4th Step Inventory: Making It Quicker and Simpler

4th Step Inventory Made Quicker and Simpler

How many times have we watched someone we cared about sit on their 4th step inventory, only to relapse a short time into it? I for one grew sick of watching this while feeling like there was nothing I could do.

Sometime in my first couple weeks of recovery, I heard a message from a circuit speaker named “Chris R” that talked about doing the steps rapidly, having the spiritual awakening necessary to gain conscious contact with God, and getting on with our new life in recovery – happy joyous and free.

This article is a breakdown of some of the history of the twelve steps, a simplified way to look at the 4th step, and a call to support each other in getting through the steps to increase our odds of long term recovery.

4th Step Inventory

The Fourth Step Speed of The Original Alcoholics Anonymous Members

A New Hope For Those Struggling With Alcoholism & Drug Addiction

Before the 12 steps were founded, there really was no hope for people to recover from drug addiction and alcoholism. People were dumbfounded why they could not drink normally or quit altogether. Such people were losing everything in life (much like you and I have) but without real treatment for addictive behavior to drugs and alcohol.

Then, a new dawn arose when Bill Wilson took what he learned from The Oxford Groups of the time and got a proctologist named Dr. Bob Smith to do the work with him. This communion was taken prior to a Big Book being written, prior to AA (Alcoholics Anonymous), and prior to people whining about doing their inventory in meetings.

Thank God For Dr. Bob Doing His 4th Step Inventory

After a while of drinking on and off, failing to stay sober for long, and one extremely embarrassing trip to a doctor conference where he drank so much he didn’t remember the travel, Dr. Bob Smith got sick of the way he was living, decided to get rigorously honest, and while Bill W and Anne Smith (Bob’s wife) waited anxiously to hear news of where he was, Dr. Bob went out and did the twelve steps in a day, came home to his wife and best friend, and never drank again.

AA Alcoholic Number 3 and His Quick Moral Inventory

Bill D or The Man In The Bed from the now famous AA #3 picture, entered into the Akron City Hospital for his last detox on June 26th, 1935. Two days later. Bill W and Dr. Bob walked into his hospital room and shared their idea about the disease of alcoholism and the way they had found personal success in defeating their drink problem.

Bill D did the first three steps right there, gave his life over to his higher power (all three of AA’s first three members were Christians), and begun a searching and fearless moral inventory with the founders. It was less than a week that he was doing his amends and out looking for more people to help with the message. Bill D never drank again until his death on September 17, 1954.

Moral Inventory Alcoholics Anonymous Fourth Step

The Message Killing Alcoholics and Addicts On Their Fourth Step Inventory

Reading into the history of the 12 steps and the founding members of all the fellowships that you and I qualify for, I have found one thing that has changed over the course of history from the message it used to be to the message it is now: the steps are THE solution and working them every day keeps us connected to God and recovered; not meetings and relying on a sponsor to help you f f f f feeeeel better.

If you are truly as alcoholic or addict as I am, working step four quickly (two weeks or less) to completion, then sharing it with a sponsor or trusted spiritual advisor, is likely the difference between you recovering from this disease or living a life where you feel ashamed, full of fear, and trapped in negative emotions unable to ever stop drinking and drugging.

What It Means To Take A Real Personal Fourth Step Inventory

When you identify negative thoughts and the patterns in which they are created in your head, you are finding your own character defects that are halting you from spiritual growth and continuing to drive you towards drugs and alcohol.

With rigorous honesty to yourself in this process, laying everything on paper without keeping secrets from your spiritual advisor or sponsor, your fourth step inventory will become a place for you to discover the truth about your behavior. Spoiler alert: your drinking and drugging is not the cause of your behavior.

When we list memories from our past in the 4th step and look at them alongside our current behaviors, God begins to show us where our deepest anger, resentment, feelings of inadequacy, and everywhere else we are struggling truly come from so we can have God remove them on a daily basis and live better lives during the recovery process while staying in contact with Him.

Working Step Four Before 5 Through 12

12 steps 4th Step Inventory

At this point of our step work we have finished the first three steps and have made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him. It is important while doing the 4th step to remember one thing, you are on the 4th step. You are not making direct amends to anyone during this process, you aren’t even telling your sponsor or anyone else the secrets within your journal.

Bill W and Alcoholics Anonymous wrote the twelve steps in order for a reason. Many of us alcoholics exclaimed what an order I can’t go through with it. Take this step one piece at a time and get it done as quickly as possible. This work is incredibly beneficial to your recovery from addiction and begins the process gaining your support from God which is the ultimate insurance against relapse.

Below is a brief overview of how to do a 4th step like those in Alcoholics Anonymous. Each of the three parts in this article will have deeper dive videos, breakdowns, and worksheets for the fourth step. If you need support in your recovery from addiction, we at Recovered On Purpose would love to hear from you as you are doing this work.

Made A Searching And Fearless Moral Inventory Of Ourselves

What exactly is a “fearless moral inventory”?

The Big Book talks about taking inventory in a business. Taking inventory of “the stock-in-trade” for the salable goods you can still use for profit and to get rid of the unsalable and damaged goods your business cannot utilize without any regret or reservation of what they may be able to create.

A personal moral inventory is looking at your life and searching for the flaws in your make up as the unsalable goods and getting rid of all these defects of character with the help from a higher power you come to understand through this process.

