I have little advice on taking the fear out of taking the fourth step, except: be willing to be thorough, honest, and keep it simple.
Our recovery is more robust and reliable when we take a fearless and moral inventory. And the meeting today on the Fourth Step in the 12&12 reinforced the necessity of this inventory. It’s not like God doesn’t know what we have tucked away in our hearts. Nor, is any sponsor going to faint from the shock of the revelation that our pride, and fear took us to some dark places. (Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, pp 48-49)
Remember: nobody takes their fourth step alone, if they fully have taken the third – turning our will and lives over to the care of God, as we understand Him.
I understand God to be Christ, who invites me to come to Him. (Matthew 11:28-30) And I have a sponsor with whom I can talk about what I discover in my inventory. She tells me if I don’t get this one right, I can take another one as I work through the steps as a way of life.
May I suggest before you take this step, you have both a Higher Power whom you trust, and a sponsor who has worked the steps, and has a program of recovery that makes AA sense?
Of all the ways I have worked this step, one way is helpful, that a friend in the program shared as how she took her annual fourth step adventure.
I imagine myself walking into a pantry – a room lined with shelves. This pantry has a light switch – and I flip that switch, and light floods everywhere. (Christ said He is the Light of the word, and told folks not to fear.) On those shelves are rows of items – most I use every day: habits, attitudes, words; hurts, hang-ups, and memories. Some I use well; others not so much.
That friend also suggested a question as I examine each item: “How’s that working for you?”
Some stuff is past its expiration date – some I just need to get rid of – and sometimes I need to readjust habits, and attitudes – maybe even reorder things that alcohol let me run out of.
The biggest aspect of the inventory is owning how it came to be the way it is. Can I see where I have been at fault? “Or, if my disturbance was seemly caused by the behavior of others, why do I lack the ability to accept conditions I cannot change?” (12&12, page 52)
Now, there may be some items on our pantry shelf we cannot handle – emotionally, spiritually, or mentally. It is OK to let this item go if you are willing to examine it when your Higher Power or sponsor suggests it is time. It may be that for some items in our inventory, we may call upon professional or spiritual guidance to help us unpack and assess thoughts, or memories, or emotions.
Some of us have made Fourth Step Charts – like the Big Book suggests. (AA Big Book, pages 64-71)Others have written letter, journals and even poems. The important thing is make a list of our flaws! (and include our strengths!) However we write out our fourth step, we want to understand:
- What happened and what was my part?
Sound overwhelming? Here’s a prayer to get us through the searching and fearless moral inventory, and one God loves to answer: Psalm 139:23-24.
Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
Point out anything in me that offends you,
and lead me along the path of everlasting life.
Nobody runs a business without knowing their assets and liabilities; nobody grows up in sobriety without honestly assessing how we have come to be who we are and where we are. One thing about Step Four, when we take it, honestly, and thoroughly, we are less likely to believe alcohol was our only problem!
Deep Thought for the Day: If there is no change, nothing changes!
Be the Change!
Love in Christ,
Sober & Grateful