What a gargantuan task this initially seems. Whenever I attempted introspection before recovery, I became anxious and full of self loathing, which led to heavy drinking and often suicidal thoughts. Throughout my life I generally thought of myself in negative terms. I knew that I had the capacity for love and kindness, but to mine own eyes that was always overshadowed by consistent acts of cruelty and self centeredness. Actions which I imagined would someday land me in prison. I hardly knew myself when I got sober, and to begin a fearless and moral inventory, which would later be discussed in its entirety with another person, seemed terrifying. This is one reason it took me a year to finish my first fourth step. That, and I’m lazy. It was suggested that I write at least a sentence or two every day until it was finished. A wise suggestion, which I didn’t take.
I did my first fourth step as outlined in the book, which was read to me by a sponsor, who learned how to take his inventory from his sponsor. My first fourth step was almost honest and complete, just as I was almost sober when abstaining from alcohol but continuing to abuse pain pills. There were a couple items that I wasn’t willing to disclose at that time. I’ve since talked about them with my current sponsor, who to my satisfaction declared me “one of the sick ones who has to work this program harder than others”.
My fourth steps have been divided into four sections. First was my grudge list; those people, principles, and institutions with which I had resentments. I took perverse delight in taking other’s inventories, and have dozens of pages of people whom I was burned up against. I was taught that there were only two people who had to be on my resentment list. The first person on my resentment list was me. The second was God. The former was easy. I had more resentment towards myself than any other person on my list. The latter was more difficult. I hadn’t spent much time lately thinking why I resented God, but upon closer inspection, with guidance from my sponsor, I realized I had plenty that I blamed and resented God for. God didn’t give me this, God took that away from me, God made me bald! I’ve since learned God isn’t Santa Claus and has given me more than I need in this life to be happy. I believe if I had always gotten what I wanted, I’d be dead.
After listing my resentments towards everyone and thing, I listed what was affected. Was it my finances, romances, pride, ambition, or personal relations? And then I looked at my part in it. I can’t recall a single resentment where I didn’t play a part in it, although I would still rather look at somebody else’s part in it, which tells me I don’t do this step often enough.
I then listed my fears, and realized that fear had been the predominant emotion behind most of my actions and emotions throughout my entire life. It compelled me to lie, cheat, still, harm, and violate everyone I came in contact with, subtly or overtly. I realized my laziness, lying, manipulation and selfishness were all forms of fear. I didn’t even know what anxiety (fear of the future, real or imagined) was until I came into Alcoholics Anonymous, but as I listened to people share about it, I realized that was what I had felt for as long as I can remember. I now try and practice living in the present moment (I’m not good at this yet) rather than dwelling on tomorrow, which is the root of my anxiety, and living in the past, which is the root of my resentment. AA has given me the tools to do this.
Finally on my list was my sexual relationships. I’m fortunate that my list wasn’t as long as some people I know, as women were one of my fears. Every now and then my desires would conquer my fears and I’d find myself involved (usually briefly) in a relationship; then catastrophe commenced. My jealousy, dishonesty, and selfishness lead to a relationship bottom that prompted me to complete the twelve steps. Pain humbled me to ask another man to be my sponsor at 2 yrs and I soon realized that I was entirely incapable of having a healthy relationship with the skills that I brought to AA. Today, I am slowly developing the tools to one day have a happy, loving and successful relationship with a healthy partner.
In truth, step 4 should be continued for a lifetime, as more is discovered the more I work at my recovery. I know now that my demoralizing behaviors were desperate attempts for power, security, acceptance, and love; natural desires taken to ugly extremes. My fourth steps have mostly uncovered the negative about me, but there is an abundance of good in me as well. I have an amazing capacity for love and kindness, and have always had this. It is God given, and explains why I was in so much pain earlier in life. I ignored the quiet urgings of my soul, my conscience, and God, and instead would heed the screaming desires of my disease. The remaining steps have helped me to be more of the person I’ve always wanted to be, to seek God’s will, and to see myself and others in a new light, when I work them. I am very grateful for Alcoholics Anonymous in helping me to grow into the man God wants me to be.