My AA Zoom Experience
May 4, 2023
Fourth Step Inventory Process
May 31, 2023

“Make a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves”

Our family and friends; the significant individuals in our lives, sex, our relationship to power, money and authority, and of course God – these are the areas of our lives that the Big Book insists we dig into as thoroughly as we can. And, to do so in spite of our fear, shame or guilt. For that is what fearless means; “to take an action even though we are afraid of the outcome”. After all, fear and feelings of phoniness may well be the only honest emotions we have left. Neither is a barrier to recovery.

Step Four was designed to be the first part of the completion of Step Three – and if we are serious about the decision to turn our will and our lives over to God, as we understand him – then going forward trusting in the love of God can only be a positive force for goodness. This step is all about our becoming members of the program of Alcoholics Anonymous – joining with the millions of alcoholics and addicts who have gone before us.

Before you begin, however you need to acknowledge a few things:

  1. No one will ever see this inventory. Not your sponsor; not a counselor – not the person you choose to hear your 5th Step. No One. Just you (and God).
  2. “Our secrets keep us sick” – Not just a cliché – it is a basic truth, so be as honest as you can possibly be. But remember, too – the step doesn’t say “final” or “complete” – just the best you can do today.
  3. The step says nothing about drinking or drugging. It is about living life. Start at that point in each relationship where you began to feel pain and write.
  4. Lastly, keep in mind that you are not looking for those things you hate about yourself; nor some listing of sinful behavior or psychiatric phobia. We are seeking to list those occasions within our own personal history that caused us to feel afraid, ashamed or guilty as a direct result of our actions (or inactions). It is our inventory… It is what we dislike about ourselves in these relationships. Write about yourself – you are seeking to clean your side of the street. Remember, it’s not about them – it’s about us!

SIGNIFICANT OTHER(S)… If you have (or had) someone in your life who qualifies, here is the place to consider him or her. Once again, keep in mind that this person’s behavior is not the issue – only yours! And remember, you can only have one such individual in your life at one time, when a new #1 shows up – the previous one drops down (or out). Each relationship must be searched to the limit of our memory. “Half measures availed us nothing”.

FAMILY AND FRIENDS… Never mind the “who is who”, a friend that is just like a brother fits in this category just as well as a Mom who is also your best friend. Start writing those things that you do not like about yourself in each and every relationship. Ignore the “re-feeling of bad feelings”, don’t bother with the why – just list the what. Feeling petty or peculiar is pretty much normal. Ignore it and keep writing. “This is a way to a faith that works.”

SEX… The Big Book takes three pages to discuss this subject, all to make certain we cover a sensitive and perhaps embarrassing topic as best we can. This is not the place for evasion or rationalization either. Read over pages 68 to 70 and list your dislikes in regard to your sexuality.

MONEY, POWER AND AUTHORITY… Don’t discount this area of your life. Too often we tend to think these are just everyday living experiences. Trust the experience of others though – these are breeding grounds for resentments.

GOD… With respect, there is one more relationship that we need to investigate. Perhaps it is the times we live in – we seem to carry the need for a higher power at arms-length, afraid of being seen to rely on something that seems obvious to so many and yet is so personally a part of our recovery. What do we fear of our past with the God of our understanding? Of what are we ashamed? Is our future dependent on God’s charity or are we able to see that our relationship requires our continued decision making?

CONGRATULATIONS; YOU ARE HALF-WAY HOME. Step 4 calls for a “moral” inventory – and, moral means the “relationship between right and wrong.” So – take each of the above listed areas of your life and ask the opposite question “What do I like about myself in regards to each one? Don’t shrink from this equally important part of the step, the answers are there – just buried deep. None of us is so lacking in conscience so as to be without good.

PATTERNS… If you have been as painstaking as you can be, if you have looked into every dark corner of your mind and memory, then your inventory is complete. Now is the time to prepare for your 5th Step by reviewing what you have written and looking for overlapping patterns. Areas where the same character defect tends to influence each part of your life.

For example, many of us found a clear tendency to withhold participation from a relationship so that we would not be hurt by surprise. We put in only enough of ourselves to make a relationship seem to work – holding back so that we could pull away at the first sign of dissatisfaction. We needed to feel as if we were in control. Always unwilling to risk being caught unaware.

From this, we learned that, as the Big Book indicates, we had just the one defect of character – selfishness – based on self-centeredness.

In this inventory, you will find your 5th Step. Do it soon though – wallowing in our inventory has proven to be an ineffective means of changing our lives.

By Terry W. – A member of AA

For more help, check out the Fourth Step Guide, taken directly from the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous.
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The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of the AA Cleveland District Office.