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The Big Twelve
Step 1
Step 2
Step 3
Step 4
Step 5
Step 6
Step 7
Step 8
Step 9
Step 10
Step 11
Step 12
Step 4

Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.



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:

1.      childhood

2.      adolescence

3.      adulthood.


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.).




1.      What kind of relationship did your mother have with her parents?


2.      What kind of relationship did your father have with his parents?


3.      What kind of relationship did your mother have with her family (i.e., brothers, sisters, other relatives)?


4.      What kind of relationship did your father have with his family (i.e., brothers, sisters, other relatives)?


5.      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.


6.      How old were you at the birth of brothers and sisters, if any?  How did you feel about the new arrivals?


7.      Was either of your parents ever sick enough to need hospitalization?  How did you feel about their absence?


8.      Were you separated from any important family members?   Was there fear or guilt about this separation?  In other words, did you feel responsible?


9.      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 now).


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 weren’t caught?


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 your feelings?


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 this?


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?




1.      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?


2.      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.


3.      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?


4.      Did you have friends?  What kind of a friend were you?


5.      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?


6.      Were you a trouble-maker?  If so, in what way?  Did you destroy property?


7.      Did you resent leaders—either physical or mental?  Did you resent not being the most handsome or beautiful person in school?


8.      Did you feel like a coward because you didn’t want to fight?  Or did you like to fight?  Were you a bully?


9.      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 life now?


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!




1.      Many people who are lonely and don’t really know how to love, get involved in senseless sexcapades.  The temporary loss of loneliness makes one call sex “love”.  When the partner is gone, it makes for an even greater feeling of loneliness.  Have you experienced this?  (For a permanent relationship, it is better to relate in other areas first.)


2.      When, how and in just what instance did your selfish pursuit of sex relations damage other people and yourself?  What people were hurt, and how badly?  Did you spoil a marriage and/or injure your children?  Did you jeopardize your standing in the community?  Just how did you react to these situations at the time?  Did you burn with guilt that nothing could extinguish?  Did you insist that you were the pursued and not the pursuer and thus absolve yourself?  How have you reacted to frustration in sexual matters?  When denied, did you become vengeful or depressed?  Did you “take it out” on other people?  If there was rejection or coldness at home, did you use this as a reason for promiscuity?


3.      Have your parents gotten you out of trouble that you should have been able to handle yourself?


4.      Did you write bad checks?


5.      Do you feel the world owes you a living?


6.      Do you gossip about others?


7.      Are laws for other people?  Do you have the right to make up your own laws as you go along?


8.      If revenge were possible right now, who would be at the top of your list?  Why?


9.      What are your present feelings about sex, parents, brothers, sisters, grandparents, your children, your spouse, your friends, your job, your being an alcoholic, your financial condition, divorce or marriage (depending upon your status), etc?


10.  What are your hopes and goals?  What are your greatest fears?


11.  What is your sex life like?  Is it as mature as you might want it to be?  Do you use sex as a punishment or reward?  Are you careless of your partner’s feelings?  Do you engage in sex in order to build your ego by a feeling of conquest?  Are you afraid of being sexually rejected?


12.  Write out all perverted sexual experiences (as with homosexuals, members of your own family, group sex, animals, etc.).


13.  Write out your ideas of a healthy sex life.


14.  Are you ashamed of your body or the way you look?  Write out the things that are wrong with you.  Now write out your feelings of pride (the best things about you physically).


15.  Do you use people to get what you want?  Do you gossip or character assassinate another in order to “make it” in the business or social world?  Do you do this in an effort to feel superior (to be the one who is gossiped about)?


16.  If you are a thief, what have you stolen?  Don’t forget to include employers’ time and the good feelings others had and you destroyed.


17.  Do you have a habit of getting sick?  Be honest.  Do you use illness as an excuse to avoid responsibilities, to get attention or sympathy, or to get out of a jam?


18.  In reference to business relationships: write out your resentments towards bosses and co-workers.  Do you feel jealous of them?  Are you concerned that others in your office will get more money or prestige than you will?  List all negative feelings you have about people involved in your work life.  Are you indifferent and careless of your job?  (Do you maybe think you should be the boss?)


19.  Do you use the excuse that because you are sober now, your boss or your family and friends shouldn’t expect so much of you?


20.  Do you still feel different from other AA members (apart from)?  Do you feel superior or inferior?  Do you avoid looking at yourself by statements such as, “At least I’m not as bad as that person”, or “At least I’m not that color”, or “At least I’m not that flaky”?  Do you judge or make fun of people who appear to be less fortunate mentally, physically or morally than you think you are?  Do you compare yourself to others to make yourself suffer by picking people who are further along in the program than you, or people who are talented in areas you are not?  (The only person you can adequately compare yourself to is yourself.  How were you five days ago, five weeks ago, five months ago, five years ago, your first AA meeting, and how are you now?)  Forget how other people are and work on yourself.


21.  List every act that you swore you would take to the grave, disclosing to no one.  Be open and honest.  Remember, life gave you good and bad experiences.  Usually the things you are the most ashamed of are the very acts that made you try to grow into something better.  If you want freedom, you have to let go of it all.  The Big Book states, “…we will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it… no matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others…” (pages 83-84).  If you want to help bring peace into the lives of the people you will be dealing with later, you must find it in your own life first.


22.  Are you afraid of getting too close to another person for fear of being rejected?  Do you reject others before they can reject you?  Define love—what do you feel it is?


23.  In what ways are you a responsible person?  In what ways are you an irresponsible person?


24.  Are you a tightwad?  What are your fears concerning money?  Do you spend money with no thought of tomorrow?


25.  Is your personal appearance particularly careless or prideful?  On sight, do you judge people by their appearance (whether sloppy or not)?


26.  What things make you feel greedy, envious, angry?  Are you scornful of ideas that are not your own?


27.  Do you tell others how bad you have been or are?  (This is pride in reverse—a good tool if you like self pity or depression.)  Do you go to the other extreme and tell people how great you are or were?  (A good way to give your ego a false sense of security.  However, when the security topples, you are back in depression, loneliness and not okay.)


28.  What resentments do you still have?  What makes you feel guilty?


29.  Do you pad your expense account or use food allowances to buy things for yourself?


30.  Do you feel resentment toward another AA member?


31.  What kind of things do you lie about the most now?


32.  Do you still need to play the “big shot”?  are you hurt when people turn away from you and won’t play your games?


33.  Do you resent not getting as much attention as you did when you were brand new in AA?  Do you help protect the new members—insisting on platonic relationships rather than something heavy that might get them drunk?  Do you use their weaknesses when new to indulge in your sexual gratification?  Does just the consideration of this make you feel guilty for having such thoughts?


34.  What kind of things do you waste time worrying about—the future or the past?


35.  Are you working on building your own ego?


36.  Do you still feel guilty about masturbation?


37.  Do you have a hard time getting to places on time?


38.  Are you cold or indifferent to your family, friends, work, your own needs?  Are you loaded with a sense of guilt for putting people through so much hell?  Do you threaten others by saying you can’t stay sober if you don’t get your family back, your own way, etc?  Are you involved in a love affair?

Take an inventory, peel the onion.

Work the steps, call your sponsor, just don't take that first drink, call before you fall, if you don't think about it, you'll drink about it.