|03-31-2010, 07:49 PM||#1|
Join Date: Oct 2009
AA Step Four
"Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves."
Creation gave us instincts for a purpose. Without them we wouldn't be complete human beings. If men and women didn't exert themselves to be secure in their persons, made no effort to harvest food or construct shelter, there would be no survival. If they didn't reproduce, the earth wouldn't be populated. If there were no social instinct, if men cared nothing for the society of one another, there would be no society. So these desires--for the sex relation, for material and emotional security, and for companionship--are perfectly necessary and right, and surely God-given. Yet these instincts, so necessary for our existence, often far exceed their proper functions. Powerfully, blindly, many times subtly, they drive us, dominate us, and insist upon ruling our lives. Our desires for sex, for material and emotional security, and for an important place in society often tyrannize us. When thus out of joint, man's natural desires cause him great trouble, practically all the trouble there is. No human being, however good, is exempt from these troubles. Nearly every serious emotional problem can be seen as a case of misdirected instinct. When that happens, our great natural assets, the instincts, have turned into physical and mental liabilities. Step Four is our vigorous and painstaking effort to discover what these liabilities in each of us have been, and are. We want to find exactly how, when, and where our natural desires have warped us. We wish to look squarely at the unhappiness this has caused others and ourselves. By discovering what our emotional deformities are, we can move toward their correction. Without a willing and persistent effort to do this, there can be little sobriety or contentment for us. Without a searching and fearless moral inventory, most of us have found that the faith which really works in daily living is still out of reach. Before tackling the inventory problem in detail, let's have a closer look at what the basic problem is. Simple examples like the following take on a world of meaning when we think about them. Suppose a person places sex desire ahead of everything else. In such a case, this imperious urge can destroy his chances for material and emotional security as well as his standing in the community. Another may develop such an obsession for financial security that he wants to do nothing but hoard money. Going to the extreme, he can become a miser, or even a recluse who denies himself both family and friends. Nor is the quest for security always expressed in terms of money. How frequently we see a frightened human being determined to depend completely upon a stronger person for guidance and protection. This weak one, failing to meet life's responsibilities with his own resources, never grows up. Disillusionment and helplessness are his lot. In time all his protectors either flee or die, and he is once more left alone and afraid. We have also seen men and women who go power-mad, who devote themselves to attempting to rule their fellows. These people often throw to the winds every chance for legitimate security and a happy family life. Whenever a human being becomes a battleground for the instincts, there can be no peace. But that is not all of the danger. Every time a person imposes his instincts unreasonably upon others, unhappiness follows. If the pursuit of wealth tramples upon people who happen to be in the way, then anger, jealousy, and revenge are likely to be aroused. If sex runs riot, there is a similar uproar. Demands made upon other people for too much attention, protection, and love can only invite domination or revulsion in the protectors themselves--two emotions quite as unhealthy as the demands which evoked them. When an individual's desire for prestige becomes uncontrollable, whether in the sewing circle or at the international conference table, other people suffer and often revolt. This collision of instincts can produce anything from a cold snub to a blazing revolution. In these ways we are set in conflict not only with ourselves, but with other people who have instincts, too. Alcoholics especially should be able to see that instinct run wild in themselves is the underlying cause of their destructive drinking. We have drunk to drown feelings of fear, frustration, and depression. We have drunk to escape the guilt of passions, and then have drunk again to make more passions possible. We have drunk for vain glory--that we might the more enjoy foolish dreams of pomp and power. This perverse soul-sickness is not pleasant to look upon. Instincts on rampage balk at investigation. The minute we make a serious attempt to probe them, we are liable to suffer severe reactions. If temperamentally we are on the depressive side, we are apt to be swamped with guilt and self-loathing. We wallow in this messy bog, often getting a misshapen and painful pleasure out of it. As we morbidly pursue this melancholy activity, we may sink to such a point of despair that nothing but oblivion looks possible as a solution. Here, of course, we have lost all perspective, and therefore all genuine humility. For this is pride in reverse. This is not a moral inventory at all; it is the very process by which the depressive has so often been led to the bottle and extinction. If, however, our natural disposition is inclined to self righteousness or grandiosity, our reaction will be just the opposite. We will be offended at A.A.'s suggested inventory. No doubt we shall point with pride to the good lives we thought we led before the bottle cut us down. We shall claim that our serious character defects, if we think we have any at all, have been caused chiefly by excessive drinking. This being so, we think it logically follows that sobriety-- first, last, and all the time--is the only thing we need to work for. We believe that our one-time good characters will be revived the moment we quit alcohol. If we were pretty nice people all along, except for our drinking, what need is there for a moral inventory now that we are sober? We also clutch at another wonderful excuse for avoiding an inventory. Our present anxieties and troubles, we cry, are caused by the behavior of other people--people who really need a moral inventory. We firmly believe that if only they'd treat us better, we'd be all right. Therefore we think our indignation is justified and reasonable--that our resentments are the "right kind." We aren't the guilty ones. They are! At this stage of the inventory proceedings, our sponsors come to the rescue. They can do this, for they are the carriers of A.A.'s tested experience with Step Four. They comfort the melancholy one by first showing him that his case is not strange or different, that his character defects are probably not more numerous or worse than those of anyone else in A.A. This the sponsor promptly proves by talking freely and easily, and without exhibitionism, about his own defects, past and present. This calm, yet realistic, stocktaking is immensely reassuring. The sponsor probably points out that the newcomer has some assets which can be noted along with his liabilities. This tends to clear away morbidity and encourage balance. As soon as he begins to be more objective, the newcomer can fearlessly, rather than fearfully, look at his own defects. The sponsors of those who feel they need no inventory are confronted with quite another problem. This is because people who are driven by pride of self unconsciously blind themselves to their liabilities. These newcomers scarcely need comforting. The problem is to help them discover a chink in the walls their ego has built, through which the light of reason can shine. First off, they can be told that the majority of A.A. members have suffered severely from self-justification during their drinking days. For most of us, self-justification was the maker of excuses; excuses, of course, for drinking, and for all kinds of crazy and damaging conduct. We had made the invention of alibis a fine art. We had to drink because times were hard or times were good. We had to drink because at home we were smothered with love or got none at all. We had to drink because at work we were great successes or dismal failures. We had to drink because our nation