California Highlands

The 12-Step Program: Examining Step 4 – Taking Personal Inventory

In the recovery world, joining a 12-step program is typically how most addicts and alcoholics find their way to peace and sobriety. During the course of working the 12-steps, recovering addicts and alcoholics address a number of underlying issues and their spiritual void in order to recognize why they drink and/or use drugs and how to prevent a return to substances.

Each step in the 12-steps program is significant in its own way. The 12-step programs were arranged in such a way for a very specific reason: You cannot go out of order, because each step must be completed fully prior to undertaking the following step. Every step prepares you for the next step, and this is exactly why many people find themselves struggling with Step Four. Step Four is the first real “action step”, or step that requires you to actively participate in it.

What is Step 4?

No matter what 12-step fellowship you join, Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), Narcotics Anonymous (NA), Cocaine Anonymous (CA), etc., the program is arranged in the same basic way. While some of the verbiage in the literature correlated to the program may be different in order to appeal to the particular issue the program deals with, the basic premise is the same.

In the traditional AA 12-step program, Step Four is written as: “Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves”. To anyone who is not in the program, or anyone who has not reached Step Four, this ambiguous statement may seem very confusing out of context. However, the explanation behind Step Four is rather simple.

Step Four is designed to have the addict or alcoholic recount each way they felt wronged in the past by others or by situations. Typically, there is a section in which you take an inventory of your resentments, or grudges, you have against people, places, things, and situations.  At first glance, it may appear that it is merely exacerbating those resentments, but in reality the entire point of closely examining these resentments is to learn just how your personal responsibility is implicated in these situations. The idea is to learn how to take personal responsibility for the issues we face in our lives.

The next purpose behind this action is to make a list of character defects. Step Four is meant to chronicle our actions prior to coming to the program and learn how to act in a proper manner.  Since Step Four involves reciting our personal inventory to another human being, it is during this process that they are to point out how we fall short based on our character defects. Steps Six and Seven are meant to work on these very same character defects to create lasting change so that we don’t experience the same results throughout our lives. Step Four essentially lays all of the groundwork for the remaining steps in any 12-step program. So doing an extremely thorough Step 4 is crucial to our success in the program.

Why Do People Struggle With Step 4?

So, as simple and straightforward as Step Four may seem from an outsider’s perspective, why do so many people seemingly struggle with such a simple step? Well, the main reason is due to the fact that many recovering addicts and alcoholics don’t want to look at their part in the negative situations have unfolded in his or her life. Step Four is designed to show that every terrible situation that has befallen you throughout your life and every resentment you’ve been harboring is based on your own personal responsibility. You’ve had a role in every situation. Many people do not want to recognize this fact and begin taking responsibility for the future.

Another vital aspect to being successful with completing Step Four is creating a solid foundation for yourself with Steps One, Two, and Three prior to undertaking Step Four. The initial three steps in any 12-step program can oftentimes be overlooked in their importance. They are not necessarily “action steps”, so they may be passed over with little attention paid to them, but they are very important if you are to complete Step Four perfectly.

Steps One, Two, and Three create and deepen your relationship with a higher power. Without this spiritual connection honed in these foundation steps, you cannot hope to be successful with Step Four. It can be emotionally and mentally draining to take on Step Four, and having an understanding and solid relationship with a power greater than yourself will help you stay strong and continue pushing through, even when it gets difficult.

What to Do If You’re Struggling?

If you or a loved one has been struggling with drug or alcohol addiction, California Highlands Addiction Treatment is here for you! From the beginning of your process starting with detox treatment, until the end with outpatient services, CHAT can help you overcome your addiction!

Reach out to us, 24/7, and get connect with our addiction specialists. You or your loved one deserves state of the art treatment, and you do not have to suffer with drug or alcohol addiction in silence! Call us today at 888-969-8755 and allow our admissions team to get you the help you need!