Thursday, November 18, 2010

Step Four obstacles

Step Four seems to be a big stumbling block to a lot of those I sponsor.  Inevitably, it seems that this step begins to slow down the previous enthusiasm of many.  Many seem to come to a grinding halt at the prospect of honest self-evaluation.

The Al-Anon way of working this step keeps the focus on me.  I am not taking an inventory of another person or writing about what is wrong with them. Instead I'm writing down information about my character traits and behaviors in order to determine  how these have become ingrained in my life and which ones I need to be rid of.

Because I had a very wise and kind sponsor, I felt comfortable taking a good look at myself with total honesty, yet without self recrimination.  I trusted that Step Four was nothing to fear but would reveal those things that I needed to work on, as well as a lot of positive aspects about me.

The Al-Anon book used in Step Four, called Blueprint for Progress, seems to strike fear into some. Maybe it's the length of the book (62 pages) or maybe it's the content. Each topic such as fear, resentment, anger, honesty, etc. has a series of questions associated with it.  Here's an example of the ones on resentment which was a big one for me to write about:

1.Are there any people or organizations from childhood that I stilll feel angry with today?

2.With the people I resent the most, what part did I play in the original events that happened?

3.How did I feel about the way my family dealt with angry situations?

4. Who are the people in my life that I resent the most?

5. What bothered me about the people I resent most?

6. How do I treat those that I resent?

Questions like these bring up a lot of things that most of us would rather not examine. My findings on resentment were that I had expectations of others that were unrealistic. I expected them to be mind readers and do things as I had planned.  But I know that others have a will of their own, and I can’t impose my will on them without disastrous consequences.  I learned from writing my inventory  to have respect for others and realize that they have their own lives to live.

I didn't find the work on Step Four to be difficult.  It did take a while to get through the Blueprint book.  But I would work on a couple of topics each week until I completed that portion of the Fourth Step.  And once that is completed, then I did the AA fourth step inventory as laid out in the Big Book.  That is what I also ask sponsees to do.

Some sponsees move right along with this step and welcome the opportunity to honestly look at themselves.  Others are afraid of bringing up the past.  Some sponsees see the work on this step as being like an assignment, one that has too much structure and semblance to class assignments.  I simply did what my sponsor asked, trusting him to guide me on the way. 

The inventory is supposed to be both searching and fearless. I'm not being asked in this step to judge or to change anything, just to notice and record what is. Answering the questions as honestly as I could does bring up some very painful things but also a lot of good things as well. 

I explain to sponsees that this step is about identifying what each of us needs to work on to become a contented person who is happy within our own skin.  There are inevitably things that occurred during the course of our lives that weren't our fault.  I don't believe that those children who are molested by an adult had a part in that horror.  But perhaps we did have a part in continuing to beat ourselves up over what happened to us during childhood.  And maybe the resentment needs to see the light of day and be released. 

I certainly have more than an inkling of defects that I have.  I don't mind being totally honest about these things. And by realizing what my part is, I am more aware, more humble, and ultimately more compassionate towards myself and others.

"Referring to our list again. Putting out of our minds the wrongs others had done, we resolutely looked for our own mistakes. Where had we been selfish, dishonest, self-seeking and frightened? Though a situation had not been entirely our fault, we tried to disregard the other person involved entirely. Where were we to blame? The inventory ur faults we listed them. We placed them before us in black and white. We admitted our wrongs honestly and were willing to set these matters straight." from Alcoholics Anonymous

"Until we know exactly where we are, we cannot know where we are headed." from How Al-Anon Works


  1. GREAT post, Syd. I appreciate being reminded of the "other side's" perspectives and challenges in dealing with this disease. My husband is an Adult Child of and Alcoholic, so of course we just fed each other's issues for years. It's so hard to take responsibility and to see and own our part, but SO essential to our recovery and serenity.

  2. I take my Alanon sponsees through the steps using the AA Big Book. For Step 4, they make a resentment list. Then, for each, where were they selfish, where were they self-seeking, where were they dishonest, where were they afraid? Comes with a word list. Works for me.

    Thanks for your thoughtful share.

  3. My sponsor made me go back and list my assets too. That was hard too.

  4. My worst flaw by far is to expect super-human power in humans.

    i expect them to somehow have alll of the answers and power to show me my talents, to encourage them, to motivate me to be better, to do better, to be successful, I expect them to have the crystal ball that I don't have.

    Sad really, this admission.

    Thankfully I'm learning that you all do have the power to accomplish all those things, I am not in a position to (God) hand the reins to a specific person and say "You, you're the one, you have to be this for me." "I receive these things in odd, various and sundry ways and places" Thank God for the power that moves beyond human power.

    I have lived, become sober and stayed to love and pray with ya'll surpassing my ideas and scoffing.

    I love the fellowships of AA and Alanon... they are a great strength in numbers. I'm glad that others find ways without these fellowship, but I'm more glad that I was placed in them specifically to find the truth!

    Thankfully if we allow God to lead each thought, experience, interaction, I find that there is so much more than meets the eye, or my perception of what is. It grows exponentially as I remain.

    Thankfully I've been surrounded by people who share that experience and are so contagious in their attitude and enthusiasm that I really don't think of leaving. It just doesn't come to mind often, and when it does something miraculous happens and I stay anyway.

  5. I've done several inventories in several different formats. I think the bottom line that has worked for me is looking at my part, and finding out that what I've done is no different than anybody else in the program. God directs my path after that through the rest of the steps. That's all I know.

  6. I like the last line from the passage, Syd. How true!

    Have a great weekend, buddy.

  7. I like the way you have broken this Step down, Syd. It helps to clarify it and puts it in the right perspective. I will pass this along to some girls that I know are sponsoring for the first time and don't know how to handle this Step.

  8. I think of how difficult I found it, facing my own human frailties, and I try to use humour to ease the sting. Once I've had a laughing fit at something I think or do, I can never again take that aspect of myself with the same seriousness.
    Great post, thanks for this.

  9. Step Three says in part "turn our will and our lives over to the care of God..." Doing 4th Step inventory work becomes a little easier when we remember this important decision. I learned to focus on the "care" part, which to me meant this higher power loves me and wants me to succeed.

    If a sponsee mentioned a problem with Step 4, I always asked what step they were on.

    It was never Step 4.

    So in my mind, doing the first three steps thoroughly and completely leads to a productive Step 4.

    Thanks for this, Syd.

  10. On the blue print book right now. It is an interesting but sometimes painful peek into my shadow...
    Think this might take one year to complete.

  11. Good stuff.

    I never had a problem with this step. I was so desperate when I did my first 4th that I was afraid not to be completely thorough and honest. In turn, I got the results intended --- the beginning of a great freedom. I finally knew exactly what should and could be changed.

    I don't know about Alanon, but I sometimes wish that in AA I would here more people share the positives of doing a 4th step, rather than sit in a a meeting and complain about having to do one.


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