FOURTH STEP GUIDE
Step Four, like each of the
steps marks the beginning of a new way of life. It says that today I will begin
to take a realistic assessment of myself. We hope this guide will help you begin
to learn to know yourself.
Three attitudes are important: to be searching, fearless and moral. Are
you searching? Are you really digging into your own self-awareness and describing
your behavior as it really is/was? Are you fearless? It takes courage to face yourself in terms of what has really been going on in your life. Are you moral? Take a good look at the good and the bad implications
of your behavior. How does it size up with your own values?
Use these different areas
to help guide you in your step: false pride, humility; perfectionism, admitting
mistakes; being yourself, being phony; selfishness, sharing; impatience, patience; self pity, feeling good about yourself;
resentment, forgiveness and understanding; intolerance, tolerance; alibis, being honest; dishonest thinking, honest thinking;
putting things off, getting the job done; guilt feeling, freedom from guilt; fear, acceptance; taking things for granted,
being grateful. To each positive side there is a negative and vice versa!
Buy paper and pen and start
writing. The Big Book says on eight different occasions that we write out step
four. It’s the writing it down that helps trigger the release.
It has been our experience
that when we stop drinking, the drinking problems will disappear. Which leaves
us with the problems that caused the drinking. These, as you are perhaps beginning
to find out, are the ones that stay painfully with us unless we do something about them.
In the past, they were so painfully us that we needed something to relieve the pain, and we don’t have to guess
what that pain reliever was.
We seemed to be always able
to quit drinking/using. We just couldn’t stay quit. In taking steps four through nine, we are doing certain things which we find will bring us to a point in
life—enjoyment and comfort—whereby we no longer have to drink. We
don’t need to take any more pain reliever because the pain has been bled off.
It has been our experience that it really does not matter particularly, what your intent is when you take
Step Four or what your attitude is, or what your ideas are as to what it will do for you and how. What matters is that you take the steps honestly and to the best of your ability. Quit rationalizing that “you’ll take it better if you take it later…” or “after
I’ve been in the program a little longer…” or any other lame excuse that all of us who have gone before
you have used.
As alcoholics/addicts, we
all wanted to excel—really excel—at some activity or other. May we
suggest this: if you ever decide to get with it (not perfectly but the best you
can honestly do), this undertaking right here is a good time to get with it. A
thorough fourth and fifth step will get you more relief and comfort than you have any way of knowing.
This is the thing that can
lead to a real joy in living—the sort of living that you may not
have experienced since early
childhood (if then)—something that you have been searching for but couldn’t quite find.
Step Two does not say, “Came
to believe in a power greater than ourselves...”, but “Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves…”
could help us become sane, happy people. For instance, the group is greater than
I am as an individual—which would make it a greater power. Whatever you
look to as a higher power, you must remember that in Step Three you turn, not just your drinking, but your will and your life
over to that higher power. So that, whatever your difficulty, you must remember
that you have turned it over and then keep on ploughing ahead.
The suggestion is that we
take Steps Four and Five immediately after Step Three. You’re starting
now to take Step Four, so set up an appointment right away to take your fifth step.
Select a minister (being sure of one who understands the problem, not one who will “moralize” at you),
or a doctor, or a close-mouthed friend/sponsor. Four because you can’t
find anyone suitable to take Five with.
It is a long outline. Don’t let it scare or dissuade you. Take
each question and, in your own words, write out your answer. Let it all hang
out! Do not tear up any part of it. If
you feel the statement is wrong, make a notation as to why it is wrong. Promise
yourself to be honest and fearless. Trust us when we tell you that your rewards
will be great. Some people have been discouraged in taking an inventory because
they don’t feel that they have become honest enough, or can remember everything that happened to them. Just do your best—your honest best. The same is true
about memory. No one is capable of remembering every incident of their lives,
so deal with what you are capable of remembering now.
Please keep in mind that
the fourth step is not dealing with changing anything. An inventory doesn’t
change things, it simply lists things. Your inventory is only a story of your
feelings and acts from the beginning until now. “We went back through our
lives. Nothing counted but thoroughness and honesty.”
