Having difficulty with Step 4?

12 Steps: Discussions related to the 12 Steps and using them as a treatment to recover from alcohol and drug addiction.
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Having difficulty with Step 4?

Postby Dallas » Mon Jul 31, 2006 4:22 pm

Having difficulty with Step 4?

I had difficulties when I took my first Fourth Step.

I thought that I was following the instructions in the Big Book, but as I look back on it now, I can see that my problem was that I had heard too many things shared in A.A. meetings... that were just the opposite of what the 4th Step instructions in the Big Book were instructing me to do.... and this flavored my perception in such a way, that I wasn’t really comprehending what I was reading. Or... perhaps more accurately... my head was telling me one thing, while the book was trying to tell me something different.

To make my problem even more difficult.... I had visited a Recovery Book Store, and bought some guidelines and forms to help me with my 4th Step. (We didn’t have the Internet back then!)

It turned out that those guidelines and forms that I bought had nothing to do with the instructions for taking the AA 4th Step, as described in the Big Book. It was just a bunch of more professional sounding gibberish that left me totally confused! (I guess it’s good that we didn’t have Internet way back then... because some of the forms and guidelines and worksheets that I’ve seen on the web have left me wondering “What planet did these things come from?â€

Dale R.
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Postby Dale R. » Sat Sep 02, 2006 10:19 pm

Perhaps, this is why we have such a wide variety of different experiences in A.A., in regards to the 12 Steps. Not everyone is following the same recipe... out of the same book... and they're coming up with different results than they had expected, and different results than those that people are having when they do follow the instructions in the Big Book.

The big bool is where it all started. It is true that there are clear precise instructions there. The 12 and 12 gives a little more detailed description of what we are trying to accomplish. I think people just started running with the idea of having an open mind.

I did my 4th step in a different manner than in the big book, but it was based on the big book's principles. I just focused a little bit more on thought processes and patterns. It is easier to fix things, if you know why you think the way you do, and weigh in all of the external influences that caused you to think in this manner. Recovery is just that. I want to recover from an illness. If I don't know what is wrong, I can't correct anything. I think what I am trying to say, I (personally), have no problem using the big book, but everything and anything else that will help me get better. I know I may step on some big book thumper's toes, but it works for me. Everybody has a different program. Even people with a lot of time will tell you that.

Just my opinion.....

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Postby blueangel » Sun Sep 03, 2006 2:35 am

Just my opinion but I thought there was only 1 program of AA and that is directly from the big book. It worked then, it still works IF you work that program.

Funny thing I hear all the time *you work your program and I'll work mine.* since there is only 1 program of recovery seems all the recovery comes from working the same program, from the big book.

I know people that actually think going to meetings and not drinking is working the program of AA. It's not no matter how it's sliced or diced. Some of the worst sobriety I have ever seen is worked by the self proclaimed old timers that did the 12 steps 1 time 20 years ago and nothing more. The 12 steps have to be applied to everything we do, in other words all of our affairs.

I watched Dateline last night on NBC I think and there was some lady on there that formed MM for drinking rather than going to AA they do still sell her books on amazon.com, I checked myself and was mortified, the program was that you could manage your drinking. the end result was her killing a guy and his child on the interstate with her blood alcohol level 3 times of what is legal. She now goes to AA and works the program of AA. MM is still out there but she is no longer any part of it. Kind of like finding God on sunday and quiting drinking. Alot of different ways to quit drinking but only 1 of them works and that is the 12 steps as the big book very directly points out. I guess thats why AA worked better back then before all of everyones own personalized programs emerged.

Still just my opinion................ Kay

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4th step

Postby surrendered01 » Fri Sep 08, 2006 3:07 pm


I did my resentment 4th step when I was in rehab. 5 years ago, I recently started working with a new sponser and she wants me to do another 4th step as if I never did one, I have let go of all past resentments and I am stalling on doing it again because I don't see what the point is, if I already did this why would I need to do it again? My sponser said that when I did the 4th (75 days sober) as a newcomer I couldn't of done a through (I don't know if that's spelled right) job. Any opinions?


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Postby anniemac » Fri Sep 08, 2006 5:03 pm

I find it difficult most of the time to separate my AA Program from my spiritual journey. I never had a spiritual journey until I came to AA, so they have coincided the whole time.

I think that I may begin to be understanding something (and, of course, I may not!). All the deep inner work and healing that I want to do on my road to recovery is not only a road to recovery from alcoholism. It is also a road to recovery from low self-esteem, from codependency, from insecurity, from apathy, from many things in addition to my alcoholism. If, and where, they are separate is where things blur.