had won a war or lost a peace. And so it went, ad infinitum. We thought "conditions" drove us to drink, and when we tried to correct these conditions and found that we couldn't to our entire satisfaction, our drinking went out of hand and we became alcoholics. It never occurred to us that we needed to change ourselves to meet conditions, whatever they were. But in A.A. we slowly learned that something had to be done about our vengeful resentments, self-pity, and unwarranted pride. We had to see that every time we played the big shot, we turned people against us. We had to see that when we harbored grudges and planned revenge for such defeats, we were really beating ourselves with the club of anger we had intended to use on others. We learned that if we were seriously disturbed, our first need was to quiet that disturbance, regardless of who or what we thought caused it. To see how erratic emotions victimized us often took a long time. We could perceive them quickly in others, but only slowly in ourselves. First of all, we had to admit that we had many of these defects, even though such disclosures were painful and humiliating. Where other people were concerned, we had to drop the word "blame" from our speech and thought. This required great willingness even to begin. But once over the first two or three high hurdles, the course ahead began to look easier. For we had started to get perspective on ourselves, which is another way of saying that we were gaining in humility. Of course the depressive and the power-driver are personality extremes, types with which A.A. and the whole world abound. Often these personalities are just as sharply defined as the examples given. But just as often some of us will fit more or less into both classifications. Human beings are never quite alike, so each of us, when making an inventory, will need to determine what his individual character defects are. Having found the shoes that fit, he ought to step into them and walk with new confidence that he is at last on the right track. Now let's ponder the need for a list of the more glaring personality defects all of us have in varying degrees. To those having religious training, such a list would set forth serious violations of moral principles. Some others will think of this list as defects of character. Still others will call it an index of maladjustments. Some will become quite annoyed if there is talk about immorality, let alone sin. But all who are in the least reasonable will agree upon one point: that there is plenty wrong with us alcoholics about which plenty will have to be done if we are to expect sobriety, progress, and any real ability to cope with life. To avoid falling into confusion over the names these defects should be called, let's take a universally recognized list of major human failings--the Seven Deadly Sins of pride, greed, lust, anger, gluttony, envy, and sloth. It is not by accident that pride heads the procession. For pride, leading to self-justification, and always spurred by conscious or unconscious fears, is the basic breeder of most human difficulties, the chief block to true progress. Pride lures us into making demands upon ourselves or upon others which cannot be met without perverting or misusing our God-given instincts. When the satisfaction of our instincts for sex, security, and society becomes the sole object of our lives, then pride steps in to justify our excesses. All these failings generate fear, a soul-sickness in its own right. Then fear, in turn, generates more character defects. Unreasonable fear that our instincts will not be satisfied drives us to covet the possessions of others, to lust for sex and power, to become angry when our instinctive demands are threatened, to be envious when the ambitions of others seem to be realized while ours are not. We eat, drink, and grab for more of everything than we need, fearing we shall never have enough. And with genuine alarm at the prospect of work, we stay lazy. We loaf and procrastinate, or at best work grudgingly and under half steam. These fears are the termites that ceaselessly devour the foundations of whatever sort of life we try to build. So when A.A. suggests a fearless moral inventory, it must seem to every newcomer that more is being asked of him than he can do. Both his pride and his fear beat him back every time he tries to look within himself. Pride says, "You need not pass this way," and Fear says, "You dare not look!" But the testimony of A.A.'s who have really tried a moral inventory is that pride and fear of this sort turn out to be bogeymen, nothing else. Once we have a complete willingness to take inventory, and exert ourselves to do the job thoroughly, a wonderful light falls upon this foggy scene. As we persist, a brand-new kind of confidence is born, and the sense of relief at finally facing ourselves is indescribable. These are the first fruits of Step Four. By now the newcomer has probably arrived at the following conclusions: that his character defects, representing instincts gone astray, have been the primary cause of his drinking and his failure at life; that unless he is now willing to work hard at the elimination of the worst of these defects, both sobriety and peace of mind will still elude him; that all the faulty foundation of his life will have to be torn out and built anew on bedrock. Now willing to commence the search for his own defects, he will ask, "Just how do I go about this? how do I take inventory of myself?" Since Step Four is but the beginning of a lifetime practice, it can be suggested that he first have a look at those personal flaws which are acutely troublesome and fairly obvious. Using his best judgment of what has been right and what has been wrong, he might make a rough survey of his conduct with respect to his primary instincts for sex, security, and society. Looking back over his life, he can readily get under way by consideration of questions such as these: When, and how, and in just what instances did my selfish pursuit of the sex relation damage other people and me? What people were hurt, and how badly? Did I spoil my marriage and injure my children? Did I jeopardize my standing in the community? Just how did I react to these situations at the time? Did I burn with a guilt that nothing could extinguish? Or did I insist that I was the pursued and not the pursuer, and thus absolve myself? How have I reacted to frustration in sexual matters? When denied, did I become vengeful or depressed? Did I take it out on other people? If there was rejection or coldness at home, did I use this as a reason for promiscuity? Also of importance for most alcoholics are the questions they must ask about their behavior respecting financial and emotional security. In these areas fear, greed, possessiveness, and pride have too often done their worst. Surveying his business or employment record, almost any alcoholic can ask questions like these: In addition to my drinking problem, what character defects contributed to my financial nstability? Did fear and inferiority about my fitness for my job destroy my confidence and fill me with conflict? Did I try to cover up those feelings of inadequacy by bluffing, cheating, lying, or evading responsibility? Or by griping that others failed to recognize my truly exceptional abilities? Did I overvalue myself and play the big shot? Did I have such unprincipled ambition that I double-crossed and undercut my associates? Was I extravagant? Did I recklessly borrow money, caring little whether it was repaid or not? Was I a pinch penny, refusing to support my family properly? Did I cut corners financially? What about the "quick money" deals, the stock market, and the races? Businesswomen in A.A. will naturally find that many of these questions apply to them, too. But the alcoholic housewife can also make the family financially insecure. She can juggle charge accounts, manipulate the food budget, spend her afternoons gambling, and run her husband into debt by irresponsibility, waste, and extravagance. But all alcoholics who have drunk themselves out of jobs, family, and friends will need to cross-examine themselves ruthlessly to determine how their own personality defects have thus demolished their security. The most common symptoms of emotional insecurity are worry, anger, self-pity, and