Dec 28, 2015 | By Tim Powers

The Fourth Step of Alcoholics Anonymous: Taking Inventory

12 Step Recovery Recovery

The Fourth Step of Alcoholics Anonymous

In working the 12 Steps, there is a certain amount of uncertainty and fear that you can feel when you encounter each step for the first time. Like with any new experience you encounter, you are unsure of the ground you are treading on and will find yourself taking shaky small steps as you move forward. Additionally, there is the fear of failure and what it can mean it terms of moving forward meaningfully in recovery. The Fourth Step of Alcoholics Anonymous is an excellent example of the apprehension that you can feel in trying to make a breakthrough in your sobriety.

In the Fourth Step of AA, it states that you must make a searching and fearless moral inventory of yourself. When you are first confronted with the concept of writing down your faults and past missteps that had kept you stuck in addiction and not in the best of graces with your family and friends, feeling gunshy may be an understatement. You may feel absolutely terrified at the fact that you must expose all the skeletons that are populating your closet. The Fourth Step of Alcoholics Anonymous can be a difficult step to take on, but you have to come clean with yourself before you can make amends with others.

Do I Really Need To Do A Moral Inventory?

Many thoughts will race through your head as you approach the time that you need to approach the Fourth Step of AA. You know that you need to do it, and your sponsor is telling you that you need to do it, and those in your homegroup are telling you do it–yet you may find yourself saying do I really need to do a Fourth Step inventory? The truth is you don’t have to, but in not doing so you aren’t going to grow in your recovery. You will continue to be hung up on the attitudes and events that have kept you stuck in your substance abuse.

A personal inventory is crucial to understanding how you are going to grow spiritually in your recovery. In working the Fourth Step of Alcoholics Anonymous, you have to make decisions regards what parts of your character you want to retain and emphasize and which parts should be modified or discarded entirely. As stated earlier, you need to dig deep to the roots of your addiction and examine the reasons why you had taken the path that led you to abuse alcohol.

By fully performing a moral inventory, you are confronting and assessing the full extent of your addiction. By doing so, you will learn more about the severity of your substance abuse, and you may discover any other addictions that have compounded your life further. Additionally, you are looking back at how your relationships with the people that you love and trust have been compromised as a result of your addiction. This can include parents, teachers, mentors, friends and those romantic interests. You must inventory all the ways you have hurt them and hurt yourself.

How Do I Perform a Moral Inventory?

When starting work on the Fourth Step of AA, you may be tempted to jump in with both feet and get to work. While it is important to dig in and get dirty, you must have a plan and a process in place before you get down to business. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and it will take some time for you to fully take stock of your emotions. If you are about to start work on the Fourth Step or are currently working in and feeling stuck, the following tips should help you get on the right track:

To start the process of inventory, you need to have a set place to write things down. Getting yourself a college-ruled spiral notebook is sufficient. If you are able to get a smaller sized notebook that you can easily carry around in a bag, purse or briefcase that is ideal. If you are going to journal in a spiral notebook in the inventory process, it is highly recommended that you only use the right hand page. If you should later think of any additional things about a previous thought that you had written down, you will have to add it.

It is important to write freely and not think about perfect grammar and punctuation. You need to be able to write and feel in an unfiltered manner and not hold anything back. You can write in outline form, use different colored pens or pencils and you can even draw doodles on the page–whatever you need to get your true feelings across. If you must change something that you wrote down, simply put a line through that thought and avoid erasing it. By keeping the original version you get the true impact of that certain event, behavior or emotion, and with the new edited version it may be more understandable.

Most importantly, write for yourself. When you get to the Fifth Step of AA, you will share with family and friends the extent of your wrongs and start the process of making amends to those you have wronged. However, for the time being you will focus on being completely candid and honest with yourself. Remember, there are no right or wrong feelings–they are your feelings. If you attempt to put a pretty frame around them, you can run the risk of diluting their power and you may not truly get to the bottom line.

The Fourth Step of Alcoholics Anonymous can be seen as a watershed step in the fact that you have to start taking the steps necessary to work through the character defects and issues that were front and center during your alcohol addiction. While this step can seem overwhelming, there is no time limit. Take your time, think things through and take it step by step–you will start noticing your recovery growing deeper.

2 responses to “The Fourth Step of Alcoholics Anonymous: Taking Inventory

  • My sponsor sent me this link to help me out with my fourth step inventory. I appreciate the fact you said to write it out and even if I scribble a line out dont erase it, leave it there. Because of the importancy of throughly doing inventory. I understand to leave it… no matter my spelling or etc.

  • This step was big for me. It turned out I couldn’t be honest about women in my life. It was odd. All other inventories were good except for my sex inventory. Had to go back and look at it all again. It has helped me become a caring and loving man, father, and husband.

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