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.