Step Four
Alcoholics Anonymous

Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
The basic text of alcoholics anonymous describes the fourth step as Follows:

Though our decision was a vital and crucial step, it could have little permanent effect unless at once followed by a strenuous effort to face, and to be rid of, the things in ourselves which had been blocking us. Our liquor was but a symptom. So we had to get down to causes and conditions.
Therefore, we started upon a personal inventory. This was Step Four.
Pg 64

Many of us have been so blinded by what AA has become today that we are fighting off the symptom of the drinking and not addressing the problem.. We are willing to do anything that we are hearing and we honestly give that our best shots. By the time the symptoms of the physical suffering appear, the other symptoms have already been quite apparent. But as with any other illness we sometimes don't see these subtle hints that something is wrong until it is almost too late. Some go back out, some just give up. Others hang on by a thread. I have to get down to causes and conditions. To face and get rid of the things in me, that are blocking me from God. We are not going to explain all the directions of the fourth step. When I was taken through the action steps I wrote out all the lists on notebook paper. To make it easier for the next man, an inventory form with directions was created to be used along with the basic text. Although there is a fourth step inventory form on this site, the exact directions are given out of the basic text and are done with the guidance of a recovered alcoholic. Even though the directions come straight from the basic text, the interpretation of some of the directions may vary slightly from one recovered alcoholic to another. Regardless of this, the conclusions that must be reached in the fourth step do not vary at all.

We are going to concentrate on the conclusions that the fourth step was meant to bring the untreated alcoholic to: Therefore, we started upon a personal inventory. This was Step Four. A business which takes no regular inventory usually goes broke. Taking a commercial inventory is a fact-finding and a fact-facing process. It is an effort to discover the truth about the stock-in-trade. One object is to disclose damaged or unsalable goods, to get rid of them promptly and without regret. If the owner of the business is to be successful, he cannot fool himself about values.
We did exactly the same thing with our lives. We took stock honestly. First, we searched out the flaws in our make-up which caused our failure. Being convinced that self, manifested in various ways, was what had defeated us, we considered its common manifestations.
Pg 64

Notice in these first couple of paragraphs on pg 64 from the basic text they are talking about finding and getting rid of the things that have been blocking us. To find and get rid of damaged or unsalable goods promptly and without regret. The way I have lived my life contrary to the will of God has blocked me from the only power that can save me. The Oxford Group called these flaws in our make-up selfish and self-centered. As human beings our only desire is to be happy. Each individual has their own tastes, likes and dislikes. As I try to make myself happy I hurt others. As others try to make themselves happy they hurt me. As I am hurt I try harder to bring myself what I think I need to be content. As I do this I begin to put out of my mind the way others may be hurt by my actions. The inventory is a fact-finding and fact-facing process. I am going to see, in myself, how I have lived contrary to Gods will. Based on these conclusions I must become willing to change and allow God to take down the wall that I have built between Him and I. I am going to begin to enter into a relationship with my Creator.: If what we have learned and felt and seen means anything at all, it means that all of us, whatever our race, creed, or color are the children of a living Creator with whom we may form a relationship upon simple and understandable terms as soon as we are willing and honest enough to try. Pg 28

Simple and understandable terms, trust and reliance. If I am not willing to do this I stay blocked off from the only Power that can save me.

One of the biggest manifestations of self-centeredness is Resentment: Resentment is the "number one" offender. It destroys more alcoholics than anything else. From it stem all forms of spiritual disease, for we have been not only mentally and physically ill, we have been spiritually sick. When the spiritual malady is overcome, we straighten out mentally and physically. Pg 64

In following the directions or suggestions of the fourth step I have started a set of lists. My first list is the resentment list. When I take a look at the first list they say: We went back through our lives. Nothing counted but thoroughness and honesty. When we were finished we considered it carefully. The first thing apparent was that this world and its people were often quite wrong. To conclude that others were wrong was as far as most of us ever got. Pg 65 66

I can see by my own experience that there are people in my life that have hurt me. There is no doubt about it, there were things that people did to me that were wrong and affected me in various ways. I have this all down on paper in front of me. If I stop there I don't get a chance to see the whole picture. This is the point that I always stopped at. That I am some how a victim in all things and that the world owes me something because of this. I must continue to move forward and see things as they really are: Belief in the power of God, plus enough willingness, honesty and humility to establish and maintain the new order of things, were the essential requirements. Pg 13-14

