People always say that the 12 steps are in order for a reason. I guess I never really paid that much attention to that statement until after I was in recovery for a year or so. Looking back on my experience with Step 4 I know there’s no way in hell that I would’ve been able to write a searching and fearless moral inventory if I didn’t have a concept of God that I believed in. I just wouldn’t have.
Writing them was hard (I’ve done two) and I felt all kinds of feelings with the second one. Anger, shame, guilt, regret. Horror. Felt all the things that drinking kept me from feeling. I had burning resentments and sexual traumas. Had broken friendships and ruined relationships. And more.
I needed to pray for the strength to make it through, pray to that God concept each and every time I started writing. All those feelings I’d kept hidden under blankets and in boxes in the basement came up and out. Like boiling bubbles in a stock pot. I was finally feeling what I should’ve been feeling all along when I was drinking. Being in touch with that hideousness forced me to lean on, rely on that Higher Power. Reaffirm my decision to turn my will and life over to the care of God. Remember that a better way of life lay on the other side.
And I was willing to feel and deal with all my monsters if that meant that I didn’t have to drink again. If that meant that I didn’t have to be the person that I’d become. Be the person that I hated. That I was. I was willing to work the Fourth Step if it meant that I could be somebody new. Be a sober me.
Back in the Second Step it talks about being restored to sanity. Writing the Fourth Step is part of how and when that restoration happens. It’s part of how my life became manageable again.
This step also gives us the freedom to make our inventory however necessary, with the guidance of a sponsor of course. It doesn’t even say that we “wrote” it but only that we “made” it. I pay close attention to the wording of the steps as they are the program, they’re how we get and stay sober.
As an aside I got into a minor debate once with someone regarding if everyone should actually “write” their inventory. We need our sponsor’s input on how we make it and that doesn’t always mean that we write it. Why not? If a person is blind or if a person can’t read or write, then they need to do what works best for them to make their inventory.
The most important thing is that we make it. Don’t complicate or procrastinate.
I was also relived to find out that we don’t need to make a complete inventory but only a “searching and fearless” one. I wrote the best one I could at the time and the Tenth Step allows me to self-analyze and follow up on issues later as needed.
And after I put the pen down (because I wrote mine), I realized that doing my Fourth Step hadn’t kill me. It was horrible for sure but I made it through with only a deflated ego. And that was one of the best things that needed to happen to this alcoholic.
I also finally got some real relief. The kind of relief that drinking never gave me. Relief at the spiritual level. All of my secrets were no longer secrets, they were out in the open. At least on paper. After carrying around emotional trauma for so long it felt good when I was done.
So I made an inventory the best I could, took a look at the things that were holding me back, that were standing in the way of me being the best me that I could. And I thank God for the help I was given. Without God, I wouldn’t have been able to write those words.
And not “needed to” because those were the rules. But “needed to” because I needed help. ↑