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
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
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
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
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