Step 4 Introduction

The Following is an excerpt from the chapter “Step 4 Introduction”

As a result of simply not following the directions in The Big Book, step 4 is probably the most misinterpreted and the most embellished step. Many AA members have great confusion and fear about step 4, all based on a misunderstanding as to what step 4 is meant to accomplish and how to exactly take step 4.

Many of the methods used today to “work” step 4 make this simple step much more complicated than ever intended. This has led many alcoholics to get bogged down in extraneous details and never gain the insight necessary for an effective step 4.

Step 4 was never meant to be anything more than a LIST of character defects. In fact, from pages 64 to 70 in The Big Book, the word list or listed is used five times along with the phrases “we put them (our character defects) down on paper” and again “we got this all down on paper”, referring to the specific character defects we are instructed to be looking for: resentment, fear, selfishness, dishonesty, pride, jealousy and bitterness (envy).

The inventory example in The Big Book has a list of names that one is resentful at, the cause, (the nature of the resentment) and what the character defect affected, (how did the character defect manifest?) with the understanding that we would do exactly the same thing with the other defects we are instructed to look for.

In Bills Story, Bill describes taking step 4 with his sponsor, while still in a hospital; Bill states he and Ebby “made a list of the people I had hurt or toward whom I felt resentment”.

The Big Book also states: “we treat sex as we would any other problem”. We do not add a special category for sex; we simply find where the seven character defects have impacted our sexual relationships just as they have our other relationships.

Nowhere are we instructed to use worksheets attempting to identify an almost endless list of questionable behavior, which if looked at closely, are simply manifestations of the seven already mentioned. We are also not instructed to give a written narrative of our entire drinking history or every incidence of unpleasant or anti-social behavior. These are methods used by many people today and encouraged by many treatment centers, with the misguided notion that more is better. No wonder these complicated and distracting methods appeal to the alcoholic ego. The sorry results of using these other methods is that very few alcoholics are ever able to achieve the comfortable, contented, useful and permanent sobriety that most AA members enjoyed 65 years ago.

Many in AA do not want to believe that step 4 could be as simple as making a list of the names of people that we have harmed or had been resentful, fearful, selfish, dishonest, prideful, jealous, or envious with, but this is EXACTLY what The Big Book is directing us to do. Nothing more. In the checklist we use in this workshop, we have also added laziness, as laziness was included in the checklist that Dr. Bob used in taking over 5000 alcoholics through the steps.

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