What is Step 4 in AA?

By this point, you’ve already admitted and accepted that your life as an addict has become unmanageable, began a relationship with a higher power, and committed to turning over all your control to this power. In Alcoholics Anonymous, next is step four, the infamously scary step:

Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

Self-reflection should be a constant part of your journey on the 12 steps. In fact, the whole journey should be a process of steady personal growth. However, in step four of AA, we take this reflection much deeper than ever before.

In the moment, this searching and fearless moral inventory may hurt, but in the long run, you’re setting yourself up for success.

What Does Step Four in AA Mean?

In step four of AA, the goal is to identify any negative thoughts or beliefs that have fueled your actions throughout your life. While taking this moral inventory, you cannot blame any other people or external circumstances. This is your opportunity to take responsibility for all of your past actions.

Many people find it scary to examine themselves in such detail, to be confronted by their flaws. It can be embarrassing, shameful, or even downright painful.

The point of this moral inventory of ourselves? Having the ability to see ourselves so clearly means we have a more accurate view of reality and therefore a better chance of effective, lifelong recovery from addiction.

In the end, no matter how many negative emotions this inventory brings up, know that it really is a positive thing overall. Acknowledging these feelings, beliefs, and thoughts means understanding everything that contributed to your addiction.

How to Work Step Four in AA

A fearless moral inventory doesn’t mean you’ll feel no fear – it simply means that you won’t allow those feelings of fear to stop you from doing the work you need to do. Remember that every human has flaws and makes mistakes. The important thing is the way you deal with these mistakes. Recognizing them, learning from them, and doing your best to avoid making them again is how you can encourage spiritual growth within yourself.

There is no one right or wrong way to work step four; it’s extremely personal. The one principle that is mandatory for this step is self-honesty. However, step four in AA isn’t only about facing the negativity. You should also take the chance to reflect on some positive aspects of yourself, as well.

When taking your moral inventory, you will examine your ideas and tendencies toward:

  • Fear
  • Pride
  • Resentments/anger
  • Self-will and self-pity
  • Guilt/shame
  • Relationships
  • Sex/abuse
  • Secrets
  • Assets

Moving Through Fear

Being so open and honest with yourself is difficult for anyone, whether they are in recovery or not. But finishing step four is necessary, as uncomfortable as it may be.

Moving through this apprehension is its own mini-process in and of itself. Before you sit down to reflect, give yourself a little pep talk. Remember how important this step is for your future. Imagine how good it’ll feel once you’re on the other side of the 12 steps and free of your addiction. Tell yourself that you deserve to find recovery.

Another option is to weigh your options. What’s the worst that can happen if you begin this self-reflection? What’s the worst that can happen if you choose to give up?

After you’ve taken your moral inventory, no matter how many sittings it takes you to get through it, celebrate. It may seem like something small but it was a big and important hurdle that you made it over.

Need Help Following the 12 Steps of AA?

Making a fearless inventory of yourself can be overwhelming. Know that you’re not the only one who feels this way. The best part of the 12 steps is the amount of support systems that are in place. From your peers in your group to your sponsor, there are many people who are there to help you get through it.

Here at Any Length retreat, we use the power of the 12 steps of AA to help addicted men and their families find freedom from addiction. If you’re interested in having the support to make a searching and fearless moral inventory of yourself, we believe that we can help you achieve lifelong recovery. Give us a call at 512-746-7036 to find out how we can help.

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Any Length Retreat is a 5 acre ranch in Austin, TX where addicted men and their families find lifelong recovery through the application of the Twelve Steps. Contact us to tell us your story.

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