depression. These stem from causes which sometimes seem to be within us, and at other times to come from without. To take inventory in this respect we ought to consider carefully all personal relationships which bring continuous or recurring trouble. It should be remembered that this kind of insecurity may arise in any area where instincts are threatened. Questioning directed to this end might run like this: Looking at both past and present, what sex situations have caused me anxiety, bitterness, frustration, or depression? Appraising each situation fairly, can I see where I have been at fault? Did these perplexities beset me because of selfishness or unreasonable demands? Or, if my disturbance was seemingly caused by the behavior of others, why do I lack the ability to accept conditions I cannot change? These are the sort of fundamental inquiries that can disclose the source of my discomfort and indicate whether I may be able to alter my own conduct and so adjust myself serenely to self-discipline. Suppose that financial insecurity constantly arouses these same feelings. I can ask myself to what extent have my own mistakes fed my gnawing anxieties. And if the actions of others are part of the cause, what can I do about that? If I am unable to change the present state of affairs, am I willing to take the measures necessary to shape my life to conditions as they are? Questions like these, more of which will come to mind easily in each individual case, will help turn up the root causes. But it is from our twisted relations with family, friends, and society at large that many of us have suffered the most. We have been especially stupid and stubborn about them. The primary fact that we fail to recognize is our total inability to form a true partnership with another human being. Our egomania digs two disastrous pitfalls. Either we insist upon dominating the people we know, or we depend upon them far too much. If we lean too heavily on people, they will sooner or later fail us, for they are human, too, and cannot possibly meet our incessant demands. In this way our insecurity grows and festers. When we habitually try to manipulate others to our own willful desires, they revolt, and resist us heavily. Then we develop hurt feelings, a sense of persecution, and a desire to retaliate. As we redouble our efforts at control, and continue to fail, our suffering becomes acute and constant. We have not once sought to be one in a family, to be a friend among friends, to be a worker among workers, to be a useful member of society. Always we tried to struggle to the top of the heap, or to hide underneath it. This self-centered behavior blocked a partnership relation with any one of those about us. Of true brotherhood we had small comprehension. Some will object to many of the questions posed, because they think their own character defects have not been so glaring. To these it can be suggested that a conscientious examination is likely to reveal the very defects the objectionable questions are concerned with. Because our surface record hasn't looked too bad, we have frequently been abashed to find that this is so simply because we have buried these self same defects deep down in us under thick layers of self-justification. Whatever the defects, they have finally ambushed us into alcoholism and misery. Therefore, thoroughness ought to be the watchword when taking inventory. In this connection, it is wise to write out our questions and answers. It will be an aid to clear thinking and honest appraisal. It will be the first tangible evidence of our complete willingness to move forward.
|03-31-2010, 07:49 PM||#2|
Join Date: Oct 2009
NA STEP FOUR
"We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves."
If courage seems to be ‘the key’ to this Step for you and you define courage as risking failure in an uncertain enterprise, it may be a sign that you need more surrender. Feeling you are risking failure may indicate that you don’t really feel comfortable with your decision to turn your life and will over to the care of a loving Ultimate Authority. A closer examination should reveal that once we have made the decision to have God take care of us, we can look at life from the standpoint of someone who has new resources. No longer do we have to cling to our desperate ways and the brutalities that have helped us ‘get our way’ in the past. Today, we look at life differently. We find that the need for animosity and personal abrasiveness is unnecessary within the security of our new lives. Deceit and trickery are not honest tools of recovery. Some people associate the word ‘courage’ with going places they haven’t been before. This kind of courage is a key part of each of the Twelve Steps. It is a lack of fear and a result of our faith.
The courage to go ahead on faith is something that we need to write a Fourth Step. Without courage, we will never pick up the pen. It takes some of us a long time to gather enough courage to even sit down and pray to gain the willingness to do this Step. When we start writing this step, courage means putting aside our fears and writing about what we feel is moral and immoral in our personal character. Some of the things that we have shared in Fourth Steps are things that we would have sworn we would take to our graves. Through prayer and a lot of guidance, some of us feel a suspension of our inhibitions the majority of the time that we are writing our inventory. Our tendencies toward certain behaviors don't always go away but we learn to find different, less damaging ways to right our wrongs and meet our needs. This means that there will probably be much less confrontation or need to contend. Some say that the good sense to go forward with our recovery at this stage is much more than good sense. Many of us believe that there is a courageous feeling that results from stepping-out on our newly found faith for the first time.
We try to bear in mind that our Fourth Step will help us gain freedom in recovery - not our sponsor, our loved ones or anyone else can do this for us. We must remember the pain and miserable feelings that made us want to write in the first place. If we're not honest at this point, we're only creating future pain! When we have written honestly, we've surrendered for that moment. For many of us, that brings an incredible feeling of peace and healthy self-satisfaction. Feeling the repercussions of dishonesty is very painful and is uncomfortably similar to active addiction. The disease goes so deep inside almost any thought of complacency can destroy years of hard work. So many times in active addiction, we as addicts copped-out on our actions with much dishonesty. Now, in recovery, being responsible for our actions is something we must learn. The struggle of continuing to be dishonest in recovery can cause great pain. When we are in pain, giving-up seems to be the easy way out, but it only complicates our growth in recovery. One truth stays the same whether we are in pain or not we are addicts. We make mistakes and we must accept the consequences and learn to change. When we practice honesty, we can have the courage to change.
Some have said, "E-G-O means Easing God Out." Experience indicates that perhaps, ‘ego’ in recovery may simply be our personal sense of self, nothing more or less. It is healthy to develop and enjoy a positive sense of self. We also find a basis of identification with a greater sense of ‘being a part of’ that might have to do with our experience of having a relationship with God. This larger sense of self should help us be in accord with our personal selves rather than leading to the conflicts of our pasts. It might be an interesting exercise to consider how we could possibly function without an ego. With no ego, we would have no personal focal point. It should be fine with God and the universe if we like cottage cheese. If, on the other hand, we despise cottage cheese, that is fine also. Why should all people have the same tastes and preferences? So, in many ways, our differences flesh out our individual programs and breathe life into the general statements about what we have found in recovery. It would be a shame to have come so far on what we believed to be the path of spiritual progress only to find ourselves in the position of being the means to the ends of others.