There are three areas of our lives we search during the inventory process:

  1. 4th Step Resentment Inventory
  2. 4th Step Fear Inventory
  3. 4th Step Sex Inventory

Don’t worry, no one is going to read this inventory unless you share it with them. The interesting part of this is so many of us look at the inventory we need to do and instead of just doing it, we start to build up more fears and feel ashamed before anyone even knows anything in it! Also, I guarantee you, anything you are putting in any of these three categories, I have heard at least that “bad” and probably have something similar in my own. You are not alone.

Resentment Is The Number One Offender

Starting off with resentments is always the easiest thing to do. The way I did this part and the way I have my sponsees do it is to start only with writing the names down on paper of any people, institutions or principles you resent (who wronged you and you still have negative feelings about).

Side note to sound smart in your next meeting: resent originates from the French “ressentir”, re- being again, and sentir being “to feel” going back to the Latin “sentire”. So to resent someone, is to feel again something they did to wrong you.

And we’re back! Write down very simply the names of people in your life you feel wronged you, institutions such as the church, the government, schools, etc. and principles like the ten commandments, feminism, conservatism, etc. Write them out and only the ones that are present in your mind, without leaving anything out.

Then, next to each name, in 19 words or less (19 words is the most the Big Book uses to explain a resentment so we might as well make it simple on ourselves first go-around), write down “the cause” of the resentment.

Then, after completing those first two columns all the way down, go back to the first name, and next to the cause write down the areas within yourself it affected: self-esteem, your money (pocketbook), your ambitions (what you want out of life), personal relationships, sex relations, pride (who you think you are), or security (what you need to be ok).

Identify Your Core Fears

Now, taking a look at the third column of your resentment inventory and what parts of yourself were threatened, take a look at the exact nature of where it comes from and bracket any of the areas affected be based in fear. For example, if we look at Mr. Brown in the Big Book on page 65, you will see our self-esteem was affected in every cause of the resentment and each was based on fear. It doesn’t tell us exactly why they are based on fears, but it is pretty simple to draw our own conclusions:

His attention to my wife | The fear based on self-esteem could be something like, “I am afraid Mr. Brown will take my wife from me. I am afraid my wife will see Mr. Brown is better than me.”

Told my wife of my mistress | The fear could be, “I am afraid my wife is going to leave me. I am afraid everyone is going to find out I am a cheater.”

Now for the fun part of a searching and fearless moral inventory of our fears. Write one of these fears on a separate piece of paper and ask yourself, ‘If this (thing you’re afraid of) happens, then what will happen?’ For instance, if your fear is I am afraid my wife will leave me, you would probably put something like, ‘I will be alone.’

Then ask yourself again, ‘If I am alone, what will happen?’ You might find your core fear that is actually running your life from these resentment driving fears is something like, I am afraid I will die alone and not leave anything behind.

This process of self discovery can cause emotions from difficult events in your past that may have caused them in the first place, but life today no longer needs to be driven by a hundred forms of fear.

Now About Sex

4th step inventory without examining our true sexual conduct over the years past and our present actions is an easy way to curb responsibility and keep causing harm with our actions. This part of the fourth step turns this into an action step.

Write down the names of everyone you can remember having sexual contact with in your life. I tell my sponsees this means anyone, consensual or not, either sex, and the truth is more important than trying not to do it wrong. Hint: no one does a perfect fourth step, you just need to do it to where you tell yourself it is complete.

Next to each name you have written down, truly examine your behavior in that relationship or interaction, and write down where you were selfish, dishonest, or inconsiderate of the other person. Did you hurt this person with your conduct before or after? Did you intentionally and unjustifiably make the person jealous, suspicious, or bitter in order to run the show and get what you want? Answer all these questions with true honesty and you will discover a lot about yourself that can be improved on for how you show up in relationships.

Now for the fun part! Next to these questions being answered above, write down where you were at fault for anything harmful that happened, and what you should have done differently in that situation. You are not allowed to write down “I never should have slept with her/him.” That does us no good for future situationships and relationships. Something like, “I should have been honest about my intentions from the start. I should not have told him/her about other people I was talking to to make him/her jealous so they wanted me more. I should not have thrown a plate at his/her head.” You know, things like that.

“Made a searching” implies many of these answers will not come out right when you begin to write. You must search for the answers and they will come to you. Ask God, “Remove my selfishness and help me take responsibility for my own actions.” He will show you the truth.

Final Thoughts About The 4th Step Inventory of Alcoholics Anonymous

On day 25 of my addiction recovery, I had finished this fourth step inventory and went out to a secluded spot with my sponsor and read him everything I wrote and we talked about parts of my life I wrote down I had never told anyone. In my experience that day, I did not feel an enormous sense of weight coming off me, I didn’t feel anger leave me as I shared, and I did not know my addiction was being lifted from me never to return.

The morning after was my spiritual awakening. I was riding in my sponsor’s 1983 mailman Jeep on the way to go do steps 6 & 7 and start 8, and for the first time in my life since I was twelve years old, I had no desire to drink or use. My addiction had been lifted and my recovery had truly begun. I did not feel anger at others, or like I was afraid of the future or anything from my past.

I was reborn. Please, do not take this step lightly and please do not sit on this for months and become one of our brothers and sisters who relapses again and again without ever finishing this vital part of recovery.

I love you so much and am so grateful you have found this post and are on the recovery journey with me. Keep close to Recovered On Purpose so we can work together helping others in a major way. I can’t wait to hear from you and meet you one day, Adam.

4th Step Inventory AA

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