Many have found that it helps to carry around a pocket size notebook so that they could jot down anything
that pops into their head. It will be useful to you in your inventory. It really doesn’t matter if you write information down that could be slightly incorrect insofar as
dates, places, etc. Just get it down. Arrange
to have a safe place to put your fourth step inventory. Nothing should be left
out because “someone might see it who isn’t supposed to”. Once
it is transferred to the main Step Four, we put down all the things we wince at. Just
remembering them, we screw our eyes closed and think, “Oh no!” or “Damn, not that!” Just write it down—it is not hurting anyone but you!
The Big Book refers to the
“wreckage of your past” and, from this, we are tempted to deal only with the problems left in the wake of our
alcoholism—the problems outside of us; the problems that were created as a result of our drinking. But Steps Four and Five deal with how the past has affected our world within—how our negative feelings
about ourselves and others have wrecked us spiritually, mentally, and physically. The
Big Book instructs us to write about our fears (hates), resentments (guilt), and our sex hang-ups. Breaking these instructions into three parts helps hurry things along.
Most of our patterns are
set up in childhood and early adolescence. Therefore, your inventory will be
divided into three parts:
At birth we are exposed to
our parents’ behavior, beliefs, expectations and attitudes. These were
based on their parents’ behavior, beliefs, expectations and attitudes—back through the generations. So, since we can’t really pin the blame, let’s get about the job of finding the remedy. Let us stress that you are not being graded on spelling, punctuation, or grammar. This fourth step is for your eyes only. You
are going to tell it to someone, but this is for you. If you decide to erase
or scratch through something, don’t do it!! It might be one of the keys
that would unlock some part of your personality that is hidden from you. Remember,
you can’t make a perfect inventory, but you can do your honest best—and let us assure you that your honest best
certainly will be very, very good!
The book, Twelve Steps
and Twelve Traditions states: “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 companionship…are perfectly necessary and right, and surely God-given.”
It is when these instincts
are warped and bent out of shape that we get into trouble, for their distortion brings pain.
That is what this inventory is about—to help you recognize those instincts of yours that are warped and out of
control, and develop awareness of yourself and your reactions.
You will want to write out
the resentments, fears, guilt, hates and sex hang-ups that you can remember. What
you want to be aware of is your reaction to what happened to you. A moral inventory
deals with feelings—both good and bad. Don’t get into only what was
done to you (i.e., “I resented my mother because she favored my sister and didn’t love me.” or “I
hated my father for whipping me in front of my friends.”) or what you did to someone
(i.e., “I used to tell on my brother so I’d look good to my parents.” or “I felt
superior to my brothers and
sisters because my parents favored me.” etc.) It just goes on and on: “I resented children teasing me about my clothes.”; “I was afraid
and didn’t want to fight.” or “I felt guilty about masturbation.”
Put down the things you remember
and feel the pain of embarrassment, fear and guilt—where were you at fault and what is it that hurts you now. Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions reads, “Since Step Four is but a beginning
of a lifetime practice, it can be suggested that he first have a look at those personal flaws which were actually troublesome
and fairly obvious.” Work on getting to the root of the big problems now. Dig in and let the pressure begin to ease off.
If you find that any question
awakens some painful or distressing memory, put it down (even though it is not an answer to that particular question). Search out and fearlessly put down on paper those things that are painful, embarrassing,
fill you with fear, shame, or any other uncomfortable feelings (which could be guilt, rage, etc.).
What kind of relationship did your mother have with her parents?
What kind of relationship did your father have with his parents?
What kind of relationship did your mother have with her family (i.e., brothers, sisters, other relatives)?
What kind of relationship did your father have with his family (i.e., brothers, sisters, other relatives)?
Were you wanted at birth? Write out the circumstances of
your family at the time of your birth—things such as family size, age difference, and financial status. Was there laughter, arguing, depression? Were other relatives
or people living with you? In general, describe what you
think your family thought of you.
