How to Work Step 4 in AA

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AA is a 12-step program designed to help alcoholics and those addicted to other substances find permanent sobriety. Step 1 states that the addicted person must admit that their lives have become unmanageable due to their substance abuse. The last step involves proactively going out in the world to spread the concepts of AA and help others regain their sobriety. The 10 steps in between require the participant to give over control of their lives to a higher power, admit certain character flaws, recognize the harm their addiction has done to others and make amends for the harm their substance abuse has caused to others.

Of all the steps, Step 4 is often one of the very hardest. It requires a complete and brutally honest assessment of one’s own faults. This article will cover how to work Step 4 in AA. Before beginning Step 4, the AA participant must have first completed the first three steps and must have a thorough understanding of them:

  • We admitted that our addiction has caused our lives to become unmanageable
  • We came to believe that only a higher power could restore sanity to our lives
  • We made a commitment to relinquish control of our lives over to our higher power

AA’s 12 steps are like climbing an actual staircase. You can only get to a higher step by first using the steps below it. If you have accepted the first three steps and have committed yourself to complete AA’s program, then you are ready for Step 4:

  • We made a searching and fearless inventory of ourselves

What does this mean? The point of this step is to look into yourself to try to understand how you became addicted in the first place. You cannot fix a problem without first understanding exactly what the problem is. Through Step 4’s moral inventory, you will be able to identify the negative thoughts, actions and emotions that were the root cause of your downward spiral into addiction. While many addicts are in denial, some still do see themselves going down the wrong path, but they feel powerless to stop it. This is also part of addiction. If you knew how to stop it, you would. Although AA does recognize addiction as a disease, it doesn’t absolve the addicted person from all personal responsibility. AA does not allow for blaming others for one’s addiction, even though there may be others in your life or in your past who are definitely part of the addiction problem that you now face. This may include traumatic events rooted in childhood over which you had no control, but AA will expect you, as an adult, to recognize your role in your own addiction and be responsible for it. That is partly what the Serenity Prayer is all about: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference. Working

Step 4

You will need your sponsor’s help with this one. For one thing, you will need an objective viewpoint as you take an introspective look inside yourself. You are required to be absolutely honest and to hold nothing back. This includes secrets and events you’d rather forget. All of this must come out during Step 4 and will be important when it’s time to work on Step 5. Keep these in mind as you begin Step 4:

  • Anger and resentment
  • Pride
  • Shame and guilt
  • Self-pity
  • Relationships
  • Character weaknesses and personal strengths

Many of these are negative aspects of our lives and not things we like to think about. However, you must face them and move past them if you want to complete the program.

Step 4 Worksheet

Ask your sponsor for a Step 4 worksheet. This will tell you how to proceed. You may first want to memorize this and say it to yourself and your higher power before you begin: Please help me face and be rid of the things in myself which have been blocking me from You, other people and myself. The worksheet will begin by telling you to make two columns. In one of them you will write down the name of someone you have been angry with. In the second column you will state why this person has made you angry. The worksheet then moves on in similar fashion to cover resentment, fear, sexual behavior and other aspects of past events. When finished, Step 4 is intended to both allow you to understand yourself better and to not repeat the same mistakes in the future.

We Can Help

If you’d like more information about AA and the 12 Steps, just call us at 833-285-1315. Our professional drug treatment counselors will be happy to discuss AA with you and find a substance abuse treatment facility with AA as one of its treatment programs. We look forward to your call.

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