Step Four: What It Means and How to Work It

9468824_sThis blog post was written by Recovery Help Now’s, Cindy Weathers, MFTi.

Step Four helps those in recovery overcome their dependence on the substance by using faith, humility and self-reflection. The goal of the steps is to overcome the underlying emotional turmoil that led and fed the addiction. Step Four of the program is the point where you begin looking at the emotional damage.

What this Means

Step 4 reads: “Made a searching and fearless inventory of ourselves.” The step does not mean listing every fault that you can think of or wallowing in self-pity over every bad deed you ever committed. What the step means is looking back at the pattern of actions that led to your addiction.  Yes, you will have to review some of your worst moments, but the trip down memory lane is not the purpose of Step Four. The point is to find the root of the problem, to identify it and to ultimately change it. The honest assessment works like an audit. You look back over the past to find the point where things went wrong. Only then can you prevent it from happening again.

Working the Step

Many 12-Step programs recommend keeping a journal of the stories of your life. Record the memories of your past to help with the inventory. Tell some of the stories in your AA meetings to help your with reflections. Sometimes, in retelling the stories, you can better analyze them. Step Four also requires you to look at your dependence on alcohol or drugs. Look back to the time when you began to need the substance and when the addiction began to overcome your life. Take a look back at your relationships at the time, and how they may have affected your addiction. Trace some of those guilty feeling back to their source, no matter where they may lead. Oftentimes, you may find that your guilt is unfounded or rooted in actions that you had no control over.

Work this step by writing, talking, telling stories during meetings and reflecting with your support system. Remember to consider the good memories and stories because these will help you as well. The good memories and deeds also serve as a way to find the strength that you will need to complete the program.


Elana Clark-Faler
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