I was very very confused when I did my first 4th Step, because I didn't know which "way" was the best way to do it, for me. Should I write out my life story? Should I use a treatment-center question-and-answer booklet? Should I use a Joe & Charlie handout? Or, maybe I should use that format in that big ole' clunky AA book I had.

Where I've come to, for now, is that doing the Steps as laid out in AA material is perfectly sufficient for me to arrest my alcoholism and to find and connect to a power greater than myself.

All the other digging that I want to do, the additional reading and writing and discussing, can be done in conjunction with my AA work. But, it is not necessarily a part of my AA work. It's a blurry line, but I am beginning to think that there is a line there somewhere.

Any thoughts on that?

One question I always had that I really never got a consistent answer to ~ and I haven't found the answer in the BB, so maybe someone else has? When we list our resentments, are we to list our current resentments, those that we still carry around? Or, are we supposed to go back in time and list every resentment that we can ever remember having, even if we don't still hold that feeling? I would think it would only be the former, as that is all that is blocking us from the sunlight of the spirit; yet I have heard so many folks say that we need to go back to ALL resentments.

Thoughts on that, too, please.

Hi Barbara ~ Hmmm. I have had the same sponsor since the beginning, so I don't have experience to share. My thoughts, though, are mixed. If I began to sponsor someone who had already done a 4th step, I don't think that I would automatically have them re-do it just because I was not there when they first did it.

However, I am one of those who does believe in doing more than one 4th Step. I did my 1st one at around 7 months' sober. It was as thorough as it could be at that point in time, but much more rose to the surface thereafter. So, I do see her point in perhaps other issues coming to light since your first 4th. I view the 10th Step as a step to address new resentments, etc. that arise, and the 4th Step for those old ones that may have been buried under the surface. So I did a 2nd Fourth Step, and a few months ago realized some other old stuff I was carrying around and am dragging my feet but feeling I want to do a 3rd 4th step.

Not knowing you at all, I of course have no idea if this applies to you, but another thought I had was that, perhaps your sponsor sees something in you that causes her to believe that you have unresolved resentments that you are carrying around, hence her request. Just a thought.

Let us know how it ends up.

~ Anne

Jim W
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Having Trouble With The Fourth Step

Postby Jim W » Fri Sep 08, 2006 10:11 pm

My AA program is a large part of my spiritual journey.

While there is probably no wrong way, I believe the format of a four column resentment inventory, a fear inventory, and a sex conduct inventory found in the book Alcoholics Anonymous is the simplest way. The Joe & Charlie handouts are good if used in conjunction with the book. However, I don't believe God can be found by checking boxes.

I believe that most people have difficulty with the Fourth Step because of the myths that are perpetuated in meetings-"it's hard," "it's painful," etc.
The inventory itself does take effort. The guys I sponsor get one week to write inventory, or they get themselves a new sponsor. The painful part of inventory comes from resistance, not what the inventory brings out-you can either write it down in black and white or watch it it play out in living color.

Difficulty arises if a person hasn't been prepared in the first three steps. If you've seen the First Step, and it truly is a life and death errand, you'll have no problem with the rest of them. For example, one of my guys told me that he wasn't worried about getting another sponsor. He said he could always get another sponsor, but he didn't know if he could get another sobriety date.

But if the goal is anything other than facing and being rid of what blocks a person from God, they tend to peter out somewhere, either in the inventory itself, or in the Ninth Step. The inventory is not about your feelings, mommy or daddy, or any of that stuff. That's what diffrientiates it from a theraputic process. Therapy will the stuff out and say go deal with it. This is about getting rid of it. The Fourth Step is not even about finding out who you are. It is more about finding out who & what you are not, getting rid of it, and who & what you really are shows up. As you reveal yourself to you, God will be revealed to you.

"Self-examination is not morbid intropspection nor self-condemnation. It is an honest and fearless abandonment of self to God in trust."
-Kenneth Leach

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Postby Gretchen » Sat Sep 09, 2006 3:36 am

I too did my 4th step while in therapy. The group was my sponsor at that time. We took our 1st, 2nd and 3rd steps when our therapist said it was time. I think it took about 7 months before she would even let me begin on my 4th step. I have since found me a wonderful sponsor who originally came from that group, and she had me start over on the steps. I trust her, and to show her that I'll do everything she tells me to do in regards to my sobriety, I don't question her.

But back to your question about re-doing steps. After doing my 4th step, I immediately did my 5th step with the therapist. And I went home and rested, as it says in the Big Book. Those original things holding me back in fear were -- and are-- gone. But that's not to say that other resentments won't crop up.

Just write what comes to your head in list form in one column. Then start the next column and so on. If something needs written about, write it.

