Step 4 of AA: Make a Moral Inventory Of Yourself
Step 4 of AA is “made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.” AA Step 4 is all about self-examination and reflection—as scary as it may sound, you have to take a good hard look at your character defects and negative behaviors that have lead you to cause pain and suffering. As the name of Step 4 suggests, you need to sit down and make an actual list of these defects. Confronting your past is never easy, and it can stir up a lot of negative emotions, so it’s important to rely on your support system and “higher power” during this step.
If you have sincerely completed the first three AA steps—admitting you were powerless over alcohol, believing a power greater than yourself can restore your sanity, and turning your will over to your higher power—then you are ready for Step 4, which is the first step on the list that requires action.
No doubt it’s going to take courage to take a good hard look at yourself, but on the other side of that self-examination will be the ability to release your past and move forward into a happier, sober life. Step 4 of AA lays the groundwork for the rest of the steps because without identifying your moral defects, you can’t begin to admit them to others, rid yourself of these shortcomings, and make amends with those you’ve harmed. All of the AA steps after Step 4 are dependent upon approaching Step 4 with the intention of truly interrogating your character and behaviors.
How to Start AA Step 4
Beginning Step 4 is easy enough: buy a notebook and a pen or pencil and start writing. If you’re struggling early on, try not to overthink the process—simply write whatever comes to you, and that will hopefully get the ideas flowing. You may find that writing down everything you’ve been holding in to be a freeing experience.2
From there on, you move at your own pace. Some people may find this step harder than others, and that’s okay. It’s not a competition or a race—you will complete Step 4 when you are ready, and sometimes, that readiness doesn’t come easily. Regardless, it’s important not to rush through AA Step 4 because doing a thorough job on Step 4 will set you up for success throughout the rest of the steps.
AA is a great resource if you’re thinking of getting sober, and many people attend AA meetings for life, but sometimes professional treatment is needed. You can call 800-839-1686Who Answers? at any time to talk to a treatment specialist about finding an alcohol abuse rehab center.
Tips for Working Step 4 in AA
If you are having trouble identifying your problems and the way your behavior has affected yourself and others, don’t worry—attending AA meetings and listening and learning from your fellow members will provide you with the clarity necessary to complete Step 4. Most likely, you’ll be surprised at what you discover about yourself. You can also take this time to consult with your sponsor, who has been through Step 4 and has successfully completed a moral inventory of themself.
Step 4 can be emotionally exhausting and painful, but there are some helpful tips for working Step 4 in AA, including:
- Do Step 4 honestly: If you don’t approach the fourth step from a place of vulnerability and honesty, you aren’t going to get as much out of it as you’d like. Having a positive attitude, intent on identifying your negative behaviors and how they’ve affected others can make all the difference.
- Search for serenity: Approach Step 4 from a place of wanting to find peace, mentally, physically, and spiritually, and acknowledging that you can only achieve that by becoming aware of your actions.
- Set up an appointment for Step 5: Because Step 5 (read moral inventory to another person) occurs immediately after you complete Step 4, make your life easier by setting up an appointment with someone as you begin Step 4.
- Remember you are not being graded: Don’t stress over grammar, punctuation, or grammar—Step 4 is not an English paper or a final exam. Yes, you will, in Step 5, share with someone, but ultimately, this written inventory is for you and your sobriety. Try not to worry about being judged.
- Welcome both good and bad feelings: Write out all of your fears, guilts, hates, hang-ups, and resentments, and welcome the feelings that arise when confronted with these hang-ups.
- Keep your eye on the immediate goal: Step 4 isn’t about changing your defects or behaviors (that comes later). For now, focus on your list and do the best job you can do so that you can pursue positive changes later.
Common Misconceptions about AA Step 4
You may have heard some myths about AA like you have to be religious or you’re required to get a sponsor, and these are fundamentally untrue. These AA myths are, unfortunately, what prevent some people from attending a meeting and giving it a shot.
A common misconception about AA Step 4 is that this step is meant to tear you down and make you feel bad about yourself and your past. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Writing down a moral inventory is intended for you to confront the issues you’ve been avoiding so that you can then let them go and move on. In this way, Step 4 of AA is actually an empowering and important step of your sobriety journey.
What is Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)?
Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is a twelve-step program and community-based support group that can help you recover from alcoholism. The only requirement for membership in AA is a desire to remain clean and sober.
The three main components of AA include:
- Unity: Following the traditions and principles of AA, supporting one another
- Service: Helping set up meetings and meeting space
- Recovery: Working the 12 steps of AA
The 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous serve as a set of principles and guidelines that help you on your road to recovery from alcohol abuse—you make your way through each step in order and you complete them at your own pace, typically with support from your sponsor (although not required).
These steps encourage you to rely on a higher power throughout your journey. Although many people may choose God or another religious figure as their higher power, you by no means are required to—your higher power can be whatever is going to serve you best. Again, all that matters is that you have an earnest desire to get and maintain sobriety.
If you are thinking of quitting drinking and don’t want to do it alone, you use the AA directory to find a meeting near you.