Like with any process, once we reach a point of decision it is best to go forward in the manner prescribed, attempting to follow the road map left by others to the destination. Ours is a path where we don’t need to take detours or to explore side-passages. Working the Steps to the best of our human ability is enough with the help of a loving God to keep us on this pathway. Only when we have fully turned our life and will over to the care of the God of our understanding, can we expect to feel free enough to examine ourselves totally and without concern for finding fault within us. We know that the faults are there - we've always known. It just seemed easier for us to throw our lives away because we couldn't distinguish among all the contradictory things that seemed to be us. The last obstacle that addiction can throw in the path of the recovery process is that it may hurt or embarrass us! Today we move forward fearlessly while looking at our lives with joyous personal improvement in mind! Imagine that! Today, we know that we can survive being hurt or embarrassed.
The truth is that we'll continue to retain the parts of our personality that hurt and embarrasses us, in other words, our defects. Recalling our admission of pain from the First Step, the joy we felt from the Second Step, and the faith that we discovered in the Third Step, we’re ready to let go of those defects! They must go if we are to be happy. Taking stock of our personal characteristics is the beginning of the end for the idea that we cannot recover. Even when we find that we have started repeating things that we have on our list, we realize that our defects cannot go on forever. We have to be patient and continue doing something right by working the Steps. Writing it all down in black and white seems like a potential threat but actuality confirms what we may have suspected for a while: that our defects are absolutely limited and definitely changeable. We discover that our defects are merely the results of our best efforts to live without conscious contact. Most began at a period of our lives when we were at our worst. Clean and desirous of spiritual growth, we want to be free of all things that would hold us back, in spite of how familiar some pain can seem.
Moving through a series of growth experiences, we feel our accomplishments. We have all experienced a real feeling of being finished with certain things and our active addiction. Many have experienced the sensation of movement in recovery. We have gone from feeling like a newcomer and sick, to feeling not so new and still sick, and finally being an old-timer and knowing that we are still sick. What we learn from this process is to be there for one another and that not one of us has all the answers except the God of our understanding. That's why we work the Steps. It was a turning point for many of us to accept that the word ‘moral’ even could or did apply to us. We thought ourselves permanently immoral. We feel that we have to guard against wounds of the heart because they are amongst the hardest to heal. These wounds have to do with our addiction-distorted sense of right and wrong. If we feel that an unrighted wrong exists in our life, we experience the wildest urges to ‘correct the error’. If we can’t avenge ourselves, we risk going into depression and other self-destructive behavior. We must remain vigilant lest we begin to excuse the most basic lapses in our recovery because that quickly leads to a general breakdown. We addicts tend to wear our hearts on our sleeves and would do well to walk with a little more dignity, especially if we want others to take us seriously.
An addict recalls, "While riding in my car to an NA meeting Saturday night, a thought hit me: ‘I have no reason to go on living.’ With two years clean, I had reached a state of complete spiritual bankruptcy. I needed help desperately. My actions resembled those of a dying person. And the Fellowship of NA, upon whom my life depended, knew nothing of this. All they knew was the Greg, who dressed nice, always came to meetings, had a good job and always had a smile on his face. I was a lie.
"Honesty is necessary for my survival. The truth is that I am powerless and I am very scared. I do not know how to live and I need a lot of help. I need to learn how to be a human being, how to live life on life's terms.
"My latest realization about honesty is that I do it for myself. It is no longer okay for me to jerk myself around. It is not okay just because no one else knows. Taking an action that is not okay with me, that does not jibe with my spiritual beliefs, is blatant self-manipulation. I use myself when I do this. I do not practice these spiritual principles so others will look upon me as a glowing example of humanity.
"I have lived that way. Presenting myself as the model of successful recovery and then going home to gorge on food, purge myself, kick the cats, beat myself up, isolate, dwell on the negative and basically mentally masturbate. This used to be satisfactory as long as no one but me knew but I work and practice these spiritual principles so that I do not have to live this way. Although I love and need you all as long as I am only within myself, I do not really care what others think. What a change!"
The word 'moral' describes a sense of correctness or completeness that allows us to perceive beauty. The way we keep score is the least of our problems. Morality has to do with balance and fairness, things about which most addicts claim to care. Nevertheless, we have some trouble living up to the standards we set when we are safely criticizing another person. Sometimes it can help to work on our inventory or at least look at it during some point in our day when we feel especially awake. Our attention can be sharp or poorly focused. WE want to evaluate our own moral character, not our parents or our sponsors. How well we are doing with living is based on standards in terms of the God of our understanding. We set aside our fear of acceptance by our fellows and honestly look at our moral worth. The need to nurture ourselves may be the last feeling to hit us before we sit down and write out our Fourth Step. This need can surmount the terror that always held us back. Desperation kept us coming back but we needed more at this point to fuel our efforts to recover. If we delay too long, it will come down to a life and death struggle again. When we look at this Step as nurturing, surrendering to the Fourth Step can feel safe and warm.
One addict’s reflection on wants: "I want what has been showing itself in the lives of others. I feel as there is a freedom from my fears that cannot be obtained by doing the necessary footwork. Peace of mind and serenity that I long for is available by examining all of my assets and deficits. I have tried to avoid this Step and for a while, I was able to maintain but I have reached a point where I know in my heart it is time to continue my journey of recovery. Some confusion exists between what is a need and what is a want. Americans regard needs as essentials and therefore non-negotiable. Wants involve non-essentials that might be nice but never necessary. So Americans say, "You may not always get what you want, but you get what your need." In Canada, these words mean just the reverse. And in Canada, recovering people say, "You may not always get what you need but you get what you want." Still, addicts get them mixed up wherever they find themselves. As a key point in recovery, we find ourselves squandering our gifts on useless pursuits. Recovery is knowing what to do next. We can get this information from others and it may work for us. Setting goals is one way we can benefit from healthy interaction with others. Some people believe it is more important to have a plan than to reach the goals. It may be the beginning of personal responsibility."
