Fourth Step of Alcoholics Anonymous
“Without fear, we made a thorough moral inventory of ourselves.”
The fourth step discusses the effort that alcoholics make to discover what their weaknesses are and have been. When the alcoholic is convinced that he has emotional problems, he begins to correct them with the help of a sponsor.
Before going into details about the inventory, the alcoholic must identify what the main problem is. The problem is identified by analyzing what has been the cause that has hurt other people and themselves.
One of the problems that alcoholics face is that when doing that inventory, they feel guilty and are filled with hatred towards themselves. They feel that the only way to be happy is to forget about the damage they did to others, and that is why they are offended by the inventory suggested by anonymous alcoholics.
Another excuse that alcoholics have is that in their perception, their problems are caused by the way other people treat them.
They say that if they were treated better, they would not have so much trouble. They justify their outrage based on the behavior of other people around them. The role of the sponsor in the fourth step is very important. The sponsor will advise the alcoholic to write in the inventory not only weaknesses or defects of character but also write some virtues they have.
In addition, the sponsor tells them that they are not the only ones who have character defects, or their defects are more numerous or worse than those of the rest of the alcoholics.
It is very likely that alcoholics in this step need a lot of support from their sponsors to be comforted. Many of them will close and will not want to take inventory because their pride will not leave them. Before working the fourth step, alcoholics believed that circumstances were driving them to drink.
For this reason, they began to drink in an unbridled manner, and until they did the inventory, they did not change their way of thinking that it was they and not the circumstances external to them that made them drink. Once they worked the fourth step, they successfully began the process of overcoming the feeling of “guilt.”
Alcoholics have a difficult time acknowledging that they had many defects because that causes them a lot of pain and humiliation. They needed a lot of their goodwill to acquire that humility to accept their defects.
Any advice given to alcoholics in this fourth step is to use the universal list of the seven capital sins. Pride, greed, lust, anger, gluttony, envy, and laziness. It is no accident that pride tops this list.
Because pride leads to self-justification, which causes most human difficulties and is the main obstacle to true progress.
Upon reaching the fourth step, it is likely that the alcoholic has drawn some conclusions regarding his character defects and makes them reason about the misguided instincts that cause his drinking and other failures in his life.
Some of us think so because we believe that the key piece of the Third Legacy lies not only in the conditions, capacities, and vocation of those who exercise them but also in the sincerity of being able to improve the shortcomings that we know we have to achieve that the message of that we are protagonists arrive fluid, simple and fast to those who are still suffering.
These questions that we offer to our colleagues today are only meant to be an orientation to look inside and sincerely see our participation in the AA service.
- Am I responsible, realistic, and aware of my abilities and limitations to service?
- Do I share the responsibility of the successes and the errors of the service? Or I only do it with the successes and not with the errors?
- How long have I been doing service? Am I really as important and as indispensable as I believe?
- Hasn’t the time come to step aside and leave my place to another partner?
- Is it convenient to continue doing several services at the same time? Wouldn’t it be simpler and more profitable for me to do only one service at a time? If the Third Legacy speaks of “Service” in the singular … why do I have a tendency to exercise it in the plural? “Services,”?
- When I have already failed once in a service … Have I been wrong or had many controversies? Do I insist on continuing to perform that same service?
- Do I have enough time available to fulfill the service I accepted? Do I neglect my family, work, etc. obligations?
- Do I fulfill my service until its end or leave it halfway?
- Do I usually put my personality (idea, management, concepts, etc.) before the general interest trying to impose my criteria as if I were the owner or chieftain, but disguising myself as humble?
- Can the other partners responsible for other services count on my reserved and silent collaboration? Do I criticize colleagues who do services?
- Do I usually tell literature about what I never read or what literature does not say so that my point of view is imposed?
- Do I usually handle my silence when controversies on issues and service meetings reach high levels?
- Am I humble in service?
- Am I tolerant?
- Am I honest?
- Do I go to open meetings or avoid them?
- When I do not fully or partially comply with the service, do I handle excuses to justify these shortcomings?
- Do I enjoy the beautiful feeling of sponsoring godchildren in service? Do I do it in silence, without proclaiming it to the four winds?
- Did I ever make coffee? Did I help serve it? Did I collaborate in the preparation of the Group before the meeting? Did I help with cleaning later?
- I already told my story? If I didn’t do it until now … what am I waiting for? If I did … what do I expect to do it again?
- Do I collaborate with the Institutional Committee?
- Do I have feelings of guilt for my shortcomings and errors in the service? What do I do with it?
- When I have success in the service … does my ego enlarge?
- Am I grateful to who applauds and supports me, and I also thank those who make me an observation? Am I spiteful?
- Do I talk about my shortcomings and my mistakes with my sponsor? What means do I put to improve?
- Do I do the service with love? Do I do it with humor?
- How often do I make an intimate balance between recognizing before myself and before the Higher Power my failures and errors in service?
In the first place, and not by chance or coincidence, the program tells us, “Without fear.” One of the main obstacles to take this step is fear. Most people think: “What will I find?” “What happens if I don’t like what I find?” “What if I realize that I am a sack full of defects?” “And if my mother … ex-husband … ex-girlfriend … were they right?… all those thoughts produce fear.
But there is nothing to fear. In the first place, we will not take this step alone, so that we are caught in an unsolved problem. We will be guided by someone who has already given it, be this our sponsor in the program, therapist, or coach.
Let’s see Sandra’s testimony:
When they proposed the theme of the fourth step in the meetings, I looked at the ceiling and thought, “Why didn’t I stay at home watching the soap opera?”
Most of us were silent. I went to the front and said two or three slugs as: “It is time for me to take my fourth step,” or “I do all the steps (including the fourth), mentally every day” or “One of the purposes I have for next year, is to make my fourth step.
But in those meetings suddenly someone who looked very safe appeared, someone who by the brightness of his eyes showed that he had touched something substantial in the program, spoke fluently and without shame of himself, and of the fourth step, and invited us to all to give it without hesitation another moment.
Thanks to those shoves, I was losing my fear. I said to myself, “If it has worked for those who have given it, why won’t it work for me?”
Finally, I gave it, and today I am grateful to have done it because, with him, I felt that I entered the true recovery.
The fourth step is not an inventory of defects or faults. Nor is it an inventory of virtues. It is simply an instrument that will lead us to know ourselves, to bring to consciousness, in an orderly and structured way, many of the wounds that have governed us throughout life from the unconscious.
The only way to get ahead is to change the perception we have of that world that seems hostile, also changing the way we react to external stimuli … and that is achieved, not by changing the world, but by changing ourselves.
The fourth step is the gateway to that change.