Alcohol and Drug informational resource

Step Four

Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves

Batter up, next step up, no balking in the bull pen, wind her up, and let her fly. Step four will reveal more and more.

Step Four has two phases. The first phase of Step Four is a step study. Read and answer the questions and discuss the answers until your sponsee understands the purpose of the Step and what it requires. The second phase is of Step Four is writing the Fourth step inventory. Step

Five has two phases the first is hearing the inventory, the second half of Step Five is when your sponsee goes home for an hour to reflect and meditate on all the work done to date.

Those pages in the A.A. Big book that cover step four (pages 63-71)
Step four in the A.A. Twelve and Twelve (pages 42-54)

Activities for the first phase of Step Four

Questions about the step:

1) What is an inventory, and what is its purpose?
2) What does the term searching and fearless mean?
3) Why is it a moral inventory that we are asked to do?
4) Why does the A.A. Big Book suggest that the inventory be written
5) What format, strategy, or outline do you intend to use?
6) What is resentment? Why are resentments the number one offender?

Activities for the second phase of Step Four

1. Pray Daily, (something on the order of)

God, give me the strength and the courage to see what I need to see about myself, remember what I need to remember and do what I need to do to complete my fourth step inventory.

2. Write a searching and fearless moral inventory of yourself.

Let me see if I got this right?
I am supposed to take a course of action that the Big Book calls vigorous A personal house cleaning which most of us had never attempted

Step four reinforces the decision we made in the third step and helps us to carry it out.
The Big book tells us unless we make a strenuous effort to face and be rid of the things in ourselves which [have] been blocking us our decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understand Him can have little permanent effect

Step four is the continuation of the work we have done in the first three steps.

The Big Book describes it like a business inventory.

There’s nothing like rejection to make you do an inventory of yourself.

Inventory is a list of goods and materials, or those goods and materials themselves, held available in stock by a business. In accounting, inventory is considered an asset.

We want to find out what is it about ourselves that we need to throw out (or to change) to have a more serene and productive life. We have to look deeply into causes and effects and the negative characteristics that have caused us so much pain.


We get to see our selves as other people see us; we get to know ourselves as other people know us. If we could see ourselves and know ourselves as other people know us, we would disappear on the spot.  Cioran.  To wrap this up ,we have been looking  at our selves through a dark  mirror  Step Four is the ultimate windex (glass cleaner) that few have  the courage to use this  God given tool


We wish to look squarely at the unhappiness this [set of liabilities] has caused others and ourselves We have embarked on a course of action that will restore us to sanity and ultimately root out the causes of our problem, trying, and failing, to live life on life’s terms.

That restoration will depend on our willingness to look at ourselves squarely in the eye and to endure the pain associated with facing what we have become.

The fantasy of finding an easier softer way that would allow us to avoid the pain is what has kept many from completing this step and from maintaining recovery.

Many of us assumed if we stopped our drinking all our problems would disappear. Nothing could be further from the truth.

We did the A.A. Two Step: We didn’t drink and went to meetings. Our lives immediately improved; some of us had a feeling of being on a pink cloud. It was initial, and it was temporary.

We tried to get the program of recovery through the process of assmosis, by plopping our butts in the meetings of A.A. We told our stories; we were relieved of our immediate pain and suffering. We connected and were accepted into the fellowship. We listened intently, hoping that somehow, some way, the program of Alcoholics Anonymous would come up through the floor, through the legs of the chair, up our ass and into our brain.

We were sober, but we were not in recovery. The pain diminished, and we resolved to do our fourth step as soon as we got around to it.

The key-word in Step Four is brie,f brief, brief, can thorough rob timely. When other things  from the past, and they will come up,  you can address them when they do, in the mean time keep those doggy’s mov’in even when rubbing against rawhide.

raw hide

Our living problems persisted, resentments rage, irresponsibility, procrastination, grandiosity, and isolation continued to cause us problems.

We went to more and more meetings to get temporary relief. We would do anything but the painful work of recovery which meant doing our fourth step inventory.

