What are some of your favorite past times? I’ll tell you what’s not going to be on that list . . . sitting down and admitting all of your faults and defects. However, that’s essentially what the fourth step of the Alcoholics Anonymous 12 Step program is. BUT DON’T RUN AWAY! Before you write it off, you should know that completing the fourth step will leave you more free, happy, and stronger. But if that doesn’t sell you on its own, then let’s put a magnifying glass to the poor, misunderstood step and lay it all out.

Step 4: Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

But what does that actually mean?

The fourth step is about acknowledging the bad qualities and past missteps that kept you in your addiction. These are the things that not only hurt the addict, but they hurt loved ones as well. The step describes that the inventory should be “searching and fearless.” This means that it will be in-depth, involved, and difficult. While that may sound scary, this personal inventory is crucial to help you grow in your recovery. Think about it . . . if you don’t know what you need to grow from, how can you possibly go about growing?

Why is the fourth step hard for people in early recovery?

Looking inward at yourself leaves you vulnerable. That’s scary for anyone, let alone someone new in their recovery. An addict’s mentality is centered on their drug of choice. They’ve likely lived a life of lies and manipulation in order to get or use their drug (including alcohol). By completing a moral inventory the recovered addict is basically forcing himself to address that lifestyle and the person he was. Writing down your resentments will likely bring up feelings of hurt and anger, which isn’t fun. Admitting your part in these resentments can also be hard.

During the moral inventory you will probably discover things about yourself and your addiction that are hard to come to terms with. For example, it’s very common during this time to realize how your relationships with other people were affected by your addiction. “I lied to my family so that I could go out and drink, which has hurt them.” Essentially, you’re exposing the skeletons in your closet. It’s scary and difficult, but you can do it! And you’ll be better for it.

Tips for Performing the Fourth Step:

  • 1. Know that you’re not alone

    You are not expected to (and actually shouldn’t!) perform a fourth step (or any of the steps for that matter) on your own because you haven’t done it before and therefore don’t know how. Your sponsor will help you through the steps. He has been through the steps himself and will not only be able to guide you, but he’ll also probably share pieces of his own moral inventory as support. However, you don’t need to share this step with a sponsor, specifically. The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous explains in Step 5 that your wrongdoings need to be shared with another human in general, not necessarily a sponsor. Whether you want to share with a sponsor, a pastor, or someone else is up to you.

  • 2. Trust Yourself

    You’ve already bettered yourself by making the decision to get sober. You are more than your addiction and your mistakes. Trust yourself to get through this process. You should also trust your sponsor. He has been in your place before and understands what it takes.

  • 3. Be 100% Honest

    You can’t expect to grow from your missteps if you don’t fully address them. Honesty is critical in all of the steps but it’s particularly important that you don’t hold back with the fourth step because the following steps depend on it.

  • 4. Don't go too fast

    Speaking of the following steps, steps five through ten are all directly related to step four. So they can’t be completed until the fourth step is done. You’ll also get the most out of your recovery by taking the time to really pay attention to the steps you’re doing. Think about it like learning the alphabet in kindergarten. You have to stop and pay attention to each letter in order to be able to work them into words and sentences later. The steps are the same way. You need to really get that full moral inventory before you can share it with another person, make amends, or work it into your current/future life.

  • 5. Have something safe to write in

    Get a journal or notebook that you can write your inventory in. That may seem like common sense but it’s important that you have something safe and organized to write in. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy or expensive. You just can’t keep track of your inventory if it’s scattered on old napkins or post-it notes. Also, don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Writing your fourth step can be casual and comfortable. You can even take a laptop to Starbucks or use a notepad app on your phone while you wait for your venti soy chai.

Contrary to popular belief (among newly recovered addicts), the fourth step isn’t a terrifying, dreadful monster. If you ask people who have completed the step before, they’ll tell you that while it was scary and difficult at times, the step was actually very freeing and beneficial to their recovery.

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If you or someone you know is struggling with an alcohol addiction, New Start is here to help. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us on our live chat or call us at 855-737-7363.