Honesty takes effort on our part. Years of conditioning make us fear discovery and judgment when we commit to paper the exact nature of our wrongs. This paper should be hidden and guarded against someone finding things written down that could go against us in a courtroom, or in certain personal issues. Anyone working this Step should take care to guard their inventory if it contains anything that could be upsetting or harmful to others. Another reason may be to assure ourselves privacy. We generally will not give ourselves permission to express these things without holding back if we have concerns over who will read it. Fear of honesty places many reservations in our program. Not knowing ‘how to be honest’ was easier than ‘wanting to learn how to be honest’. Running from ourselves and our pain placed a great barrier between us and being honest. Despite many years of clean time, we may find ourselves being dishonest on a daily basis and wanting desperately to run again. At the same time, we may desperately want to practice rigorous honesty. The basics are the starting point. Admission of dishonesty is the pressure release valve. Actual practice of honesty is the freedom.
The fear we have of the truth is similar to the fear many of us have of our Higher Power. It's important to save our written Fourth Step materials even if we don't think it is good, helpful or honest at the time. Even if it is just another dry layer, it still helps us peel back our shells and peek inside. Most of us agree that the disease of addiction tries everything it can to get us to continue or resume our self-destructive behaviors. Our disease rears its head in many ways that confuse or frustrate us when we need or want to write the Fourth Step. We fight back by praying often for the clarity and direction to write. If we remain open-minded, the honesty is revealed to us. One other way we can keep ourselves honest when we write is to review what we wrote on other days. Another way is to pray to have strength to be honest every time we sit down to write.
Not using drugs and no longer having a crutch is a major change for most of us. How many times in the past have we rationalized away our behavior with the reply, "Oh well, I was stoned. I really didn't mean that." Without drugs, we still find ourselves doing things we don't want to, but now the crutch is gone. Now, recovery must begin. The desire to try new ideas and change the things we do is real. We can't be perfect, but as long as we honestly try, a change in personality is bound to happen. Major change is something we feel when we start working the Steps. Change is the key ingredient to living an honest and better life. Without the fearfulness to hold us back, we can see where some of our defects can become assets when toned down and brought into balance with the rest of our lives. Getting real about ourselves is necessary to find out what we would like to change and what we would like to keep. Our blindness and deafness allowed us to survive the part of our lives where we had no way to change or get better in terms that mattered to us. This is a crucial part of the paradox of spiritual growth: that we give over our will only to receive what we really wanted all along. It is how we find ourselves. Thinking that it was different for us only kept us sick. Thinking that God’s will was an unattainable or impractical goal only glued us more tightly to our pain. Truthfully, almost all of us were afraid to take a closer look at ourselves. We already felt badly enough and closer examination threatened to only bring more pain, shame and guilt. Now, with our desire to be free, we discover just what it is that had bothered us in this Step and begin to move toward being free of it.
Embarking on the Fourth Step with a spirit of willingness was the first glimpse that many of us had of the possibility of a personal major change. Our reluctance towards change overcame the strong fear of using again. For the very first time, self-examination became a reasonable possibility. The pain of living in our old patterns was no longer feasible. Just before the Fourth Step, many have found it helpful to stand in front of a mirror and realize that we are looking at our shell. We may have some difficulty in looking ourselves in the eyes. We may have become a non-entity - a person who has lost touch with their inner selves. We felt like we were poised on the edge with our feelings entrapped. We were at a turning point in our recovery: to take the leap of faith and change or return to hell. We may have felt as though our spirit wanted to emerge, but we didn't know how to let it. The Fourth Step provides a release and gives us the potential to change. Taking a fearless moral inventory of a bankrupt spirit is a miracle in progress. For many of us, it was at once both a demolition as well as a construction zone. The inspection and removal of the way we used to be was the demolition of the creature I was and the construction is the emergence of the person I am to become.
Instinctual needs are part of our humanity. Yet, humanity has always had a hard time coming to terms with instincts as if they were unnecessarily animalistic or embarrassing. Instincts are a problem only if they conflict with other important needs. In a way, all of our needs are instinctual. Our thirst for knowledge is at times, as strong as our need for food or rest. Balancing and becoming adept in meeting our needs without creating conflicts either with others or within ourselves is the basic idea. As our addiction subsides, our freedom to be with others increases. Freedom involves responsibility and this includes being considerate of the other people in our lives. We are each obliged to meet our instinctive needs. Defects of character make this obligation difficult and most of the time, we go lacking. Our behavior is a reflection of how we feel about ourselves. It is a sign of just how well we are working our program. By working a Fourth Step, we are getting rid of all of the negative feelings that have kept us living in the wreckage of our past that are reflected in our negative behavior towards ourselves and others. If we don't go ahead and work a Fourth Step after working the Third Step, we can easily fall back into the negative behavior patterns that our disease dictates to us. When we fall back into that self-centered type of behavior, we can once again begin to blame everyone and everything else for our misery.
Actions that we take without thought or consideration should be workable, otherwise we should try to eliminate of these reflexive responses. If we are prone to anger whenever someone disagrees with us, even if the area of disagreement is trivial, we may make the mistake of viewing this anger as something inconsequential in our inventory. It may stem from something in our childhood or during our active addiction. Because of our seemingly inability to focus our minds easily, it became easier to hide behind anger or hostility that put others off-balance and seems to get us what we need at the time. Today, clean and without that level of desperation in our lives, we find these once somewhat functional angers merely irritating. We learn that anger is no threat without the capacity to carry through on our threats. Most of us are unwilling today to do the things we would have done to other people during our active addiction. We might have a reflexive instinct to give-in to the demands of others that is an equally inappropriate behavior in our new lives. That's why inventory is between us and our Higher Power. We each have to find our own areas of balance. Meeting our real needs leads to fulfilling ourselves. It is the opposite state from always being in want. Recovery might be described as the process of ‘adapting to plenty’. We will never finish this process because the nature of life is to move on to new things. But when we live fully, we don't repeat the past endlessly. Allowing useless defense mechanisms to rule our habit patterns is reliving the worst things that happened to us.