How old were you at the birth of brothers and sisters, if any? How did you feel about the new arrivals?
Was either of your parents ever sick enough to need hospitalization?
How did you feel about their absence?
Were you separated from any important family members? Was
there fear or guilt about this separation? In other words,
did you feel responsible?
Were you threatened with the “boogey man” or the “devil” if you misbehaved? If so, what were your fears in this regard?
10. Sometimes a child is made to feel guilty about his or her normal sexual curiosity.
This comes about by his being caught and punished for touching himself, or being caught masturbating, or playing “doctor”,
or for participating in group masturbation. Many parents tell their children
that sexual feelings are evil and must be punished. With no sex education and
given this sort of teaching, a child will naturally distort what they know about sex.
When a child is exposed to fully developed nude persons (for instance in the bathroom at home), they may begin to feel
inadequate because they have not as yet developed. These feelings may carry over
into feelings of inadequacy in adult life, even when the child becomes a thoroughly developed adult. Would you write down any of the above that makes you feel uneasy?
11. Were you afraid of the dark?
12. What kind of marriage do you think your parents had?
13. Were you afraid to fight? Or were you afraid not to
fight because of pressure from your father, brothers or others?
14. If your parents were from different religious backgrounds, did you feel confused about it?
15. If they fought, did you resent it? Did it scare you? Were you used to break up their fights—or to take one side or the other?
16. Were your parents so close you couldn’t feel a part of them?
17. Were you afraid of storms?
18. List all the feelings of guilt, resentment or fear you had toward each person in your life as a child (not your feelings
19. How did your parents punish you—try to reason or was it physical?
20. List the first time you ever stold anything. Inventory
all your childhood thefts.
21. How old were you when you first masturbated? Were you ever caught and
made to feel guilty? Did you feel guilty even though you
22. If you were named after someone, what was that person like?
23. Did your family move often? If so, did you make friends
and then have to break off the relationships so often that you became afraid to get too close?
24. Do you remember starting to school? What were your feelings? Try to remember each successive grade in school. As you do, write out the resentments you felt toward teachers, pupils, anyone—any fights, slights, hurts, embarrassments—put
it down on paper!
25. Did you resent your church, relatives, parents or friends? List them. No resentment is too small to mention. The Big Book states, “Resentment is the number one offender…”
26. What kind of language did your parents use? Were you
ashamed of them for this or anything else?
27. Did you ever see your parents in the nude? What were
28. Did you ever see or hear your parents having sex? What
were your feelings?
29. In every family a child usually has certain “chores” assigned. What
were yours? Were they fair? Could you do them well enough to please your parents?
30. Did your parents seem to like your friends better than they did you? Or
did your friends seem to like your parents better than they did you? If so, did you resent this?
31. Did you have any bad experiences at Sunday school or summer camp?
32. Were you an only child? If so, did you enjoy or resent
33. Did your parents want a child of the opposite sex when they had you? If so, did they name you, or dress you to match their sex choice?
34. Did your appearance (look, dress, etc.) embarrass you? Did
you feel that you were “different” from your classmates?
35. Write down any other childhood memories that were/are painful.
36. Which of the above questions about childhood was the toughest for you to answer?
Do you know why?
Many children experience homosexual episodes. If there is
an overload of guilt attached to this, the child will find themselves not a real homosexual, but repeating this experience
from time to time. They suffer from fears of homosexuality but may also fear
heterosexual experience. The fears may overcome normal desires. Some children rely on the misguided sex information obtained from their peers. This can produce a number of severe problems (i.e., never outgrowing the desire to have sex with the opposite
parent, brother, sister, sometimes the desire to have sex with the parent of the same sex).
Although these are unconscious desires, they bring on conscious guilt that has to be dealt with. What has been your experience concerning the above?
