Step 4 of the 12 steps

By December 11, 2018 Relapse Prevention

The 12-Steps are a set of guiding principles which aim to help addicted individuals recover from behavioral issues, compulsions, and any form of addiction. Each of these steps is equally powerful and has been proven and tested by many individuals who have recovered from addiction.

In step 3, an individual decided to trust the Lord, that’s why in step 4, this decision is being reinforced by showing your voluntary surrender and trust to God. The step 4 principle expressly states, “made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.”

If you are undergoing the 12-step treatment process, this treatment option requires people suffering from addiction to find a sponsor before going through step 4. The rationale behind this requirement in step 4 is because the patient will be required to confront their past and dig deeper into their previous thoughts, actions, and experiences. In so doing, you will be able to come into terms with your past self and make an inventory of all the bad things that you did.

If you do this step all by yourself without the guidance of a sponsor, you might find the process and the entire experience overwhelming to the point that you’ll end up lost and miserable.

What Does the Step 4 Principle Really Mean?

If you go through step 4, you will be asked to make a fearless inventory of yourself. Though this step requires you to be brave and honest, this doesn’t mean that you don’t have to feel fear while confronting your past. This just suggests that despite the fear, you still have to push forward and deal with all the bad thoughts, actions, decisions, relationships, and experiences that you’ve done.

While doing so, you might need to acknowledge negative emotions like embarrassment, pain, misery, guilt, and regret among many others. If ever you find yourself feeling these, you don’t have to worry. This only means that you are one step closer to your goal of confronting your past self and previous life.

Once you get past these negative feelings, you will enter a phase where you’ll find acceptance of what you have done. You will also have a different sense of responsibility for all that you thought and did back then.

Though this step sounds like it’s easy to complete, many still find this step uncomfortable, challenging, and overwhelming. If you are one them, have the courage and motivation from your community and from your sponsor. You will realize that you are not alone in your step 4 journey.

Due to the discomfort and overwhelming feelings, some people ask if they can just skip step 4 and move to other steps in the recovery process. Though there’s nobody stopping you from skipping step 4, eventually, you have to trust the decisions and experiences of all the other people who came before you. They didn’t skip step 4 because they understand that if you don’t come into terms with your dark past and if you don’t own up to things that you did, it would be hard to move on to the other steps. It would also be hard to cope with the realities of addiction.

What is the Purpose of Step 4 Self-Inventory?

Through step 4 self-inventory, the person will get to align his life with the will of God. Also, he can identify the negative actions, emotions, and thoughts that overruled his life. The moment that he identifies these negative factors, he is automatically taking the first step towards correcting them.

Self-inventory is a difficult step. However, this step can open the door and give more space for hope and faith that one needs to move forward on his recovery journey and overcome his addiction for life.

Is There a Template for Self-Inventory?

The moment we accept the importance of step 4 and the moment we realize the need to go through it, the next question that might come to mind is “how can we do a self-inventory?” Step 4’s self-inventory is a very personal process. There’s no template that will guide us on how to do it the right way. If you know people who have gone through step 4 in the past, you can consult them about their experiences to get a better grasp on how things are done and how they were able to deal with it.

This is the precise reason why you would need a sponsor if you commit to undergo step 4. Having a sponsor means it would be easy to ask for assistance and guidance on how to proceed since your sponsor has done it in the past. He can share with you how he did it. Based on this sharing, you can come up with your ways on how to go about it. If you want to do it alone, you can also do so. Some people believe that they can seek the Lord’s guidance to help them earnestly perform a self-inventory.

One of the simplest ways to do a self-inventory is to list down all you can remember about people, organizations, ideas, events, and instances that you know can trigger negative and positive feelings in you. If there are items on your list that you find yourself writing a couple of times, don’t worry, that’s perfectly fine. Try not to categorize or analyze when you jot down the items. The most important thing is for you to be as thorough as you can in making that list.

As you work your way into your list, search beyond your past actions and think about your beliefs, feelings, and thoughts that made you do those negative things. These belief systems, feelings, and thoughts are the root cause of your destructive and addictive patterns. If you want to achieve a stable and an unwavering abstinence, it is important to examine all your tendencies towards self-pity, self-will, anger, resentment, pride, and fear.

How can self-inventory be done?

Once you’re done listing all the important items under your self-inventory list, the step 4 principle suggests that it’s now time to seek the Lord’s guidance in picking up the valuable lessons from each of these memories. If you want to be more organized in making the list and to make it easier to recall what should be written there, most people who go through step 4 do so by making columns, charts or tables. They also limit their entries into short but concise statements that make sense to them. Some also dedicate an entire page for each entry and then list down their answers to each of the inventory categories they made.

To make the lessons you’ve learned more recognizable, you can categorize your list this way.

  1. Experiences and Past Incidences: Answer the question “what happened in the past?” Write a short description of what you can recall about that specific event. Instead of writing a long narrative, it would be better to write a short summary instead. You can also do bullet points

  2. Effect: List down your answer to the question “what were the effects of these past experiences to you and to the people around you?”

  3. Feelings: List down your answer to the question “how did you feel at the time that event occurred?” Also, write down how you are feeling about it now and how did your fears contribute to all these.

  4. Self-Assessment and Evaluation: Write down how your strengths and weaknesses affected these past circumstances. Did you exhibit self-will, self-deception, self-pity or pride in any of these past circumstances? Make it a point to also write down the instances when you did the right thing.

To those who have undergone step 4, they believe that the Holy Ghost can help one face the truth with humility and courage. The truth may bite but you have to realize that the same truth will help you become accountable and responsible for what you have done. This will also help you move towards your sobriety goal.

When you list down your assessment, you can use these guide questions:

  1. What result do I want in this condition?

  2. Why do I want to achieve such a result?

  3. How did I gain control over the situation?

  4. Is it my concern?

  5. What actions did I initiate to achieve what I want?

  6. What are the things that I refused to do to achieve what I wanted?

  7. Did I fail to recognize reality?

  8. Were my aspirations and hopes for others and myself real and attainable?

  9. Did I commit falsehood against myself and others?

  10. Was I selfish?

  11. Did I also think about the welfare of others?

  12. Did I act like a victim to gain other’s sympathy and attention?

  13. Did I accept God’s help?

  14. Did I put more premium on being right and looking good?

  15. Did I feel offended because I wasn’t given the recognition I deserve?

Free Yourself from the Past With Step 4 of the 12 Steps

Though some people dwell on the past to sulk and blame themselves and others for what happened, your goal of doing self-inventory under step 4 is to free yourself from your dark past and embrace a bright, positive, and sober future.

The thorough and deep reflection you did is a great way for you to own up to your mistakes and past decisions, learn from them, recognize the mercy God has bestowed upon you as you move to change, and steer your life in the right direction.

If you want to know more about the 12-Step addiction recovery treatment, speak to an Addiction Specialist at Monarch Shores today. They can help you find the right addiction rehab. They can also enlighten you on the different steps and phases of this program. This way, you can come up with a more informed choice when deciding for your or your loved one’s addiction treatment option.