By the time I arrived at AA I had no doubt that I was an alcoholic. I arrived beaten down and willing to do whatever it took to stay sober. That meant doing the Twelve Steps to the best of my ability (though at the time my brain was so fried they made no sense to me).
So as I got to my first Step Four I was willing to do whatever it took to stay sober—including “making a searching and fearless inventory of myself.” It was a daunting task in my fuzzy mind so my plan was to get it done as fast as possible, while being as thorough as possible, and move on to Step Five, Six, Seven….you get the drift…as fast as possible. I talked to my sponsor many times about getting it done. After agonizing over it the only thing I could do was to stop thinking about it and just do it. It was going to take a lot of trust in HP.
Finally I sat down to what seemed to me a demanding and perplexing task. Oh the anxiety just thinking about facing all the awful things I’d done to others, to myself. Who wants to look at that? And I’d heard so many stories in meetings about how hard it was and how so many people put it off. So I did my best to keep it simple and did it just as it’s laid out in the Big Book.
I had learned that if I wanted recovery and a sober life, and I didn’t know exactly how to go about, it I could act “as if, fake it ‘til you make it.” I concluded that wisdom had to apply here as well. So I acted as if and did the best that I could, hoping as I wrote that I didn’t miss that one character defect or past action that would get me drunk. (Little did in know that more would be revealed and it’s an ongoing process.) And I focused on progress not perfection…well at least I tried to. Instincts and natural desires gone awry, oh yes back then, and today, I can see how those things get me into trouble.
Doing my first Step Four was about willingness to move forward and walk through my fear. I was only really able to see what was in front of me at that time, 23+ years ago, which was probably a good thing. In the end the experience wasn’t profound or earth shattering, I didn’t have a spiritual awakening or land on a pink cloud. The fear of doing it was greater than the reality, the actual putting it all down in black and white. It was just a tremendous relief, and to be honest a sense of accomplishment, something I hadn’t experienced a lot at that time of my life. And what was most surprising to me was that my sponsor, on Step Five, didn’t fall off her chair in horror or laughter after hearing of my defects and antics. Rather she had no grand reaction at all, it was more like, okay good job, heard nothing new, and let’s move on
Step Four is a lifetime practice for me. It is a step when applied to my daily life and relationships has a positive effect on my emotional sobriety. It gets right to the treatment of my spiritual malady, which as the books says is the root of my problem in Step One. When I get that feeling in my gut that things are not right, there’s no avoiding it and I don’t have the luxury of denying it. I drank to get rid of those feelings, that angst. Now I have the tools to address my feelings, understand my actions, and clean up my side of the street. What a gift!