Bondage describes exactly the state in which some of us coming into recovery had been living. We come in feeling so bound-up with guilt, shame and being terminally different in our minds because of the things we had done. We were not only bound by the things that we had done but the things that we were still doing, wanted to do, and thought we needed to do. Many times our bondage issues are sexually related and we may wake-up, scared that we might not be able to stay clean or find recovery. Our days, weeks or months of clean time might seem like an illusion and we feel that no matter how long we stay clean we will eventually use again. We feel so helpless. Because of our desire for recovery, we may see how our behavior and needs are as much or more of our disease than the using. We begin to identify addiction, as we understand it in NA. This lack of understanding kept us in active addiction because it prevented us from admitting and accepting that we were indeed addicts. Denial kept us from surrendering and without complete surrender; we could not begin to recover. Denial enabled us to believe that everything was okay no matter how hard it really was. While we were in deep denial, we could continue to live in the fantasy that our disease allowed us to create. The Fourth Step has made us take a good look at ourselves and accept that we are addicts.
Besides all the fear that we may have felt at this point, we knew that we needed to get to a meeting, share, and ask for help. We knew that we needed to open up about our secrets as well. Recent understandings of fears may be weak compared to lifelong fears and limitations. It takes real courage to overcome the effects of a harsh and deprived childhood. Although determined that we would never tell another soul, desperation gave us courage. Finding others, who don't reject us, encourages us to go further into the recovery process by writing out our feelings about things. If we can get at what's been bothering us, we may get free of it as well. While many complain about the embarrassment and guilt they felt while working a Fourth Step, some of our members share a quite different experience. They feel they are lightening up as they write about what has been troubling them, often without having let themselves share any of it with another human being. We can become so used to pain that we come to rely on it. We have adapted to being continuously hurt. Beyond shoddy living habits, poor mental conditioning and spiritual restriction, some of us go out of our way to create and maintain pain-producing structures in our daily lives. We all encounter situations at work or in our social lives where we dare not express ourselves. Some actually enjoy the tokens of bondage and use them to tease and challenge the spirit that dwells in each of us. We are free to go on with life if we wish - other people have other chains. If these things chain us to the past and prevent growth, they are probably part of the general enslavement of our addiction.
One addict relates, "Any confidence that I experienced while using was false. Until the fog lifted and feeling became possible, I could not embrace the experiences that breed confidence. Once the drugs were gone, I was open to walk through experiences and feel them. When more encounters occurred, both positive and negative, a basis for confidence grew. God's will: To me, God's will is very simple and straightforward. He wants all good for all creatures. Man is the only creature given the freedom of choice and we must use this wisely. If we don't, we suffer greatly."
Through study, application, and experience any sincere person can discover and begin to live God's will for themselves in the Twelve Steps of NA. The further we are from God, the more God seems to be our enemy. The closer we come to God, the more we realize God was our only true friend all along. We addicts have been known to complain and whine that we're just not getting it when it comes to spiritual growth. We may need to remind ourselves seriously that it is up to each one of us to give our permission for God to come into our life. We know that the flow of spiritual energy is restricted – not because it doesn’t come to us but because we refuse to act and pass it on to others. In this sense, we need to feel the sensation of personal liberty and the curiosity to allow this passage of spiritual energy without worrying that it will get away from us.
The miracle of sponsorship provides us with the ability to listen and be heard perhaps for the first time in our lives. We are no longer invisible or inaudible. Eventually, someone else asks us to sponsor them and a new confidence is born - quite often in spite of ourselves. We become someone with whom people can share and we are part of a circle of friends. Positive reinforcement in recovery can come in the form of people loving us first and teaching us to love ourselves like they do. Ideas in our head made sense for the first time. Service in NA in an invaluable source of confidence building, like other experiences clean. Only reading and talking about it is half-stepping. We have to step out and do things for ourselves to build up our confidence. Making a point, arguing, disagreeing, taking a stand and being passionate about issues have enabled us to have confidence. Being courageous, willing to change and getting past the doubts we harbor are all part of the process. There is no equal for commitment and personal involvement in gaining confidence for the first time. It is precious and personal. No one can take it away from us. A spirit is being born that cannot be broken. Writing a Fourth Step on our journey is necessary for building confidence. We become willing to rid ourselves of old patterns and to try a new way of life.
Real ability and confidence take the place of false pride and egotism when we stop dodging the fact that we are insufficient in some areas and begin to learn and grow in our abilities. The ability to understand along with applying that understanding in some useful way is greater than any possession that simply represents the results of our ability. Possessions get old and take more and more energy to maintain. Ability is how we get more of what we want when our minds clear and our passions subside. The Fourth Step is not as big of a deal as those who have not worked it make it out to be. Think of the relief that comes from being able to do things we have previously been unable to do, rather than the short-term discomfort of removing obstacles to our happiness. Like it or not, we all pay a heavy toll for our defects. The price we have to pay is less and what we get is more desirable as we discover that we are less defective. One of the tactics our disease utilizes is the idea that somehow dealing with our shortcomings is going to take more out of us or hurt us more than staying in our damaged condition.
Our desire for recovery makes our voluntary efforts to help locate defects and turn ‘off’ the inhibitions that keep them hidden from view. If an outsider even suggested that we had the very same defects, we would switch instantly into denial. We may have shielded ourselves so long that we are in a perpetual state of shock over some past pain. This shock has so imbedded itself in our lives that it doesn't occur to us to change, much less that we are free to do so whenever we want. Nothing else could make us feel so open. It is self-destructive to ignore or nullify our gifts and personal advantages, especially when we feel overwhelmed with good things in our lives. We addicts are so ingenious when it comes to breaking-up the miracles that God so patiently sets in our paths. It’s not our enemies or disgruntled friend that we need protection from, it is our own personal limitations, bad thought processes and out-dated living habits. Nature has fostered and sustained life on this planet for a long time. No matter what our religious belief or orientation, we should be able to grasp the concept of getting along with nature.
As one addict shares, "The most difficult aspect of practicing rigorous honesty is overcoming the fear of exposure that such honesty brings. When I am being totally honest with myself, I become aware of aspects of myself that are uncomfortable. Honesty also brings a fear of rejection.