Distortion may come when a person is too young emotionally to handle adult sex. There is involvement because of peer pressure, of the desire to please another, or not being in touch with
adult feelings. Pretense sets up and then leads to anger, disappointment, and
guilt. This will have a tendency to prevent normal sexual and emotional growth. This guilt prevents the person from talking the feelings out with a mature adult,
which may result in a need to repeat the same pattern over and over again. Write down your experience concerning the above.
Some girls are taught that men are interested in sex only, and some boys are taught they must be the greatest
at all times. These attitudes are destructive and damaging to the total person. Have you experienced either of these attitudes?
Is there a pattern? How has it affected you?
Did you have friends? What kind of a
friend were you?
What interest (or lack of interest) did you have in school? How
was your social life? Did you participate in sports? What were your reasons for your participation or lack of it?
Were you a trouble-maker? If so, in what way? Did you destroy property?
Did you resent leaders—either physical or mental? Did you resent not being the most handsome or beautiful person in school?
Did you feel like a coward because you didn’t want to fight?
Or did you like to fight? Were you a bully?
Did you feel embarrassed because your friends made fun of you or avoided you?
10. Were you exposed to other children in gym class or the restroom that were older and more developed than you? Some don’t develop physically until late adolescence. Were
you like that? Some people feel inadequate as adults because at one time they
were exposed to youngsters more developed at that time. If
you feel uptight in this area, write about your feelings.
11. Did you resent not being part of a crowd, or not being a leader, or not being ”in”? Were you shy or outgoing? How are you shy now? Does any particular type of person make you shy?
12. If you dropped out of high school, explain your feelings and reasons.
13. Did anything happen to you in high school that was a continuing source of pain or shame?
14. Did your parents compare you to other family members or friends? Did you resent them for wanting you to be like someone else?
15. How did you get the attention of your family? Did
you pout, sulk, be a good child, have temper tantrums, act like a dummy?
16. Do you remember the kinds of lies you told, if any? How
did you feel when you got caught lying?
17. What was the most embarrassing incident of adolescence? Were
there any others that you really remember?
18. Were you jealous or envious of others?
19. If sexy feelings were discounted and put down in your family, there is a strong possibility that you will feel guilty
about them. We “catch” attitudes.
A boy who is pushed to always do better (be on top), or is criticized no matter what he does may find himself having
trouble in his sexual performance. A girl who was told that it is not okay to
feel sexy may grow up to dislike her own body and distrust her feelings. These
attitudes create unnatural or uncomfortable sexual behavior. Did you “catch”
any of these attitudes? Can you see it creeping up in your
20. Recall your first sexual intercourse. What were your feelings? Did you feel guilty? Did you feel disappointed? Be as explicit about your feelings as you can.
21. List in detail any homosexual experiences; masturbation; fantasies; or any other sexual activity you particularly remember. Keep in mind that we are not concerned about with whom or on what date or how often,
but rather how did you feel about the experience? If you
became pregnant or got someone pregnant, what did you do and how did you feel about your actions?
22. Were you ashamed of your parents? Were they too old; too fat; too sloppy;
too drunk; too whatever? Did you have the kind of clothes that other kids wore? Was there enough money for the things you needed?
If not, were you resentful of that? If there was, did you take it too
much for granted? Did you feel your brothers and sisters had far more than you
did? Write out your feelings about money as an adolescent.
23. Were you the kind of child you would want to have?
24. Were you a thief? Inventory your adolescent thefts.
25. Were you ever double promoted (promoted ahead of your class in school)? If
so, did you have trouble catching up emotionally? How did you act? How did you feel? Did you feel uncomfortable because you were
younger than the other students? Did you feel uncomfortable
because you were superior or inferior to other students?
26. Were you dependable as a friend or breaking off relationships without any explanation when something or someone that
seemed better came along?
27. Did you put one member of your family against another?
28. What was the best experience you had? The worst?
29. We’ve covered a lot of ground on these questions. Now is there anything
that made you particularly uncomfortable (when writing about it)? Have you put
down everything that has bugged you? (Even the simplest, most nit-picky things
are important if they trouble you.) Put it down!