Notes on Step Four


1.                Read: Big Book “How It Works” (pp. 58-60)

2.                Read: the detailed directions for Step Four in the Big Book (pp. 64-71)

3.                These notes and worksheets are not intended to be a guide to working Step Four. Rather they are designed to provide an introduction to this Step. Numerous Step Four guides are available both on the Internet and in print form. However, there is no great mystery involved in taking the Fourth Step. The worksheets are based on the Big Book instructions and should help you organize your own work process. You will not only one departure from the Big Book format: a Recovery Assets sheet has been included. Its purpose is to provide balance to the inventory process and to alert the participant to the resources – physical, psychological, social, spiritual – available to deal with the issues that will face you as you move through the remainder of the Steps.

4.                Step Four (Big Book p. 59) asks us to:

a.     Make (a decision and an action)

b.    A searching and fearless (truthful and complete)

c.     Moral (focused on our character or nature)

d.    Inventory (a balanced stocktaking)

e.    Of ourselves (this is your inventory; not the other person’s inventory)

5.                Step Four is not:

a.     An invitation to perfectionism: just ask your Higher Power to help you do the best you can today.

b.    An invitation to write our life history. If that is what Bill had had in mind, he would have told us so.

c.     An invitation to procrastination. If you meet with your step advisor once a week, the entire process should take no longer than four weeks – one week for each of the worksheets. Dr. Bob used to take newcomers through the entire Program in an afternoon: think about that!

d.    An invitation to wallow in self-pity: this is suppose to be an uplifting spiritual experience.

e.    An invitation to provide yourself with a ‘laundry list’ of every last sin and fault from day one. Bill wants a moral inventory, not an immoral (or amoral) inventory. (If you require sacramental absolution for your past deeds, see your priest or minister.)

6.                The focus of this Step is on selfishness and self-centeredness. Worksheets are provided to deal with the three areas which Bill highlights for us

a.     Resentments (pp. 64-68)

b.    Fears (pp. 67-68)

c.     Sexual and relationship problems (pp. 68-70)

Both the worksheets and the instructions in the Big Book will get you started. Do one worksheet at a time and be sure to work vertically down each column in order from left to right (e.g. list your resentments first; next the causes; next the impact of them on you; next your part in them; finally – what action or amend do you need to take or make)

7.                Do not neglect the Assets for Recovery worksheet (see: Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions p. 46 for the warrant for this worksheet.

8.                Review Big Book (pp. 70-71) to see what this Step has done for you.

9.                This is just the beginning of a life long process of periodic self-examination. Step Ten (Big Book pp. 84-85) suggests a regular review. Many A.A.’s retake steps four and five during their annual retreat or at a 12 step weekend. Make this a part of your program of recovery.

10.           You have now completed Step Four. Make an appointment as soon as possible with your Step Advisor, Sponsor or Spiritual Advisor to take Step Five.


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