Sobriety Navigator: Alcoholic Anonymous an over view of Step 4.
“Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.”
We keep this inventory confidential until the time is right and we are with a trusted sponsor, therapist, or clergyman only.
Step 4 is a cleansing process. Step 4 is not about self-condemnation. It is an exercise and the beginning practice of self-awareness and self-actualization through uncovering and understanding the underlying motivations of our alcoholic behaviors and lifestyle.
This is probably the most challenging and courageous step for many alcoholics, because now you are willing to look at all the resentments, fears and shame based behaviors you’ve been running from all your life, even before you ever picked up a drink.
No one wakes up one morning and says, “Hey, I’m going to become an alcoholic and live in direct opposition to my own moral fiber and beliefs.” No one aspires to wreak havoc in their own life and the lives of those around them. Quite the contrary; the more out of control the alcoholic’s life becomes, the more he (or she) tries to control it. It is a vicious cycle. The alcoholic falls into a downward spiral with incomprehensible demoralization. It doesn’t stop until something happens and causes the alcoholic to crash.
When an alcoholic walks through the doors of Alcoholics Anonymous, he is riddled with guilt, shame, fear, and remorse. He can no longer escape the pain and torment that constantly plagues him. He stands at a crossroad. For most alcoholics, self-preservation will motivate him to be open to change. The alcoholic knows, on some level, that his best efforts and intentions are not working. His life is crashing down around him.
The practicing alcoholic knows full well he is living in direct opposition to his intrinsic moral fiber. If this were not so, then his behaviors and actions, while drunk, would not bother him. Because of the alcoholic’s natural intrinsic, “built in” moral fiber, he now has the opportunity (with step 4) to clear away the wreckage of his past and begin to live life with the knowledge and comfort that he is being true to himself.
When an alcoholic takes step 4, it is imperative to remember it’s not what we do, it’s why we do it. The underlying motives that fueled this uncontrollable self are often self-centered fear and self-loathing. It is quite common. And these are all signs of chemically arrested development. Alcoholics are not “bad” or “broken.” They are immature people whose lives have been held hostage to the bondage of self-absorption and alcohol.
Taking an inventory of ourselves involves not only making a list of the resentments we harbor toward ourselves and others, but also listing our fears and shames. There is a common saying in 12 step programs that a person is only as sick as his (her) secrets. By listing on paper all secrets that you have harbored and burdened yourself with, it is quite common for these secrets to immediately start losing their ability to control your life. Because you are purging them onto paper and out of you, they can go away.
When you have completed steps 1, 2, & 3, discuss with your sponsor or therapist whether it is time for you to begin your internal process of self-discovery through step 4.
Step 4 is the step that separates the child from the grown up and is the beginning of true liberation. A new freedom and happiness can begin!
It has often been said, “The highest form of morality is being true to one’s own self.” It is also said that when you are true to yourself, you are false to no one. As the weight and burden of giving people, places and things power over us is released, the load gets incredible lighter and the path becomes clearer.