"I think about how others may perceive me, or if they will judge me. Honesty and vulnerability go hand in hand. I cannot do one without the other. Usually when I am dishonest it is because my will is in control. I often wonder about the difference between being totally honest and being totally self-justified. It is easy for me to justify my dishonesty except when I know on some level what is going on. When I am honest, I gain a great freedom because I know that I are not pretending or hiding any aspect of myself.
"To many of us recovery is about to facing ourselves, no matter how frightening that may be. My experience has been that people who are not in a recovery program are very uncomfortable with honest people. I, like most recovering addicts, find that honesty is easiest to practice in meetings. With spiritual growth comes the ability to practice spiritual principles in all my affairs. It is other recovering addicts who give me the courage and faith to be honest with myself."
It may be that defense mechanisms and avoidance-behavior are the worst offenders of personal freedom. They reduce what we can say and do. We can set goals for ourselves with only the promise that some past pain will not repeat itself. It is important to examine some of our basic assumptions about life in our inventories because we may otherwise be tricking ourselves. An apparently unwritten law of nature would seem to be that if you criticize you friend, he may correct himself and if you’re very lucky, he may forgive you. So, if we are to get better, it is better to inventory ourselves, even if we do so harshly than to wait for someone to point out our flaws. If the criticism comes from an enemy, our disease tells us to ignore it because its only purpose is to hurt us. If it comes from a friend, we feel crushed and our disease tells us that it is betrayal. If it comes from a stranger, our disease says, "What do they know, they are uninformed." It is a logical conclusion that if it comes from us, we may need to look at it.
|03-31-2010, 07:49 PM||#3|
Join Date: Oct 2009
About Step 4
"First, let us face it [sin] for a fact. Face the worst, in reality and in possibility. Don't brood on it, but face it . Are you afraid you have an incurable disease? Face it: get a thorough medical examination, be honest with yourself, and with those who have the right to know about you. Do you have a dark spot of unbelief in your heart, so that your religion is a kind of wearing of a mask? Face it: admit it to yourelf; remind yourself that it is not a final condition of mind, and expose yourself to searching religious experience, and to reading great books about religion. But don't fool yourself, be honest with yourself - and be especially honest as to the possible moral causes for unbelief in yourself, where sin hides faith from our eyes. Is there sin gnawing away at the vitals of your life? Face it: don't say you are not taking account of it, it's not a very big sin, you think it may wear off. Sin doesn't work that way. Look it in the face, and grapple with it, else you will carry it with you. Is your conscience pressing something upon you which you do not want to do? Face it: don't flinch and run away, for you cannot alter your deepest conviction, you can only obey it, or live a divided life'." [Samual M. Shoemaker, If I Be Lifted Up]
"Imagine you are transferring the ownership of your life to God in the same way you would transfer ownership of a business. One of the first things you would do in negotiating to sell a business would be to take an inventory to discover the damaged or out-of-date goods that are no longer salable. In Step Four we call it a "moral" inventory because we compile a list of traits and behaviors that have transgressed our highest, or moral, values. We also inventory our "good" traits and the behaviors that represent them. In our life's moral inventory the defects or dysfunctional behaviors might include some that once worked; some dysfunctional behaviors may have saved our lives as children, but they are now out-of-date, self-defeating, and cause us a great deal of trouble when we use them as adults." [Keith Miller, A Hunger for Healing, Harper,1991]
"Our understanding of the moral nature of the inventory will be greatly enhanced if we first distinguish between moral and moralistic. When we are moralistic, we are judgmental and opinionated. Our language is full of shoulds and oughts. As John Keller states: "moralism is 'shouldism': You shouldn't feel that way." Moralism is about finger pointing and blaming. It is highly conditional, critical and nonaccepting. Moral, on the other hand, evaluates right and wrong in accordance with God's law of love, as exemplified by the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. A moral inventory uses the law of love as its standard." [Martin M. Davis, The Gospel and the Twelve Steps, RPI Publishing, 1993]
"Step Four is our vigorous and painstaking effort to discover what these liabilities in each of us have been, and are. We want to find exactly how, when and where our natural desires have warped us. We wish to look squarely at the unhappiness this has caused others and ourselves. By discovering what our emotional deformities are, we can move toward their correction. Without a willing and persistent effort to do this, there can be little sobriety or contentment for us.' [Anonymous, Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, AA World Services, 1952]
Step 4: Related Biblical Themes
* Searching. The word searching implies that we are looking for something that has been hidden and that we will need to be thorough in our efforts. When we start working Step Four we quickly realize how instinctive it is for us to be evasive, to blame, to get distracted. Most of us have not taken inventory of ourselves in a long time - maybe never. We have hidden the truth from ourselves and it will now take a disciplined effort to pay attention.
It is probably important to emphasize that nothing in this Step is meant to suggest that we are globally responsible for everything. We may have been harmed in many ways by others. But the heart of this Step is to begin identifying the things for which we are responsible. We cannot fix anyone else. We cannot take responsibility for other people's poor choices. But we can start to identify the things for which we are responsible.
Working this Step will require a sustained effort to get past all the creative forms of denial that have protected us from the truth. Fortunately, God is prepared to help us in this task. We do well to pray with the Psalmist:
"Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." [Psalm 139:23-24]
* Fearless Calling this self evaluation 'fearless' might be confusing. It doesn't mean we will not be afraid. That's a bit too much to expect. We will experience fear. To call an inventory fearless means that we will be courageous in the face of our fears. When the fear comes - and it will come - we will keep on. For many of us, our addictions are the main tool we have used for managing our fears. Letting go of that destructive pattern and continuing to work this Step in spite of the fear will create a new and potentially lifesaving pattern for fear management.
* Moral Inventory. Inventory taking is not a new idea. The early church knew the importance of this spiritual discipline and connected it directly to it's public worship. As Paul said, "A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup" [1 Corinthians 11:28]. Unfortunately, this spiritual discipline has been abused at various times in the history of the Christian church. It has been used against people rather then for them. It has been used to create shame rather than freedom. But most commonly the biblical mandate for inventory taking has simply been ignored. And we have suffered spiritually as a result.
