I don’t follow all the 12 steps anymore. I remain recovered. But theres one I come back to time and again…

Steps, indicating step 4 of the 12 step recovery of the anonymous groou[s

It’s the one that fills most newcomers with dread!  Step 4 of the 12-step program, commonly associated with Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and other similar recovery programs, involves making a “searching and fearless moral inventory” of oneself.

This step is about taking a thorough and honest look at one’s life, actions, behaviors, and attitudes, to identify patterns, character defects, and areas for personal growth and change. It often involves writing down past mistakes, resentments, fears, and other issues that may have contributed to addictive behaviours or other problems. Step 4 is considered a crucial part of the recovery process as it lays the foundation for subsequent steps aimed at personal transformation and spiritual growth.

For me, it’s a handy way to check in with myself when someone (including myself) or something has pissed me off!

What is the point of it?
For me, its key value is in taking some time to look honestly at myself.  To search and see what part, if any, I played in these feelings/situations.  It has taught me how to deal with my anger and resentments in a more mature and adult way.  It is an opportunity to take the negative emotion of anger and put it to good use.  To think things through properly.  It allows me to reflect on whether I am angry at someone because they display behaviours or traits that I share but I do not like about myself.
When I see that I played a part in my anger, and maybe even upset someone else in the process, I can go to them and honestly and sincerely apologise for my part.  Not to be concerned with their response or reaction.  Not to be drawn into an argument or drama.  Instead to feel happy that I have corrected an error and ‘swept my side of the street’.
It allows me to understand that we are all perfectly flawed and forgive ourselves and others for that.  It helps me not to expect or try to elicit any kind of response from somebody.  Whatever they say or however they react is their business and nothing to do with me.  I have made my apology I’ve done the right thing and now I leave it at that.  Their response is their business and their business alone.  It allows me to leave the past in the past where it belongs and not dwell on things.
What is it not for?
It is not to be an opportunity for ruminating or continuing any kind of drama (that I may have been dragged into) or to start/continue an argument.
When I first started practising this I used to have to write things down.   It’s much easier to be guided by a template on how to follow this step.  When we first start looking at ourselves in this way it can be really easy to wallow in the anger and feel justified, to want some sort of revenge, particularly if you are very upset or sad.  The problem with that is that their negative energy is only fueling your negative energy.   The significance of this exercise is to clear it away, to do a little bit of mental health spring cleaning and to allow them to be forgiven in some way no matter what.
Forgiveness isn’t a prerequisite, it doesn’t have to happen but what this process can help do is to give yourself the positive energy back that you require and not allow other people’s actions or behaviours to continue to affect your happiness.
How is it done?
It’s usually a good idea to do step 4 with somebody who’s done it themselves before so that they can help guide you through the process.  When you first do it it can appear to be a little bit confusing or complicated but when you’ve practised it over and over again what you find is that you don’t even have to write it down.  After a while, you will instantly be able to see your part to play (if anything) and take action appropriately and maturely.
Here is one of the common ways of tackling the step:
  1. Preparation: Before beginning Step 4, it’s essential to have an open mind and willingness to honestly examine oneself. Many people find it helpful to pray or meditate for guidance and courage.
  2. Inventory Categories: Participants are encouraged to make lists in several categories, which may include:
    • Resentments: Identifying people, institutions, or situations that have caused anger, bitterness, or resentment.
    • Fears: Listing fears, both rational and irrational, that influence thoughts and behaviours.
    • Harms Done: Reflecting on actions that have harmed oneself or others, including dishonesty, manipulation, or neglect.
    • Sex Conduct: Examining past sexual behaviours, relationships, and attitudes.
    • Other: Some individuals may also include additional categories relevant to their personal experiences.
  3. Writing: Participants are encouraged to write down specific instances or examples within each category. This process often involves recalling past events, behaviours, and emotions associated with each resentment, fear, or harm done.
  4. Reflection: Once the lists are compiled, individuals reflect on the underlying causes and patterns within their behaviour. This may involve exploring themes such as insecurity, control issues, or unresolved trauma.
  5. Sharing: Many people find it beneficial to share their inventory with a trusted person. This step provides accountability, support, and often valuable insights from someone with more experience.
  6. Amends: While not part of Step 4 itself, the inventory process often lays the groundwork for Step 5 (admitting to our higher power, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs) and subsequent steps, which may involve making amends for past harms and seeking to live a more honest, responsible, and compassionate life.

Throughout the process, it’s important to maintain honesty, openness, and willingness to confront uncomfortable truths. While completing Step 4 can be challenging and emotional, it is also a crucial step toward personal growth, healing, and recovery.


Do you have to do all the other 11 steps to get benefits from Step 4?

Personally, for me no, however, I do understand that knowing the other steps and the process that is involved before getting to this step can sometimes be useful.

The main issue I had is I always struggled with believing that a higher power could be the thing that puts me right the thing that controls whether I recover or not.  I always wanted that control to be mine I never understood the powerlessness of it I felt confused in baffled by everything.  My ability to take control and be organised and independent in every other area of my life was very good so I couldn’t understand why this wasn’t working.

I have since discovered a good replacement or alternative for the higher power theory.  It doesn’t mean that I’m not spiritual, I am spiritual very much, however, the person that’s in charge of my thinking is me the thing that was out of control was a part of my brain.  I’m using another part of my brain to control it.

In some ways that is a higher power but it’s not a spiritual one.  It’s a part of my brain function that has a higher power over another part of my brain function that had gone a little bit crazy and wired itself incorrectly.

If you would like to find out more about what I’ve discovered and how I’ve managed to recover from Binge Eating Disorder and Compulsive Overeating drop me an email:


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