The removal of fear asks a simple prayer:

    "God, please remove my fears and direct my attention to what You would have me BE." (paraphrased from page 68 in the AA Big Book)

Outgrowing our fears is a process and it takes time and action on our part.

The good news is that the promises of the Big Book do come true, and we can and will “match calamity with serenity.” (AA Big Book, page 68)


The Big Book talks about “Sexual conduct” from the bottom of page 68 to the third paragraph on page 70. This part of Step Four also refers to the harm we did to others and has all to do with relationships: sexual and otherwise.

In other words the Big Book divides this section of our inventory into our sexual relationships and general relationships.

Let us start with our sex conduct over the years past and present. First we make a list of all the persons we had sexual relationships with, past and present. Then we answer the following questions:

  • Where have I been selfish?
  • Where have I been dishonest?
  • Where have I been inconsiderate?
  • Where did I hurt that person?
  • Where did I arouse jealousy?
  • Where did I arouse suspicion?
  • Where did I arouse bitterness?
  • Where was I at fault?
  • What should I have done instead?

We pray the Earnest Prayers in the Big Book:

    "God, we earnestly pray for the right ideal, guidance in each questionable situation, sanity and the strength to do the right thing. If sex is troublesome, we throw ourselves the harder into helping others. We think of their needs and work for them. This takes us out of ourselves. It quiets the imperious urge, when to yield would mean heartache.” (AA Big Book, paraphrased from page 70)

We remember that our sex powers are God given and therefore good, neither to be used lightly or selfishly, nor to be despised and loathed. We become willing to grow towards our ideal.

The questions in OA 12 and 12 put some more light on our relationship (sexual and general):

    “Have we pursued sex in ways that damaged our self esteem? Have we been promiscuous? Have we spent hours fantasizing about sex when we might have been building better relationships? Have we been interested only on our own pleasure, never seeking to please our sexual partner as well? Have we ever sought to satisfy our sexual impulses at the expense of others? Have we slept with another person’s spouse or lover? Have we cheated on our own spouse of lover? Have we ever forced or manipulated anyone to have sexual contact with us? Have we ever sexually molested anyone? Have we ever had sex with a child or with anyone who was not fully capable of resisting? Have we ever abused a position of trust to get sex from someone who sought our help?” (page 40)

More questions are added on page 41 of the OA 12 and 12.

In our general relations we work in exactly the same way as during our sexual relations.

    "We have listed the people we have hurt by our conduct, and are willing to straighten out the past if we can". (AA Big Book, page 70, emphasis mine)

We make a list of people we have harmed in our general relations. They may include people we have physically injured, financially harmed, caused emotional suffering, or a combination of all the possible harms. Then we answer the same questions for each person like we did in our sexual relations. See above ~ there are nine questions. This is followed by the Earnest Prayers over each person or situation.


If we do an inventory we find some wonderful assets we forgot about. The other day I cleaned my kitchen cupboards and found a vegetable shredder I forgot I had… What a joy, now that I started to eat rainbow foods, containing a lot of healthy vegetables and fruits!

My closet in my bedroom held some more surprises ~ clothes, beautiful clothes that did not fit my body for years, are zipping up comfortably and when my husband asks about spending on clothes AGAIN, I can say… “I did not… It dates from the previous century… my love. Don't you think this is just COOL?” and smile triumphantly! (All the applause belongs to my HP though...)

Just a warning, loop buds: To experience a mental blank when drawing up this list of personal assets is not uncommon. We have been beaten by this disease for so long, turning this punishment inwards towards ourselves that it becomes very difficult to find something good to say about ourselves. Just start and dig deep… It’s worth the effort. Do you think you can do it?

Remember we did not Cause this disease, we cannot Control it and we cannot Cure it.

Number (ii) and (vii) will address our assets!!! You can skip all the answers to the WTS loop this week, but don't skip (ii) and (vii).


(i) Reading for this week

(ii) “…the newcomer has some assets which can be noted along with his liabilities. This tends to clear away morbidity and encourage balance.” (AA 12 and 12, page 46) Make a list of the assets and qualities about yourself that you like and can think of today.

(iii) Is it helpful to you to think of this step as a “beginning” that does not have to be done perfectly? How so? Motivate you answer.

(iv) Do a resentment list using the format you, your sponsor and your HP (Higher self, Higher Power, intuition) agree on ~ share with us only one or two examples from your resentments if you feel safe to do so.

(v) Now make a list of your fears, the reasons for these fears and how they affect your self esteem, pride, pocketbook, personal relations, ambition, emotional security, and sex relations. Share one or two of your fears with the loop if you wish.

(vi) Oh my goodness, now it’s time for our relationship inventory! You don’t need to share the this inventory with the loop, except if you have a burning desire. Write down a sexual and general relationship inventory. Then make use of the nine questions to explore your motives. Pray the prayers as shared with you in today’s lead share. Also make use of your sponsor’s suggestions.

(vii) List at least three things about yourself that other people like and share them with us.

In loving fellowship,


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