Step Four instructs us to make a searching and fearless moral inventory of our lives.
Nearly anyone in the program will tell you that this step requires an uncommon amount of courage. My first attempt at this was an utter failure. I was defensive, unrealistic, still in complete denial about what my failings and my successes had been. I made this first attempt while I was at Smith Lodge. I remember talking to one of the other residents there about the inventory I had done – he was in the (AA) program too and had already been sober two years – and he looked me squarely in the face and said, “This is a bunch of BS.” I remember my jaw dropped and I stormed angrily off to my bedroom, slamming the door for dramatic effect. But, as I thought about it, I knew he was right. I was still lying to myself.
My second and third attempts were slightly better, but still…not great.
It wasn’t until I understood that I had to face reality head on, the good, the bad, and the ugly, that I was able to truly take an honest inventory of my life. And, I was surprised by what I found.
I wasn’t such a bad person, after all.
I was thoughtful, selfish, compassionate, impulsive, generous, manipulative, patient, loving, slightly narcissistic, fun, frustrating, resourceful, and prone towards inappropriate expressions of anger (see the above slamming door incident). I was, in short, a deeply flawed, but immensely human person.
I could live with that. I could even live with the contradictions in my character (selfish and generous? Yes, a person can be both).
My sponsor told me, and this is the best piece of advice I can offer anyone about the fourth step, that a monster is way scarier in the dark, than in the daylight. In other words, it isn’t until we shine a light on who we are – all of it – that we can understand that our moral inventory isn’t as scary or ugly as we had previously thought it would be. The truth can be unsettling, but it is so very liberating!
Once I had shone a bright light on my character, I was able to address my flaws, one by one, and over and over (this is never-ending work). I am a better person today than I was on the day I did my inventory, and I will be a better person tomorrow than I am today.
If you need help confronting the disease of alcoholism or addiction, there are a number of places you can turn to for help, including Missions Inc. (they really helped me!) Below are some resources.
- Alcoholics Anonymous
- Narcotics Anonymous
- Minnesota Recovery Connection
- National Addiction Helpline (SAMHSA)
- Smart Recovery (This is a cognitive approach to recovery – not AA based)
And, if you are about to embark on a searching and moral inventory of yourself, all I can say is, good for you!
Justin J. is a former resident of Smith Lodge. Justin just celebrated his 20th year of sobriety.