Looking Back as a Way to Move Forward
Step 4 requires us to make a “searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.” With the help of a sponsor, using step-by-step instructions outlined in the Big Book of AA, millions of alcoholics and addicts worldwide have undertaken the daunting task of a Step 4 written inventory. Many examples of such inventories can be found online; however, it is important to complete the Step 4 inventory exactly as explained by your sponsor, since you will be sharing your inventory with your sponsor in Step 5.
Remember, you have pledged to go to “any length” to achieve and maintain sobriety. I had to write about things that I never thought I’d share with another person… ever. Stories I thought I would take to my grave with me. I was told that if I left those stories out, I would be taking them to the grave with me… as I died an early, painful death from my addiction.
Even if you’re not ready to put the pen to paper (meaning that you haven’t yet completed Steps 1 – 3), the fears and resentments of your past may still haunt you. This is why Step 4 is absolutely critical to undertake with haste, deliberately, and with rigorous honesty. We would be hard-pressed to find an alcoholic who didn’t leave behind a path of destruction, or didn’t regret some element of their former self. Before fully embracing the light of the present, we must work to let go of the lingering darkness of our past.
I like to think of Step 4 as an opportunity to “clean out the junk drawer” of our lives. There are some useless items in our junk drawers that we have shoved to the back corner, or have covered up with less important junk for many years. There are some items that we say we might “need,” or will use in the future… but if we are honest with ourselves, we ought to just throw these items away. My own junk drawer haunted me. It ridiculed me for my dishonesty, reminded me constantly of my many resentments, and laughed at all my fears and insecurities. By truthfully confronting these flaws and fears, I was able to begin the process of letting them go.
In Step 4, we begin to take back ownership of our lives. It is a painful yet necessary process. Everyone has their own unique experiences with Step 4, and because it can bring up a lot of conflicting emotions and tension, everyone needs a safe place to work Step 4. Here are some great reasons why a sober living home like Lakewood Recovery would be a perfect place to work on Step 4:
1. Private rooms for complete peace and privacy (no wives, partners, or children);
2. Beautiful décor and architecture for comfort and serenity;
3. Expansive backyard for writing or thinking in nature;
4. Only a few other trustworthy men who are going through the same exact process as you; and
5. Staff that will give you whatever you need, whether it be space, encouragement, or support.
The key take-away is this: whether you’re working on Step 4 in a crowded subway or at a place like Lakewood Recovery, you must be thorough and HONEST. You can’t move forward without being able to look back.
By Dana M.
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