Sometimes the pain of our living problems would get us into action. Before we could start out fourth step, we had to have everything in its place and everything in order: our income taxes, our spring cleaning; we had to walk the fish and wax the cat.

Some could stay sober just by going to meetings but until we worked the steps, we were not in recovery. We could not extend the hand of A.A. to those who still suffered, for you can not give something away that you don’t have.

The A.A. Big book tells us that liquor was but a symptom. We had to get down to causes and conditions. Once in recovery, we had to deal with our character defects.

Can you identify a fourth step in a police line up?

Our defects of character that are illustrated in patterns of behavior. We searched out the flaws in our make-up which [had] caused our failure.
The Big book suggests the inventory be written. Writing puts it into black and white; it gives a dimension of reality that we can confront.

(Because all the immoral inventories were taken)

Our inventory is moral because it concerns our behavior.
We go back over a lifetime of actions and a lifetime of consequences that has caused pain for us and others for which we feel shame and guilt.
The purpose of this search is not humiliation and punishment but freedom.

When we uncover old secrets and identify our character defects, we shine a new light in the dark corners of our lives. We never have to repeat those behaviors; we begin to start seeing the sun light of the spirit.

We are assessing the stock of our lives. We are determining what should be kept and what should be discarded. Nothing Counted says the A.A. Big Book, but thoroughness and honesty. Our courage and fearlessness come into play. This is where the road narrows and the view broadens. We get a clearer view of ourselves than we have ever had before. We now have something we can work with.

“No man is rich enough to buy  back his past”      Oscar Wilde

No man can buy back his past, but that was before the installment plan.

The Fourth step must be written. ( Now you can confront the print and see the black from the white wash.)  The A.A. Big Book and the Twelve and Twelve suggest a general outline that needs to be followed by a comprehensive Fourth step.

I use the outline found on page 65, of the A.A. Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous.


A resentment was like taking poison and expecting the other person to die., An expectation was a resentment under construction

Being convinced that self, manifested in various ways, was what had defeated us, we consider its common manifestations. Resentment is the ˜number one offender Says the A.A. Big Book.  It destroys more alcoholics than anything else Resentment makes us unhappy, irritable, and discontent.

As if that wasn’t enough, we faced a bigger problem.

With alcoholics, whose hope is the maintenance and growth of a spiritual experience, this business of resentment is infinitely grave, we found that it is fatal. If we hold on to resentments, we will not be able to undergo the spiritual experience that protects us from a return to active alcoholism


Resentment is public enemy number one, its the Hannibal Lecter of recovery

The Big Book mentions a grudge list that should be definite and divided into four columns. We need to include a list of resentments, to whom they are directed, the reason for each resentment, and what we did to contribute to that resentment.

The fourth column was added because its contents are described on page 67 of the big book.

1) In the first column of the table, write down the name of the person or thing for whom the resentment is held. Dig deep; use your instincts and far gone memories. We look at persons, places, and institutions. We do this first, if your inventory is thorough, this list will be a long one.

2) The second column, list the cause of the resentment. What did the person, group, or institution do that made you angry and that you have not been able to let go of?

3) The third column, List the area of your life that was hurt or threatened and so produced the resentment. The A.A. Big Book tells us that the areas of our life that might be affected and so give rise to resentments are, pride, self-esteem, security, personal relationships, and sexual relations.

4) The fourth column, what was my part, what had I done wrong. What was the defect or defects of character that showed themselves? We look squarely at our behavior that contributed to the situation that resulted in the resentment. The A.A. Big Book specifically asks, Where had we been selfish, dishonest, self-seeking, and frightened?

In other words, where were we to blame? We are resolutely looking for our own mistakes only. We are cleaning our side of the street where we can walk through, free men and women, and ignore the other person’s wrongs, no matter what they are or what they may be.

When doing my first Fourth step, I made the columns as directed in the Big Book. I would only have the smallest room in the margin of some sheets for the fourth column; in some sheets, no room at all.

What was my part? my defects of character. Since I perceived myself a victim, I did not think it was important since I was never to blame. My sponsor told me that my part was the most important part. My first sponsee had no room for his part either.