Jim, I agree with you about the 4th step myths. I guess that's why "courage" is what my sponsor says this step is about. I also think giving just a week to do it is a great idea. The more time to do something, the more apt this alcoholic is to put it off! Besides, if I were one of your sponsees I'd meet your time frame so I wouldn't lose access to the valuable experiences you've had and share in your sobriety!

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Resentments Against Principles

Postby Jed » Sun Sep 10, 2006 1:06 am

I'm currently doing my 4th step out of the Big Book. It says "We listed people, institutions, and principles with whom we were angry" I was wondering which principles people are angry with? So far, I have on my list: Honesty, responsibility, healthy living, open-mindedness, and change. I'm not even sure that these are principles, though.

Scott: Alcoholic
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Postby Scott: Alcoholic » Sun Sep 10, 2006 2:35 am

Sometimes it's easier to think about the 'principals' part in terms of: 'what do we fear?'

Often we find that fear is the underlying cause of what we percieve as anger...anger is a defense mechanism that we use to keep from coming across as vulnerable and it also keeps others at a safe distance.

But fear is actually the thing that keeps us from applying a principal which we are unfamiliar with. For instance...I want to be honest about something, but in being honest there may be a consequence which I may not want to face - (lets call it a financial one for now). In this instance, we fear the principal of honesty because in being honest we may be forced to pay a price to put that particular circumstance to correction...but we are not well off financially...maybe we feel we don't really owe a financial correction, but someone else does...maybe we value money too much and just don't want to part with it to pay a restitution - we'd rather to spend it on some self-seeking enjoyment thing...
Whatever the reason, we fear the principal - this is what we are looking for in Step 4.

I could take this a lot further (in terms of the fear and why we feel it) but that is your sponsor's job. :)
Hope the example helps out a bit.


garden variety
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Postby garden variety » Mon Sep 11, 2006 6:15 pm

Good afternoon friends,

I'd like to welcome Jed and Barbara to the board, go to the introduction section and give us a little holler. I'm doing the computer handshake thing here because someone with sober years suggested it to me, and it helps me stay sober too. So welcome onboard and consider your hands shook.

I wanted to respond to Annie. The step says "Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves." The way I see that is I gotta look at my morality and conduct up to that point that I started on step 4. The step don't say anything about resentments past, present, and future. It tells me basically I have to look at my behavior up to the present moment I'm doing the step in the light of what I now know is right and wrong.

The Big Book just uses resentments as a starting point because they knew that every drunk has a grudge list, and thats the best and easiest place to start. I also was told that I list people, places, and things I'm afraid of too, which might also be those that I have resentments against, but I can also list whatever I'm afraid of but I don't resent.

I agree with you Annie that the Big Book has enough there to do that step without any extra added distractions that make me want to put it off while I read 15 books, 35 charts, 14 true or false tests, and the pledge of allegiance before I get started on step 4 (I'm not one of those "complicated" types, but I sure can complicate the mess out something simple if I think too hard!). I just open up the Big Book and do it just like its in there with that extra column for "my role" which is the thing that the book says holds the key to my future. It's all in the chapter How it Works, and you don't need anything else.

To me its real simple: its a list of persons, places, and things that I react to in a way that is wrong. It can include old enemies, the president, and Britney Spears. It don't matter whatever it is that makes me react in a way that is wrong, based on the "priciples" which are the 12 Steps and 12 Traditions. Thats what my whole problem is, its my reactions to life on life's terms. I use the principles of the 12 steps to get new reactions that are right instead of wrong. But for those complicated types out there, the Big Book says that I "undergo a profound alteration in my reaction to life."

Well that just means that I look at what an idiot I used to be and I ask God to take away my idiototic behaivior and over-reactions. But I gotta do the 4th step so I know what an idiot I was and its on paper in black and white so I don't conveniently forget that I was an idiot. Then they call my idiotic behaviors and reactions "character defects", then I humbly ask God to take them away in Step 7. I learned that the "character defects" is the same as the 4th column which is my role in the resentment, and that's why I gotta look back at the list and fill-in the 4th column because it holds the key to my future. The key is becoming willing to be "entirely ready" to CHANGE ALL OF THOSE idiotic reactions with the help of God when I get to step 7.

Now Annie, if you got resentments today, and you did a forth step, then all you gotta do is pray for that person, place, or thing like its your sick best friend. Now it says that in the Big Book too. I know if I have a resentment, then its me with the problem. Poor me I got hurt feelings. Well I got hurt feelings because I'm not living outside of me. If I'm living my life for others, then I don't have to worry about resentments, then its a lot easier to pray for my sick friends then to carry around a grudge like the selfish idiot I used to be.

I'm hoping that isn't too complicated to understand. I'm sorry if it is, but step 4 does need me to roll up my sleeves and work. It sure aint gonna do itself!

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