Step Four
Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

Step Five
Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

Steps Four and Five are usually linked together in the same manner as Two and Three and Eight and Nine. In most 12 Step circles “4 and 5” are described as the “dreaded fourth and fifth.” To be clear, these two steps do separate the men from the boys and more people go back out [relapse] connected to doing or not doing these two steps more than at any other point in the recovery process. So why is this juncture of recovery so pivotal and important?

One of the co-creators of Alcoholics Anonymous was Bill Wilson and he had been a Wall Street broker and businessman. Often in his writings he uses business language to make his point. At no time is this more evident than his Big Book writing concerning the Fourth Step. He writes on page 64 “A business which takes no regular inventory usually goes broke. Taking a commercial inventory is a fact-finding and fact-facing process. It is an effort to discover the truth about stock-in-trade. One object is to disclose damaged or unsaleable goods, to get rid of them promptly and without regret. If the owner of the business is to be successful he cannot fool himself about values.” Those are concepts taught in every MBA program in America, so why won’t those same principles apply to the individual human being as well as with business?

To repair an addict who has as a personal skill set of lying, deception and manipulation down to an art form is no easy task and what it takes more than anything else is COURAGE. That’s the courage to be rigorously honest and introspective. Not everyone is up to the task. It is, after all, human nature to look for an easier, softer, kinder and more gentle approach, but half measures will avail the addict nothing. He/she cannot kid himself about any and all manifestations of addiction in his life. The truth is this task takes BIG BRASS BALLS and/or a TON OF PAIN! Either one translates into COURAGE.

To accomplish this excruciating task we have to get all of our crap all down on paper [Step 4]. The AA way is to make three columns. The first is by actually naming the person, place, thing or situation that you have a resentment against, since “resentment is the #1 offender. It destroys more alcoholics than anything else. From it stem all forms of spiritual disease, for we have not only been mentally and physically ill, we have been spiritually sick.” Our resentments coupled with anger and entitlement always fuel relapse. It says in the AA Big Book that “anger is the dubious luxury of normal men.” We just can’t have it buried deep inside of us, anger and resentment will destroy our lives.

Addicts have to get the poison out otherwise it will kill them. The second column is the cause, stating what happened in detail, no holds barred, and the last column is how it affected you, such as loss of self-esteem, creating fear, jealousy, hurt pride and bad reputation, economic insecurity and poor sexual relations just to name a few. Over time people working a twelve step program have come to need a fourth column and that one’s a bitch; simply stated it reads: WHAT’S MY PART? An example might read: my business partner stole lots of money from me and I did sleep with his wife! It is after all part of human nature to point the finger without paying much attention to the rest of the fingers that are coming back towards you. In AA language this is called “leveling of pride.”

Now if that wasn’t hard enough we have to read what we wrote to another human being [Step 5]. These are secrets and behaviors we have sworn to ourselves that we would take to the grave with us. They are the source of our shame and with that shame comes the fear of dis-connection. It goes back to Dr. Carnes’s third core belief “If you really knew me you wouldn’t love me.” This practice of admitting one’s defects to another person is of course, very ancient. It has been validated in every century and in every culture, but it must only be done with someone who will respect our confidences, usually a sponsor because he will not personalize any of your back bad behavior, you didn’t cheat on him or steal his money or wife! And as a recovering addict himself he has walked in your shoes. The kettle surely can’t call the pot black. To tell our story to another human being will illuminate every twist of character and every dark cranny of the past. Simply stated we will be set free, and in the bargain we will receive the gift of INTEGRITY. The sense of isolation and shame will be solved. We will arrive at a place of more realism, more humility and more honesty than we ever had in our lives before. Emerging from this place of guilt and shame will leave us in a new resting place of meaningful sobriety and peace. The dammed-up emotions of years break out of their confinement and miraculously vanish as soon as they are exposed. As the pain subsides a healing takes place. What a sense of freedom. All this awaits you if you have the courage to change and as I always say: don’t leave before the miracle and you are the miracle! Call me if I can be of service…

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