Knowing myself

Step 4

Step Four of the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous says:

“Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.”

I am working my way through the steps again with my sponsor, and I just finished all of the writing for my 4th step.  Somehow, I thought that doing a 4th step at this point in my recovery would be easier than it has in the past.  I mean, I work the maintenance steps (10,11,and 12) most days, so it seems like I shouldn’t really have a lot of stuff to work on.  Riiiiiiiiiight…  I also thought that I wouldn’t suffer from procrastination and avoidance this time.  Riiiiiight….again.  I have had a rough time of it lately, which is why I thought I was being lazy about finishing my 4th step.  But now, looking back, I am convinced that I was having the same feeling about doing it this time that I had when I sat down to write the first couple of times around.  Fear.  Yep, that’s it, plain and simple.  I was fearful about looking at myself as closely as one must for a thorough 4th step.  No matter how much sobriety I have under my belt, or how self-aware I am, I still have resentments, liabilities and fears.

As I listed my resentments and my part in them, I noticed a pattern that wasn’t there before.  In past lists, my part was always clear.  It usually had to do with me being selfish or afraid of losing something that I wanted.  This time around, it became clear that I still have a problem with forgiveness and acceptance; my part, it seems, is continuing to hang onto old stuff.  Many of the resentments on my list were old ones that I just can’t seem to let go of.  Some are the same that were on my very first 4th step, and I am still clinging to them!  The absence (for the most part) of new resentments shows me that I have gotten better about dealing with issues as they come up now, but clearly I still have work to do on the issues that sent me out drinking in the first place.  I know now that I have to return to the work I have done on acceptance and forgiveness and dig deeper if I want to be able to let these resentments go.

Doing this 4th step, really taking a hard look at myself, wasn’t all bad.  I found that in taking my inventory, being searching if not fearless, I have taken many steps in the right direction. One thing that my sponsor has me do is list my assets and liabilities.  After I finished my writing for this step, I looked back at my old ones to see the differences.  It turns out that my list of liabilities is much shorter, and my list of assets is much longer.  I remember that when I first began this journey of recovery, it was extremely difficult for me to see anything positive in myself.  When I went to treatment the first time the intake therapist asked me to tell her three things that I liked about myself.  I could only come up with one.  In looking at my list now, I can see the evidence that I am liking myself more, and that my self-worth and self-esteem are improving.  I am flawed and broken, but I have value.  I am always going to be a work in progress, but I get healthier every day.

As always, there is a sense of relief that has come with finishing my 4th step.  I have heard many times in the rooms that the 4th and the 9th step are the ones that send alcoholics back to the bottle the most.  I understand that.  Fortunately, that hasn’t happened to me, but that is only by God’s grace.  It’s hard to look at oneself objectively and without excuses.  But it can be done.  🙂


Note:  In addition to the Big Book, my sponsor has me use The Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous: Interpreted by the Hazelden Foundation for working my steps.  It’s a great book that delves deeper into each step.  I highly recommend it.


3 thoughts on “Knowing myself

  1. If ever there was an endorsement for taking the time to do another 4th, this is it! So glad it was a positive experience. So interesting that twice in on week I’ve learned about listing assets as well as liabilities… never heard that before this week!

    Thanks for this post, Jami, it brought a smile to my face 🙂

  2. Thanks Josie. It was good to get it done. I still have to go over it with my sponsor, but that’s the easy part. 🙂 I think that recognizing the positive in everything is essential to being able to work on the negative. It doesn’t take away the difficulties but it sure helps!
    I’m glad you got something from this post.

  3. I think this is perfect timing for me. I am starting another 4th. I am thinking of switching sponsors, so may wait to do that and see what my new sponsor may want. But I think I need to do something soon. I have done two 4ths already, but this time it seems that there is going to be a lot more. My last one had one or two resentments…this might have more. I don’t do the 10th daily (or as much as I want), so some things have slipped in. Also, remember that there are things that we may have missed the first time. We are so focused on getting to the stuff that’s eating us up then and there, that we aren’t ready or open to find the other stuff.

    Fear is usually the thing that lingers on inventories, they say. And I have seen that already. Most if not all resentments on my first inventory are gone, but the fears….many remain. And that’s okay. They won’t disappear overnight.

    As for the assets thing…I never wrote them. I know some people do and some don’t…I once heard that it wasn’t my assets that got me drunk 🙂

    Anyway, this is bang on for me…and I am so very glad you are doing what you’re doing. I think I will have to do the same – go through the steps again – and most likely with someone new – to get a new perspective.

    Thank you for this, Jami 🙂


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