Thursday, January 21, 2010

Step Four:

Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

This is one of those Steps that everyone spends months - or years - dreading, even actively postponing, and yet, when it is finished, it feels great.

Searching - means I look in my past and present, in my actions and my thoughts, and I keeping asking, "Why?" and "How?" questions.

Fearless. This task can be daunting. However a consult of the AA Big Book gives a clear format of how to make this inventory:

1. What are my resentments?
2. Why do I have these resentments?
and most telling,
3. What is my part in it?

Of course, this is my distillation of the format. The Big Book puts it better. You can check out the Big Book online here.

The hardest part of my inventory was the writer's cramp. Seriously. It can be tempting also to try to justify why I did what I did. However, the most clean and honest thing to do is just admit my part in it. After all, it is between me, my Higher Power (who - guess what?!?- already knows all that crap!) and my sponsor (who has more than likely heard worse, and may have very well done worse).
Another hard part of my Fourth Step is that I began it in May 2009 and through a serious of traumatic events in my world, was unable to complete Step Five until November 2009. During this time, I wrote about my complicated relationship with my grandmother, and then in June, she died. So when I was sharing my Fifth Step, there was a bit of resentments about my grandmother. That was hard.

HOWEVER, because of this program, I was able to make amends to her the night before she died. That was a gift. The last thing she said to me was: "I know you love me. I love you too." That was the nicest thing she had said to me in my entire life.

A moment to breathe here....

Anyway, back to my searching and fearless moral inventory. After I made this Step I attended a Big Book Study with a strong local AA group (who welcome this Al-Anon mess with open arms!) . Person after person shared about their own Fourth Steps. The common theme was that if they left off the one, most terrible thing that they felt they could not share with another human being, then they lost their recovery. That one thing, omitting that one (to them) most scary detail was just enough dishonesty to derail their entire program.

I wish I had heard this before I completed Steps Four and Five.
It's not that I feel I have left my most hideous skeleton(s) hanging in my moldiest closet.
But I am still horrified by my bouts of anger, flares of temper, and seemingly boundless capacity for frustration. I am still less able to control my bouts of depression, anger, and malaise than I want to be, than I need to be to take care of myself.
In my searching and fearless moral inventory, I discovered that I have been guilty of all or nothing thinking, and self-depressing inner dialogue. I also have engaged in jealousy, and general bitterness. And when there has been a time to grieve I had done so haltingly and not respectfully. Gratitude has not even been in my dictionary. (Which I why I recommend the Al-Anon blogs I have linked in the sidebar - these folks really teach me what it is all about! Thanks, Syd and BettyAnn!!!!)

There are more truths I've uncovered, but I think I will save them for my post on Step Five...


  1. I'm not afraid of the 4th step (maybe I should be!); in fact I'm looking forward to getting it all out on paper! It's the 5th that concerns me :)

  2. ((hugs)). You are making great Recovery.