Who’s afraid of the big bad Virginia wolf?

The A.A. Big book says, We reviewed our fears thoroughly. We put them on paper, even though we had no resentment in connection with them. We asked ourselves why we had them. Make a list of each fear you have and why you think you have it.

A fear is when you think you are going to lose something you have, or not get something you want.

Fear can be headier than whiskey, once man has acquired a taste for it. Donald Dowries

We are more often frightened than hurt; and we suffer more from imagination than from reality. Marcus Annaeus Seneca

I am too sexy for my shirt.

It’s my experience that most alcoholics have very strong libidos, coupled with very few, or no inhibitions;  you do the math.

We examine our sexual conduct. The A.A. Big Book says “we reviewed our own [sexual] conduct over the years past. Where had we been selfish, dishonest, or inconsiderate? Whom had we hurt? Did we unjustly arouse jealousy, suspicion, or bitterness? Where were we at fault, what should we have done instead?

We got all this down on paper and looked at it. We have to be specific, no matter what form it takes.

Only seven deadly sins!, well  that’s a relief.

We ask ourselves to what extent each of the seven deadly sins could be applied to us. The A.A. Twelve and Twelve says To avoid falling into confusion over the names of these defects should be called, lets take a universally recognized list of major human failings the Seven Deadly Sins of pride greed, lust, anger, gluttony, envy, and sloth [laziness]. We list each of these failings that apply to us and how they have hurt us and others.

(The sin of pride is the first and the most deadly, for it disavows the need if not the  existence of God)










Me is all I need!

Let’s take a closer look at the seven deadly sins (are they dwarfs or giants?) and how they apply to us.

Since selfishness-self-centeredness ¦ is the root of our troubles, it makes sense in the Fourth step to look at grandiosity or self-will run riot. Self-will was one of the issues we dealt with in the Third step. We now have the opportunity to revisit the central problem of our lives by listing specific examples of grandiosity and self-centeredness and how they have hurt us and others.

The cause of all our defects and/or shortcomings is what’s behind our attitudes in the second column labeled THE CA– USE. Even though I write down where I think they’re wrong it boils down to I think I know better (pride) or I think I deserved better (self pity).
The fourth column actually came first in the timeline- the first, second & third column came after I stepped on the toes, after I got the ball rolling.

This family of character defects is included under pride. Some examples may be: bragging, constructing a false image of ourselves, trying to be the center of attention, having to be right, and not being willing to admit it when we are wrong.

There is nothing so common as the wish to be remarkable William Shakespeare

Can I still make change?

The A.A. Twelve and Twelve supports listing assets as part of the Fourth step inventory.
The idea is to clear away morbid reflection and encourage balance. As soon as the newcomer begins to be more objective they can fearlessly look at their own defects.
We double check to see that we have left nothing important out of our inventory and that we have not kept any secrets. Remember we are as sick as our secrets. Have we included the people we have hurt by our conduct The A.A. Big Book calls on us to be entirely honest.

Do all these suggestions make for a long fourth step? Yes. But if we are to be searching, fearless, and thorough, we can do little else.


Use the reading, discussion questions and your own knowledge and experience.

Doing the inventory is the second half of the fourth step.

Remind your sponsee that the inventory should be hidden while it’s being written. It could be disastrous if discovered by a wife, a co-worker, or a child.

There are more questions from sponsees on step four than any other step.

How long should it be?

It should be long enough to be searching and fearless. The A.A. Big Book says if we have been thorough about our personal inventory, we have written down a lot.


The only requirement is that it be written. I suggest the format on page 65 of the A.A. Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous.

How long can I take on this step?
When we are walking the fish and waxing the cat it’s taking too long. Two to three weeks, a body in motion tends to stay in motion; a body at rest tends to get drunk.




Introduction to the 4th Step Inventory Workshop




Read from bottom of page 63 through 65 of the Big Book before beginning




Read from bottom of page 67 through 68 of the Big Book before beginning




BE SURE TO do this page just like the other inventory pages


 Big Book, page 70, paragraph 3 “We have listed the people we have hurt by our conduct, and are willing to straighten out the past if we can.”




