12 Step Planet - Step Four by Robert K.
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Addiction Stories - Growing up in Sobriety


Step Four and My Path of Least Resistance  by Robert K.


When faced with this step the first thing I thought was, never in a million years. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves. I remember being asked what it was that I was afraid of with this step. Every bit of it and considering I blacked out just about every time I drank, who the hell knew what was back there? That’s when my sponsor told me that all of my actions during my blackouts would NOT suddenly be revealed to me by taking this step. It wasn’t a magic bullet to the past, but a foundation for the future. My sponsor told me to read the Fourth Step chapter in the 12 & 12, read the “How It Works” chapter in the Big Book and then look over the inventories that I’d already done in the first three steps. Without realizing it at the time, I could see where he had been preparing me for this searching and supposedly fearless moral inventory the whole time. In Step One I had written down all the ways that my life had become unmanageable. In there I had the framework of how my actions had harmed others and myself. The inventory I had written on Step One was pretty much an account of how I had affected all the People I had contact with.  In Step Two I had to step back and take a look at my relationship with authority figures like the church, police, teachers and anyone who represented enforced control or order. I had looked at how my rebellion became insanity and how I had affected all of the Places I had contact with. In Step Three I had to account for how my willfulness had run rampant. My refusal to let go of my resentments, my refusal to accept no as an answer, my refusal to surrender had contributed to the unmanageability of my life. I had to acknowledge how I had affected all of the Things I had contact with. Now the light bulbs were going off. I understood what he meant when he told me that I was powerless over People, Places and Things. I could see where the work I’d done was the foundation for the Fourth Step. So when I sat down and started searching I had a guide to start with. While I was far from fearless, I wasn’t quite so petrified to move ahead. I think the thing that I got stuck on the most was the word ‘moral’. For me it rang of that old Southern Baptist upbringing. In my twisted head ‘moral’ was something that old women standing around in their Sunday best after services decided you had or not. Morals had to do with money, status, education. If you cussed, smoked or drank, the old women said you didn’t have morals. I guess gossip done outside of God’s house didn’t count if you were trying to find a way to help the sinner find morals. The only problem was that those women could never get past talking about all the sinning. So when it came to the idea of morals, I had to unlearn a few things before I could move on with my Fourth Step. I will say right here that aside from the Big Book and the 12 & 12, my next favorite book to use in recovery is the dictionary. In the dictionary, the word moral is defined as relating to principles of right and wrong in behavior. Common sense tells me what is right and what is wrong, even in the simplest of terms. They tried to teach me this when I was a kid. I think that stuff you did when you had to be around other people was called manners. If you were going to live among other people then they would expect you to be a law abiding citizen. When you had more than enough and if there was someone in need, it was suggested that we should share our stuff with someone who didn’t have anything. I told my sponsor that all these things that count as morals was too confusing. How was I supposed to keep track of what was a good thing and a bad thing? After all, we’ve all done bad things for a good reason. Something like sleeping with your best friend’s partner to show your friend that they’re involved with a cheater. It’s for their own good, right? He just shook his head and told me to consider using something else as my guidepost to moral and amoral behavior.  But he did tell me that for our purpose we could make an adjustment to one word. In the Big Book it talks about the Seven Deadly Sins. He said that I could call them the Seven Deadly Defects if I had a problem with the word sin. And nothing has only one side. So to consider the bad, I have to also consider the opposite good. When he gave me this list I looked over them and I began to calm down a bit. Every nasty thing I’d ever done to anyone was summed up here. And when I considered the other side of it, I had a much clearer idea of where my actions had been lacking. Looking at these seven defects and seven virtues of Lust/Chastity, Gluttony/Temperance, Greed/Charity, Sloth/Diligence, Wrath/Patience, Envy/Kindness, Pride/Humility, I asked myself, could it really be that simple? As it turned out, it was. The Fourth Step took time. As I went back over my inventories that I’d done in the first three steps, I considered where these defects and virtues figured in. As I compiled my list of harms that I’d made to others over the years, I started to understand how and why the steps were laid out before me the way they were. I also started to understand how to start learning how to let things go. There were things I had done so long ago there was no telling where these people were. There were incidents of betrayal that I had committed while drinking that I wanted to leave out of it, because the people involved said that they had forgiven me a long time ago. There were things that I had done that no one else knew about, but I was reminded that we’re only as sick as our secrets. For simplicity sake, I found it easier to wrap my brain around it when I broke the areas that needed to be addressed into three groups; self, family, and friends / acquaintances. I tackled myself first with the question, how did those Seven Defects create the foundation and framework of my life?  Where was I driven by lust? What was I gluttonous about besides booze and drugs? How was I greedy? Where was I slothful in my lifestyle? In what was did I dispense my wrath? Who and what was I envious of? How had pride gotten in my way? And how did all of these lifestyle choices and views inflict themselves on my family, friends and acquaintances? Considering all the damage I’d done and taking the Seven Virtues into account, could I see where I may begin to consider how to set things right when that time came? By the time I was done, I felt like someone had squeezed all the air out of me. I was limp and drained and for the first time in a long time, I felt truly free from myself and all the crap that bounced around my head. The baseline of static that was always in my brain had been silenced. I was at peace. Not so much because I’d just written down all the ways in which I had been an ass. I was at peace because I had taken responsibility. I wasn’t proud of what I’d done, but I didn’t have to pretend that it never happened. I didn’t have to lie anymore. If I had gotten the courage to tell myself the truth, then I could tell anyone the truth. I was ready. Good thing too, because that was what my sponsor was expecting.   Robert K.