The Fourth Step of the Twelve Step Program is often seen as one of the most difficult tasks in recovery. To that end, recommendations for completing a Fourth Step range from 400-question inventories to the three column (resentment, cause, affect) approach contained in the Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book. I have done one Fourth Step a bunch of years ago which was a combination of several different methods. I did my Fifth Step (Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs) with Mike, my sponsor at the time. Mike had a pretty hefty prison record and could trump the outward appearing severity of whatever wrong from my past. I have occasionally considered doing another Fourth Step, but have never done so. Rather, I find tremendous healing and progress through regularly practicing the AA Tenth Step “Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.”
The Fourth Step process set me on a road to begin living a “searching and fearless” existence. I made a decision when I first entered detox that I was going to tell the truth and not scam anyone. Over the years, I have found that decision has turned inward in not scamming myself either. That is a process that the Fourth Step initiates, and for me, I need to emphasize the process in that initiation. Over time, I know that the “searching and fearless” has evolved. I know that I can be more truthful today than I was when I first got sober. I am confident that with continued recovery, that evolution will continue.
In retrospect, I could redo a Fourth Step on an annual basis and add insights into my moral inventory of the past. Had Mike not insisted that I destroy my written Fourth Step all those years ago, I am certain that I could have written a ton of column notes by now. Instead, my first and only Fourth Step set me up for a lifelong process of having the opportunity to be searching and fearless in all of my dealings. Whether I choose to take that route, and that certainly is not always the case today, is a choice I make. However, like so much in recovery, I am given the tools to go down that road. When I take advantage of that opportunity, solutions to life events are more clear. When I choose to live into my own self-centered will, the experience often leads me to consider wiser choices the next time around.