Read from bottom of page 68 through 70 of the Big Book before beginning

What if I am not ready to take the fourth step?

If you worked the Third, you are now ready to take the Fourth, even though you are opting to take the Fifth.

Go back to Step Three and see if there is something you missed. Discuss it with your sponsor; see what character defects that could be blocking your progress: pride, self-will, fear or whatever.


Bill W. had taken at least two Fifth Steps. His first Fourth and Fifth Steps were apparently taken in Towns hospital, in 1934, during his last stay at the facility, following his spiritual experience.

Bill’s second Fifth step was with Father Ed Dowling, his spiritual advisor, in 1940. The second Fifth step presumes a second Fourth step. Time and maturity might reveal more that will need to be dealt with. We could see how our character defects had continued to hurt us even in sobriety.


Sponsors need to work regularly with their sponsees to help them stay focused on the step and the inventory. Starting step four (let alone completing it) is a frequent problem for sponsees.


Is intensely painful and ego-deflating

Requires a written inventory that takes a significant amount of time to complete

Asks us to identify our character defects and to list the past behavior that caused us the problems

Brings us face-to-face with who we really are and what we have done

Describes our addictions in vivid detail, forcing us to face the need for change.


A Twelve Step Program saying that comes into play here: Do the next right thing.

After doing the Third step, the next right thing to do is the Fourth step. Part of recovery is learning to do those things that are good for us, whether or not we want to do them. This is an opportunity to walk the talk.


Action needs to be taken to break the logjam.

1) Pray daily for the willingness and the courage to complete the step
2) Reread the Fourth step sections in the A.A. Big Book and the Twelve and Twelve
3) Return for the third step for more work.
4) List the character defects you are hiding or exhibiting by resisting this step
5) List what it is that you are afraid of discovering about yourself in this step
6) Set a goal for completing different portions of the step and report to your sponsor on the progress made.
7) Find a program friend who is also working their fourth step and agree to do it at the same location, it helps
8) make sure the inventory is safely hidden.
9) Once the inventory is started, make an appointment to take the fifth step as a motivation to complete the inventory. The final part of the fourth step is the fifth step

The Fourth step has been taken when sponsees have met the following conditions:

1) They have completed a written inventory that they regard as fearless and thorough
2) They have listed and analyzed their resentments.
3) They have listed their fears
4) They have reviewed their sexual conduct over the years, looking for the ways in which they had been selfish, dishonest, or inconsiderate, and identifying those whom they have hurt
5) They have described how each of the seven deadly sins listed in the A.A. Twelve and Twelve apply to them, including the of grandiosity (self-will run riot)
6) They have included somewhere in their inventory all the people they have harmed and the behavior that caused the harm. They have ignored the other people’s role in creating the problem and have concentrated solely on their own role. They understand which character defects were responsible for the harm
7) They have listed their assets
8) They HAVE not kept any secrets.
9) They have not left anything important out of the inventory.
At this time, it is good to remind your sponsee that they are free to do their Fifth step with anyone they choose. The only guideline in the A.A. Big book is that the person chosen be able to keep a confidence; that they fully understand and approve what we are driving at; that they will not try to change our plans

I suggest that what they tell me as their sponsor is not protected by law. Only clergy, attorneys, physicians, and your spouse (if you just happen to have a death wish) are bound by privilege  Bill W. did a second Fifth with Father Dowling,  as Bill was known for regularly putting away two fifths,  It was probably for the more juicy adventures as these incidents can be done with a privileged source and the rest can be done with your sponsor, because who loves you more than your sponsor,  Otherwise we are good to go.

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Mission Statement

Our mission is to inform, inspire, and empower alcoholics anonymous sponsorship locally and internationally to be their very best --- both personally and spiritually.

I would like to acknowledge Hamilton B and his tireless work in the recovery community and his work "Twelve Step Sponsorship How it works" a Hazelton publication and his permission to use what ever was needed to make possible my ongoing sponsorship workshop and Step study and this website.