I am angry, and in some situations I might feel that I have a good reason to be. These resentments have never been addressed honestly and thoroughly. I might have felt like they were addressed when I some how managed to either ease the situation, or put them out of my mind. But what I really have done was push them deep inside of me never really resolving them or facing them. This is not some mystic exercise! When I get honest with myself I see that this resentment is still there. I am keeping it, holding on to it. Sometimes I feed into it or use it for some type of gain. This only causes me to be unhappy. When the anger comes up, I can not see past it to be productive in anyway. For me, the real alcoholic, this can lead to death. My anger is one of the things that alcohol always seemed to ease. The problem now is I can't control my drinking and the anger is blocking me from my Creator:
It is plain that a life which includes deep resentment leads only to futility and unhappiness. To the precise extent that we permit these, do we squander the hours that might have been worth while. But with the alcoholic, whose hope is the maintenance and growth of a spiritual experience, this business of resentment is infinitely grave. We found that it is fatal. For when harboring such feelings we shut ourselves off from the sunlight of the Spirit. The insanity of alcohol returns and we drink again. And with us, to drink is to die.
If we were to live, we had to be free of anger. The grouch and the brainstorm were not for us. They may be the dubious luxury of normal men, but for alcoholics these things are poison.
Pg 66

My own experience tells me that I have to be free of anger. I can't be crabby or filled with sudden rage. Anger is one of the things that blocks me from God:
...a strenuous effort to face, and to be rid of, the things in ourselves which had been blocking us. Pg 64

When I take an honest look at the different situations in my life the thing that really stands out is what people did to me. How they hurt me or wronged me. These things determined what I would do, say, or feel. Sometimes I would do or say things because I thought that people were going to act a certain way toward me or others: We turned back to the list, for it held the key to the future. We were prepared to look at it from an entirely different angle. We began to see that the world and its people really dominated us. In that state, the wrong-doing of others, fancied or real, had power to actually kill. Pg 66

I have to be free of my resentments but no matter what I do I can't let them go. I try forgiving, forgetting, reconciliation. I try everything I can think of but when I take an honest look at them, they are still there: How could we escape? We saw that these resentments must be mastered, but how? We could not wish them away any more than alcohol. Pg 66

Now I begin to see that other people are just like me. They are trying to do their best to be happy and along the way they can hurt others. I am beginning to see that the way that I am is not unique to me.That as humans we all suffer from self-centered behavior when we are not depending and relying upon God. The circumstances that bring us to hurt others may not be the same just as the things we do to try and bring us happiness might not be the same. We all have different likes and dislikes. What is the same is that if it is humanly possible, and I think that it can make me happy, I will go for it no matter how ridiculous or absurd it may seem. This brings us to the first prayer that the basic text lays out in the fourth step: This was our course: We realized that the people who wronged us were perhaps spiritually sick. Though we did not like their symptoms and the way these disturbed us, they, like ourselves, were sick too. We asked God to help us show them the same tolerance, pity, and patience that we would cheerfully grant a sick friend. When a person offended we said to ourselves, "This is a sick man. How can I be helpful to him? God save me from being angry. Thy will be done."
We avoid retaliation or argument. We wouldn't treat sick people that way. If we do, we destroy our chance of being helpful. We cannot be helpful to all people, but at least God will show us how to take a kindly and tolerant view of each and every one.
Pg 66-67

I now know why people act the way they do. Although I don't condone their actions I don't come back at them or argue with them. I now see that they are just like me! I know they are doing the best they can to be happy. God will show us how to treat others with tolerance and patience. These are things that I always wanted to do but could never live up to, these moral convictions. The basic text and my own experience makes this clear. In giving us the ability to be loving and kind to all, God places us in the position to be of help to the man who is still sick. Though I can't help all people, by having a kindly and tolerant view toward all, God leaves the door open to be of help to anyone who may want or need help. If I am full of anger and combative toward others this eliminates the possibility to approach an individual and gain their confidence in the future, and blocks me from the chance to be of help now.
Now I am going to look at my list again. God has begun to open my eyes on how I have acted in the past separated from Him. I am looking at each situation that I have in front of me and I am going to forget about all others involved. I am going to look specifically on how I have hurt others by my actions in each situation: Referring to our list again. Putting out of our minds the wrongs others had done, we resolutely looked for our own mistakes. Where had we been selfish, dishonest, self-seeking and frightened? Though a situation had not been entirely our fault, we tried to disregard the other person involved entirely. Where were we to blame? The inventory was ours, not the other man's. When we saw our faults we listed them. We placed them before us in black and white. We admitted our wrongs honestly and were willing to set these matters straight. Pg 67

