Friday, June 19, 2009

Sexual inventory

I was reading Mr. Sponsor Pants today and thought that I would call attention to his excellent post (most of his posts are all excellent by the way) on a newcomer wanting sex with someone in the AA fellowship. I'm not going to recap his response here as you can read it and absorb it for yourself.

I was thinking though about the sexual inventory part of the fourth step. My sponsor had me do my fourth step using the Big Book method as well as Al-Anon's Blueprint for Progress. The fourth step as described in the Big Book lays out the inventory of sexual conduct in a thorough manner:

"We reviewed our own conduct over the years past. Where had we been selfish, dishonest, or inconsiderate? Whom had we hurt? Did we unjustifiably arouse jealousy, suspicion or bitterness? Where were we at fault, what should we have done instead? We got this all down on paper and looked at it.

In this way we tried to shape a sane and sound ideal for our future sex life. We subjected each relation to this test-was it selfish or not? We asked God to mold our ideals and help us to live up to them. We remembered always that our sex powers were God-given and therefore good, neither to be used lightly or selfishly nor to be despised and loathed.

Whatever our ideal turns out to be, we must be willing to grow toward it. We must be willing to make amends where we have done harm, provided that we do not bring about still more harm in so doing. In other words, we treat sex as we would any other problem. in meditation, we ask God what we should do about each specific matter. The right answer will come, if we want it" from How It Works, Alcoholics Anonymous.

I wrote out my inventory thinking that Mr. Brown looked pretty good compared to my story. After writing out my fourth step I had planned to take it to a meeting with my sponsor so that we could discuss it. But for some strange reason that I will never fathom (God's plan not mine?), I left that inventory on the counter at home.

Later during the day, my wife was doing something in the kitchen and the inventory papers were knocked off the counter. Guess what page was on top when she picked up the papers off the floor? Yep, the sexual inventory. Right there. Laid out in great detail. Every past relationship with names and my conduct in the relationship.

I remember the look on her face when I got home that evening. I remember the feeling of regret and shame that I felt as well. I'm not going into further details here, but it was a hurtful experience.

Yet, that experience also brought with it an opportunity to heal by getting information out in the open. What was immediately hurtful became truthful. I think that my acknowledgment on paper of my part helped us both to see the healing and humility of the fourth step. We didn't retread that path, and in many ways it was an opportunity to do a living amends.


  1. I have always believed that everything happens for a reason, this story backs my belief.

  2. Oh my Dear God! How chilling is this story. I can identify; I am reminded that the past is the past, I survived, and you, apparently also did. Sometimes our Higher Power takes matters into His own hands - - - when we simply step away! I do not live in the past, but will never forget - - - this maintains my gratitude and humility in accepting 'powerlessness' and faith that a Higher Power will do for me what I am unable to do for myself.

    Hugs, Anonymous #1

  3. That took alot of honesty and humility to share...thanks for showing that only by working through "it" (whatever it is) with HP does the healing come.


  4. i think it is something special that your HP put your wife there to share this with you, yes it hurts to know but you are right the healing i think could bring you two so much closer together. an intimacy on such a deep level. thanks for sharing this very delicate subject, maybe more people in recovery might find the strength to share and know it is ok.

  5. This (your story) sounds so right on so many levels.

    ...and, I bet you take better care of your inventory (responsibility) now...

    Anyway, thanx for the post...

    Blessings and aloha...

  6. When I did my 4th step sexual inventory, my sponsor gave me a smile and said "well, you've been a pretty good girl"..LOL

  7. Who knows why things happen the way they do. I know that section intimately as part of a very small female step group that included some in their first year.We're from all decades of life and there were nervous giggles of trepidation when we mentioned that upcoming chapter. In the end, we all attended, shared at our comfort level and enjoyed the fruits of group discussion and growth through step 4.

  8. Ok, I just learnt that my sexual past should be included when I do step 4.
    Wow that's scary.

    Thanks for your honest post.

  9. WOW...if you and your wife got through that and have survived I would say that you have a very strong relationship. Hooray for both of you.

  10. Ouch. Reckon that all went just as it was supposed to.

  11. wow- i can't imagine that, but am glad it all worked out in the end.

    i love the sex inventory- it was freeing to get rid of all that shame and self-disgust and look at some of that stuff through the lens of fact-finding instead of self-hatred.

  12. When I did my fourth step I made my sponsor tear it up in front of me after she read it. I still shudder to think about it.

    (i don't talk about my own recovery much but yes, i've been through the 12 steps and used to attend meetings for my addiction, step studies, etc. etc.)

  13. Yipes. That was tough. Glad both you guys got through it.

  14. Sexual conduct is always a strange area. Lots of sponsees go through their conduct with a smirk on their face. It really winds me up and I make sure we spend lots of time in 6 and 7 making sure they have the humility to see how they acted isn't a badge of hnour among men, but a wrong way of treating a human being. A few years back I decided to visit a couple who specialised in dealing with sexual conduct. I visited over six weeks and talked about everything to both of them. It helped tremendously and put certain areas of my life into perspective. I think it is an area of recovery that need the most gravitas and humility. Thanks for the post Syd and the advice on Step 4

  15. Although it seems bad, honesty is always used for good in the end (I believe)

    There isn't too much my husband and I don't know about each other's past conduct, our relationship was structured and continually built on honesty and the principles we've learned in the program.

    Not perfect, but so much more blessings than I could ever enumerate, because we try to live this program as best we can.

  16. What a story and what a lesson follows on from what I was just saying to syd that I could do with a special lady in my life..
    In gods time though not mine

  17. Funny (or not?) how we all live through those moments, some of which last longer than a moment!

  18. Amazing how that happens, incriminating slips of paper with minds of their own, seemingly. I think "well, the timing of that could have been better." But maybe, left to my own devices, I would never have gotten around to that particular reveal.

    Or maybe I would have, but in situations like you describe, the torturous decision process, going over and over it in my mind, all the energy poured into "do I tell, when, where, how" -- all these things are lifted. After the shock, I see a double gift. Agony of the decision avoided, and the burden removed.


Let me know what you think. I like reading what you have to say.