A moral inventory is not just a listing of bad actions for which we are responsible. It might help to think of Step Four as essentially a restatement of Lamentations 3
"Let us examine our ways and test them and let us return to the Lord"
This puts it well: we are to examine our ways, the character of our lives. In the Twelve Step tradition people are given a structure, a process and a community that helps them in this self examination. In Twelve Step programs people are often encouraged to begin a moral inventory by focusing on resentments. While this might seem at first like a focus on how other people have hurt us, in reality it is part of the process of taking responsibility for our own actions. The resentments which we inventory are our resentments. They are how we have chosen to respond to painful situations. As we begin to take full responsibility for the way we have responded to life, we gradually learn to let go of things for which we are not responsible and to hold ourselves accountable for our own actions and responses. Resentments are an important focus because they are one of the most common causes of relapse in recovery. There is an old slogan in AA that says this well: "Having a resentment is like drinking poison and expecting someone else to die."
A second focus that is frequently encouraged in Twelve Step programs is a focus on fears. The reason for doing a moral inventory of our fears is that, next to resentments, fears are one of the things that most commonly lead us to relapse. Making an inventory of our fears forces us to look closely at how we manage our fears. As we look at what makes us afraid we will be given many opportunities to find out how thoroughly we have worked Step Three. Gradually we will learn that God can be helpful to us when we are afraid. Gradually, one-day-at-a-time, we can turn our fears over to a Power greater than our own.
|03-31-2010, 07:50 PM||#4|
Join Date: Oct 2009
Step 4 - We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
Psalm 139:23-24 Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts.Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.
Steps One through Three are preparatory steps for Step Four. Here is a brief summary of the first three steps. Step One: We recognized that we are powerless over our sinful nature and that our lives have become unmanageable on our own. In Step Two, we came to believe that the God who created us could restore us to sane living. Step Three: We simply made a decision to turn our lives and will over to the care of God.
For me, and I would think most Christians, we go through life doing the Steps One, Two, Three; One, Two, Three and on we waltz, dancing through life to our own tune never making it to the fourth step. We realize there is a problem, cry out to God for help and then think we make a decision to turn our lives and will over to God. As time passes and the problem subsides, we fall back into our self-centered ways. No need for God right now, everything is going great! Or we do the famous cafeteria-style of Step Three: Here, God, you can have this, that and a helping of this, but you can't touch these parts of my life.
Step Three can be a spiritual plateau on which we become stuck. We settle in on this comfort zone. Like water in a puddle, we become stale, stagnant and stoic Christians -- or worse, we slip off the plateau to where we once were. Plateaus can be and really should be wonderful events in our lives. They are places to rest, catch our breath and contemplate the future, but they are not a place to stop forever.
Step Four begins the process of implementing our decision to turn our lives and will over to God. This is a lifelong process. We will grow, plateau, then grow some more, all in God's time and His will.
Step Four can be a scary process for most of us. The Psalmist's prayer above is a frightening prayer. I urge you to pray this prayer when doing Step Four. This does not need to be a scary step; rather, it can be an exciting step to help us out of our bondage of rationalization and delusional, sinful living. This step simply identifies the faults that have separated us from God.
1 John 1:8-10 If we say we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and refusing to accept the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us from every wrong. If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts.
The above Bible passage is one of my favorites. It takes us out of a delusional state of mind. I define delusional here as "making our own reality". It is not real that none of us are without faults. It is not real that we are perfect. It is, however, real that we can become developing followers of Christ. We can live a life that moves along a path of growth -- not of perfection but rather progression.
At this point in the 12 Step process, an accountability partner, mentor or as they say in A.A. a sponsor, is an invaluable tool. A mentor is someone that has walked the path before you. He has seen the highs and the lows, reached the plateaus and moved on. He understands the process, and in turn will help you.
Obviously I love to write. I write most of my prayers to God. Step Four should be a written inventory of what is keeping you from becoming more like Christ. We simply write the nature of our character defects. Do not rush this step. Take all the time you need.
While there is not a right or wrong way to being this process, here is an outline that will help you begin. This list is not original. It comes from talking to people I know that are in 12 Step Recovery programs such as Alcoholic Anonymous.
Begin by writing down your resentments. Resentment is defined as "indignation or ill will felt as a result of a real or imagined grievance." A synonym is anger. What or who are you resentful toward? What causes this anger? What effect is it having on your life and your relationship to God? What was your role in causing this behavior?
Fears. What are you fearful of? What causes this fear? What effect is this having on your life and your relationship to God?
Sexuality Instincts. This includes how you relate to people of the opposite sex. Not just sexual encounters. What is your behavior and attitude about this? How does it affect your life and relationship with God?
Financial security. What are your behaviors and attitudes toward money and the management of your finances? What is causing these attitudes? What are the effects on your life and your relationship with God?
Emotional security. Again, what behavior and attitudes are causing you emotional problems? Emotional insecurity can lead to depression, fear, worry, self-pity and anger.
What relationships are causing me emotional insecurity?
Social instincts. Do you have any social connections that cause you pain? Do you behave in an irrational way, to make yourself out to be someone that you are not, due to your social insecurity?
I am sure there are more items to list. In short, what behavior and attitudes are causing you separation from God? In short, what behavior and attitudes are causing you separation from God? What are you doing that is harmful to others? What are you doing that is harmful to yourself?
At the end of this inventory, please write the positive characteristics of yourself. There is good in everyone. Don't use this list to beat yourself up. Rather, use it as a benchmark, a starting point from which to grow. Your best effort to do a complete and honest inventory shows your willingness to truly turn your life and will over to God.
Lord, search our hearts, our behaviors and attitudes. Reveal to us what is displeasing to you. Lord, and also help us to see the good that you have put in us. Help us to build on what is good and rid our lives of what is bad. In Christ's name. Amen.
|03-31-2010, 07:50 PM||#5|
Join Date: Oct 2009
4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. Eph 5:11) Then you will remember your evil ways and wicked deeds, and you will loathe yourselves for your sins and detestable practices. (Eze 30:31) Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. (2 Cor 7:20-23)
Study: Psl 139:23,240; Eph 4:17-5:21; Gal 5:13-16; Mark 7:20-23; 1 John 1:8; Eze 36:26,27,31; 2 Cor 7:10; Rom 13:11-14; Rom 12:1-3; John 8:34-36; Rom 8:5-9; 2 Cor 6:14-7:1; 1 John 3 19-24; Psl 19:14.
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