We will see as we continue through the step work that the selfishness, dishonesty, self-seeking and fear are all symptoms of the spiritual malady. This is important because as I start to understand the symptoms I can watch for them to crop up,(step ten), and ask God to remove them. Step ten only works when I understand the symptom and am willing to have God remove them. I know that every situation may not be my fault but I am going to look for my own mistakes in each one. The directions are clear that this is my inventory. As I list my faults And admit them honestly. I am creating my harms list. As I continue to see my actions and how I have hurt others in my life separated from God, I become willing to make amends to them all. When I look at this direction, I see that I really have begun step eight. Wait a minute, am I taking the steps out of order? Lets see where I am at right now. I have clearly seen step one. Based on those conclusions I run to step two. I make a third step decision that also involves practicing steps ten, eleven and twelve. During my fourth step I begin my eighth step.
Here are the steps we took, which are suggested as a program of recovery:

1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol-that our lives had become unmanageable.

2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

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

5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.

8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.

9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.

11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.

12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
I am now seeing that the step work in itself has no power. I am starting to see the things in myself that have been blocking me from my Creator. I see that when I am willing to be honest with myself and the people about me, that I start to come to the conclusions that are going to lay the foundation for my new way of life. I see that the steps are a guide or method to come into the solution to all my problems. As I begin to understand the problems I am not taking the steps out of order, but I am really taking them as they present themselves in the program of action. These truths about myself become sound reasoning. They start to have depth and weight.: The message which can interest and hold these alcoholic people must have depth and weight.3rd edition Pg xxvi / 4th edition pg xxviii

I begin to see that without depending and relying on God, I was trying different things to manage my life finding out that alcohol or ________(fill in the blank) worked the best for me, but after a time, still left me empty. Once again I must continue to move forward and see things as they really are. These essential requirements can not be stressed enough as I try to establish a relationship with my Creator:
Belief in the power of God, plus enough willingness, honesty and humility to establish and maintain the new order of things, were the essential requirements. Pg 13-14

Now that I have completed the first set of lists I am going to take a look at fear. I know that I have many fears and most of the time I try to push them to the side and not show that I am affected by them. In today's society I must be strong and I must be aggressive if I am to succeed. Only the strong survive! To be strong means that I can't be afraid. I can't be aggressive if others see that I am afraid. So I hide my fear the best that I can. When I get honest with myself about fear I see that it is everywhere. It determines almost everything that I do and say: Notice that the word "fear" is bracketed alongside the difficulties with Mr. Brown, Mrs. Jones, the employer, and the wife. This short word somehow touches about every aspect of our lives. It was an evil and corroding thread; the fabric of our existence was shot through with it. It set in motion trains of circumstances which brought us misfortune we felt we didn't deserve. But did not we, ourselves, set the ball rolling? Sometimes we think fear ought to be classed with stealing. It seems to cause more trouble. Pg 67-68
The simplest of my fears affects me in ways that I have never looked at before. The way that I act out as a result of these fears I have never looked at before. I am about to confront the one thing that is everywhere in my daily activities:
We reviewed our fears thoroughly. We put them on paper, even though we had no resentment in connection with them. We asked ourselves why we had them. Wasn't it because self-reliance failed us? Self-reliance was good as far as it went, but it didn't go far enough. Some of us once had great self-confidence, but it didn't fully solve the fear problem, or any other. When it made us cocky, it was worse. Pg 67-68

I am looking at these fears that I have listed and I now start to see that I am full of fear. I have some fears that appear to be custom just for me. Fears that people that I know don't have such as the fear of flying, heights, spiders or snakes etc. And then I see the fears that are common to most human beings. The ones that I try to hide and push to the side. These fears are so simple: That they won't like me, that they will like me too much. They will think I'm weird or strange, not good enough, or too good for them.
That I will be hurt mentally or physically.
I won't have enough money.
I won't have enough time.
I will miss something.
I will be late for something.
I will be too early for something.
People will laugh at me or make fun of me.
That I might die.

