Step 4 - Keep it Simple

The 12 Steps are the AA program of recovery from alcoholism.
Post Reply
Wiganman
Forums Enthusiast
Posts: 41
Joined: Wed Jan 06, 2016 9:30 am

Step 4 - Keep it Simple

Post by Wiganman » Sun Jan 13, 2019 7:34 am

When I first started to look at the steps I would look at step 4 with trepidation. That involves looking at myself and who in their right mind would want to do that. Step 4 reads; Made a Searching and Fearless Moral Inventory of ourselves. Why do we need to do that? What has this step got to do with me wanting to stop drinking? Its quite simple. In step one we saw that we have a mental obsession with alcohol which leads us to become restless, irritable and discontent unless we are drinking. In Step 2 we discovered that the solution to this was to find a power greater, have a personality change to remove this. In Step 3 we found out that alcohol wasn't our main problem - that was but a symptom our real problem was ourselves and our character defects.

When that was explained to me then step 4 became perfectly logical. It is all about finding the truth about our personality - the things that made us do the things we did that caused us problems that at the time we thought could only be resolved or made to feel better by drink. We take away the drink in step one but our problems are still there so we have to identify the causes and conditions. If I want to fix a car I need to know what the problem is before I can fix it, To fix myself I need to know what is wrong with me - my main character defects. Step 4 is a very clever way of doing that.

We look at our resentments, fears, sexual conduct and harms done. There are lots of step 4 worksheets available online they are all basically the same. The one I used was a sheet with columns and check boxes. Yes we are going to include things that we don't like to remember about our past. The only thing I would say here that it isn't the incident that is of interest to your sponsor (it is very likely that they have done similar or worse) but the part you played and in particular which part of self caused you to act in the way you did. Typically we would have been selfish, self-centered, fearful or dishonest. I could see a pattern in my behavior that showed all of these negative defects. That was all my sponsor was interested in not the actual incidents.

Step 4 is nothing to be fearful of. A good sponsor will guide you through this in a simple way. My advice is don't spend too long on it trying to get it perfect. I usually go through the theory with my sponsees, show them my step 4 so they can see what one looks like and also show them some faith in me. I then ask them to complete it there and then in no more than a couple of hours and then put it away and forget about it.

If they remember something they forgot about it can be added at step 5 or later in step 10.

Anyone who I have spoken to about step 4 tell me it was nothing like as bad as they had preconceived.

User avatar
PaigeB
Trusted Servant
Posts: 8349
Joined: Fri Jun 24, 2011 12:28 pm
Location: Iowa USA

Re: Step 4 - Keep it Simple

Post by PaigeB » Sun Jan 13, 2019 1:19 pm

My advice is don't spend too long on it trying to get it perfect....

Anyone who I have spoken to about step 4 tell me it was nothing like as bad as they had preconceived.
Thanks for the topic! I wholeheartedly agree! We have been told to be "fearless and thorough" from the very start in Chapter 5 - How it Works. We are also told that it is "progress not perfection" - we want to be content with progress.

I like to simplify by using the analogy of a real stock inventory. If you haven't ever done one, imagine the can aisle at the grocery store. Each can must be counted, dated & logged in with whatever quick notes are necessary. In this process, we do not go running to the office to try to ascertain why we count 5 and the ledger says we should have 7 then try to buy more. NO ~ what we are doing here is simply laying out the truth of our stock. Anything that needs more attention will get more attention later on. Right now we are just counting cans. Not alone either - lots of people are counting cans and spices and noodles. And we get a chance to talk to another person about what we counted and see what needs more attention.

***DO NOT take too long. This sometimes "feels" like living in the problem. Move through it quickly to get to the Solution. I have seen many in the pains of this trudging part of the Steps. Those who get it done feel better and are able to say: it was nothing like as bad as they had preconceived!
Step 6 is "AA's way of stating, the best possible attitude one can take in order to make a beginning on this lifetime job... with most of them we shall have to be content with patient improvement." 12&12 Step Six, p.65

MagMary
Forums Newcomer
Posts: 8
Joined: Sat Jan 12, 2019 8:23 pm

Re: Step 4 - Keep it Simple

Post by MagMary » Sun Jan 13, 2019 8:10 pm

I’ve been through a few 4th steps. I was so scared the first time I did my 5th step, I just handed the papers to my sponsor to read it. There was still a part of me that didn’t want to face it. Of course, she informed that I would read it to her. =wink it wasn’t nearly as bad as the monster in my brain (my ego) thought it would be. And as the onion has peeled, I have done additional 4th & 5th steps.

User avatar
Brock
Trusted Servant
Posts: 3971
Joined: Fri Sep 07, 2012 1:45 pm

Re: Step 4 - Keep it Simple

Post by Brock » Mon Jan 14, 2019 8:33 am

Thanks for the topic, two statements I really liked -
Wiganman said -
Anyone who I have spoken to about step 4 tells me it was nothing like as bad as they had preconceived.
And Mary said-
...it wasn’t nearly as bad as the monster in my brain (my ego) thought it would be.
It is often so hard to convince newcomers that this is easier than it looks, (at some of these we balk), the more we write, and speak, about it being not so difficult, will help newcomers.

Some AA members have a different view about how many times we do this step, I am one who believes any redoing of it is covered in step 10. Wiganman seems to agree, while Mary is more on the side of doing it more than once. There was a time a few of us would argue on here insisting our way was the right way, we have had ding dong discussions and arguments about this, and we quoted from the book to support our position of doing it only once.

Now I have cooled it on that hard nosed position, and if someone wants to do it more than once, if it helps them that’s fine. But I still cringe and always will, when a newcomer is in a meeting, and probably like we did dreading the thought of doing 4 & 5, and then someone speaks of doing it over and over. Same deal with meetings, if someone hadn’t taken me aside, and assured me on my third or fourth ‘try’ at AA, that after the steps meetings would become optional, (once I maintained a fit spiritual condition), I probably would not be here today. Because meetings are usually not something a nervous newcomer enjoys, and when people speak of having many years of sobriety and ‘needing’ meetings to maintain it, I believe it can scare folks off. I have since come to understand that some people need meetings to maintain that fit spiritual condition, and not just as a source of enjoyment, and passing on what we have learned. So I am fine with whatever they do to maintain sobriety, but hope when sponsoring or speaking in meetings, they understand that many of us don’t need the same approach.
"Good morning, this is your Higher Power speaking. I will not be needing your help today."

Wiganman
Forums Enthusiast
Posts: 41
Joined: Wed Jan 06, 2016 9:30 am

Re: Step 4 - Keep it Simple

Post by Wiganman » Mon Jan 14, 2019 2:14 pm

Brock wrote: when people speak of having many years of sobriety and ‘needing’ meetings to maintain it, I believe it can scare folks off. I have since come to understand that some people need meetings to maintain that fit spiritual condition, and not just as a source of enjoyment, and passing on what we have learned. So I am fine with whatever they do to maintain sobriety, but hope when sponsoring or speaking in meetings, they understand that many of us don’t need the same approach.
I quite agree with this. If a newcomer gets the impression that you have to sit in an AA meeting every night for ten years to stay sober then that is a very depressing prospect for them. Meetings were and still are very important to me but I would not have the recovery I now enjoy had I spent 7 evenings a week in meetings and none of my time with my sponsor going through the steps and learning how to apply them to my life. The beauty of being recovered is I can live a normal life and do things that I couldn't before. I have more energy, more focus, more enthusiasm, better decision making and because life isn't all perfect and things can go wrong I have a daily program that allows me to deal with things. I still go to meetings (2 a week) to give back as part of my step 12 - to tell my own positive message.

Post Reply