My list of fears can be endless. Any and every situation that I might encounter can cause some type of fear. What happens next is instantaneous. I recognize some fear and I act out of my basic instincts. God has given us basic instincts or survival instincts. When I feel threatened or afraid I take an action. As a result of my action I have to have a consequence. Sometimes these will be favorable and sometimes they will not be. Either way when I depend on these instincts or live by these instincts alone this is called self-reliance. The problem is that self-reliance didn't always work. There are also times when it does work but it doesn't totally set the situation right or the way that I want it to go. Then there are times, that at a certain point, I have no control over the outcome. Sound familiar? Unmanageability because of self-reliance! Now that I see what fear really is what can I do about it? My experience shows me that self-reliance has not done me any good in the past: Perhaps there is a better way - we think so. For we are now on a different basis; the basis of trusting and relying upon God. We trust infinite God rather than our finite selves. We are in the world to play the role He assigns. Just to the extent that we do as we think He would have us, and humbly rely on Him, does He enable us to match calamity with serenity.
We never apologize to anyone for depending upon our Creator. We can laugh at those who think spirituality the way of weakness. Paradoxically, it is the way of strength. The verdict of the ages is that faith means courage. All men of faith have courage. They trust their God. We never apologize for God. Instead we let Him demonstrate, through us, what He can do. We ask Him to remove our fear and direct our attention to what He would have us be. At once, we commence to outgrow fear.
Pg 68

What exactly is this different basis of trusting and relying upon God? I am now concentrating my efforts or directing my will to do Gods will. God has already opened my eyes to some basic flaws in my way of living and thinking. This was not stinking thinking. This was self-reliance! I am now beginning to depend and rely upon God by trusting that He will show me what it is that He would have me do and give me the opportunity to do it. I have begun to think about the feelings of others and to place other peoples needs ahead of my own selfish desires. When I do this I am not constantly hurting others by my behavior. I am beginning to see some simple truths in His word that I am trying to make a part of my lifestyle. I may now be stating to have some moments of real peace and serenity. These moments may or may not be in-between moments of absolute chaos! This does not matter! Coming into this way of living is not about feeling good, although there may be times that I can not explain the absolute sense of peace that surrounds me. This lifestyle is about finding out and doing Gods will, and helping others to the best of my ability: Our real purpose is to fit ourselves to be of maximum service to God and the people about us. Pg 77
letting God demonstrate through me what it is that He can do. As I grow spiritually I start to understand courage and see that God has taken away my fear as long as I remain willing to direct my attention to what He would have me be. As I outgrow fear I see that my confidence is returning. I start to see that I can now make a difference and be of real help to others.

I am now ready to start the last list in my inventory. By now I can see that my actions in the past have caused me some hardship and unwanted pain. More importantly I see how I have caused others to suffer because of my actions. When I am honest I already know that my sex conduct has been less than is desired. Now I am going to see exactly where I have used it for my own gain. I am going to see how I have used sex as I would anything else. As with the other lists, when it comes to sex I don't need anyone to point out where I have fallen short. Everyone has an opinion about sex. My actions in the past will convict me of my short comings. I may see that I have done things in the past that now seem absurd to me. If it is humanly possible to accomplish, and I think that it will make me happy, it is not beyond my giving it a shot. I must continue to move forward and be as honest as I can in this area also. By doing this I am going to show God that I am still willing to allow Him to take down more of the wall that I have built between Him and I: Now about sex. Many of us needed an overhauling there. But above all, we tried to be sensible on this question. It's so easy to get way off the track. Here we find human opinions running to extremes - absurd extremes, perhaps. One set of voices cry that sex is a lust of our lower nature, a base necessity of procreation. Then we have the voices who cry for sex and more sex; who bewail the institution of marriage; who think that most of the troubles of the race are traceable to sex causes. They think we do not have enough of it, or that it isn't the right kind. They see its significance everywhere. One school would allow man no flavor for his fare and the other would have us all on a straight pepper diet. We want to stay out of this controversy. We do not want to be the arbiter of anyone's sex conduct. We all have sex problems. We'd hardly be human if we didn't. What can we do about them? Pg 68-69

Some of my conduct I know is flat out wrong or I wouldn't have been sneaking around to do it. In looking at my own behavior I see that some of my conduct I thought was morally sound was not. I see that blocked from God even my best intentions are just attempts to bring myself satisfaction. I see the way I manipulated people to get what I wanted out of each situation, even when they were someone that I love. Even my best intentions had alterior motives just like any other situation:
We reviewed our own conduct over the years past. Where had we been selfish, dishonest, or inconsiderate? Whom had we hurt? Did we unjustifiably arouse jealousy, suspicion or bitterness? Where were we at fault, what should we have done instead? We got this all down on paper and looked at it. Pg 69

There is one thing that is apparent when I look at what I have in front of me. I have had no business being in most of my relationships and that I have abused the powers that God has given me to share with another person as a demonstration of our love. As I study His word I see that sex was to be used to multiply and replenish the earth. I can see that some of my behavior in the past is what God despises. I see what I should have done instead. I should have told them the truth and left them alone.
I see that my behavior has been contrary to what God would have wanted me to be. I now have an idea of what God would have me do in my future sex life. I also have made another harms list. I must be willing to set right these wrongs as long as it doesn't cause more harm. This is in addition to the list I already started in step eight. I have come to see that God has given me these sexual urges as a gift but they are to be used in the proper way. All our situations are different. Some of us are married, some divorced. Some of us are dating and some of us are alone.Whatever my situation is I am going to ask God to mold my ideals for my future sex conduct and to help me to live up to His expectations as He reveals more to me:
In this way we tried to shape a sane and sound ideal for our future sex life. We subjected each relation to this test - was it selfish or not? We asked God to mold our ideals and help us to live up to them. We remembered always that our sex powers were God-given and therefore good, neither to be used lightly or selfishly nor to be despised and loathed.
Whatever our ideal turns out to be, we must be willing to grow toward it. We must be willing to make amends where we have done harm, provided that we do not bring about still more harm in so doing. In other words, we treat sex as we would any other problem. In meditation, we ask God what we should do about each specific matter. The right answer will come, if we want it.
Pg 69

Notice that we treat sex as we would any other problem. Dr. Bob when asked for advise on any specific matter would often reply, "What does it say in the Good book"? We not only draw strength from Gods word but we also find the answers to many questions that we may have about various situations through the intuitive thoughts and guidance that we get from the practice of the eleventh step: God alone can judge our sex situation. Counsel with persons is often desirable, but we let God be the final judge. We realize that some people are as fanatical about sex as others are loose. We avoid hysterical thinking or advice. Pg 69-70

As with any other problem, when it comes to sex, what if I stumble? We are human beings and we are not going to be perfect, we are going to make mistakes and fall short. I strive for spiritual perfection in order to attain spiritual growth. I am not going to use excuses if I fall short. I am going to allow God to pick me back up, dust me off, chasten me and set me back on the path that He has chosen.I MUST NEVER FALL SHORT WILLINGLY! If I fall short and stumble I must know that God will help me to fulfill His will. With sex, as any other problem, when I am struggling it is because of some form of selfish behavior. The harder I try to be of help to someone else the more distant my own troubles become. God will constantly give me a way out as long as I continue to pray for guidance and act on the guidance that I receive: Suppose we fall short of the chosen ideal and stumble? Does this mean we are going to get drunk? Some people tell us so. But this is only a half-truth. It depends on us and on our motives. If we are sorry for what we have done, and have the honest desire to let God take us to better things, we believe we will be forgiven and will have learned our lesson. If we are not sorry, and our conduct continues to harm others, we are quite sure to drink. We are not theorizing. These are facts out of our experience. To sum up about sex: We earnestly pray for the right ideal, for guidance in each questionable situation, for sanity, and for the strength to do the right thing. If sex is very troublesome, we throw ourselves the harder into helping others. We think of their needs and work for them. This takes us out of ourselves. It quiets the imperious urge, when to yield would mean heartache. Pg 70

If I have been as thorough and honest as I could be while doing my inventory, I have begun to see the real problem that is associated with being alcoholic. By the time I am driven to the first drink I have many symptoms running wild on me. I now am starting to comprehend the various things that come together to complete the selfish and self-centered behavior or spiritual malady. I am beginning to see that my life blocked from God is hardly worth living. We may have even been given a glimpse of what a relationship with our Creator is like. The simplest of moments that are total and complete peace and serenity! I have begun to practice the steps that are needed to maintain this way of life that I have started to live. I now truly begin to see the need to have God in my life: If we have been thorough about our personal inventory, we have written down a lot. We have listed and analyzed our resentments. We have begun to comprehend their futility and their fatality. We have commenced to see their terrible destructiveness. We have begun to learn tolerance, patience and good will toward all men, even our enemies, for we look on them as sick people. We have listed the people we have hurt by our conduct, and are willing to straighten out the past if we can.
In this book you read again and again that faith did for us what we could not do for ourselves. We hope you are convinced now that God can remove whatever self-will has blocked you off from Him. If you have already made a decision, and an inventory of your grosser handicaps, you have made a good beginning. That being so you have swallowed and digested some big chunks of truth about yourself. Pg 70-71

Although I have begun to digest some big chunks of truth about myself, I still don't fully see and comprehend the manifestations of self-centeredness. The fifth step is where things really start to fall into place and begin to make sense, though these conclusions will become clearer as I continue in the action steps. In the original manuscript they asked at this point: Are you willing to go on?
If you are then let's take a look at step five.

Fourth Step Inventory