Treatment and the 12 steps – Step 4

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Step Four

May 2012

As we discussed here the past few months(please read the 2012 articles prior to this one if you can, if not no worries), 12 step recovery based treatment programs are, according to research, the most successful type of treatment programs.  We broke this down a bit, so now we will begin to explore treatment’s unique relationship with each of the 12 steps.  The 4th step in a 12 step program deals with a personal inventory and the taking of a personal inventory by the individual.  This process is amongst the most important in all of recovery.  It has been unofficially stated that a person’s chances at sobriety increase ten fold if they are able to create a solid, honest and searching inventory.  A personal inventory is not much different in nature than the type of inventory you had to stay late one weekend a month to take at your old grocery job.  A store takes inventory to find out what they have and what they lack.  A personal inventory does much of the same thing.  A personal inventory takes an honest look at a person’s resentments, fears, sex history(of a self-centered or pain causing experience.  For instance, the point of a sex inventory is not for one to catalog and boast of their conquests, but rather to have them see if and how their behavior was boorish, selfish, or harm causing), and allows the individual a chance to come clean with any remaining secrets they have not been honest with.  After all, the saying “Your only as sick as your secrets” came from the recovery community.  Treatment provides a safe and supportive environment for an addict/alcoholic to work on their inventory.  Treatment allows for experienced staff or peers to offer compassion and guidance for this process.  An individual goes through many emotions when writing a 4th step, often these emotions can be painful.  Treatment provides the proverbial pillow to cry on to allow people to learn to own, process, and let go of their past actions and emotions.

Let’s take a closer look at the three main components of a 4th step.  1. Resentments– Resentments are Kryptonite to an addict.  Nothing is more dangerous than a life built on resentment.  Most people entering treatment have spent years blaming others for their misfortune.  A lifetime of “you don’t understand”, “if you only had my life”, “If you had been nicer to me” or my personal favorite “it’s the cops fault, he was out to get me”.  All statements that show a lack of ownership.  A person with no ownership is set up to live a life of failure.  One must truly learn to look within in order to experience the change necessary for recovery.  A 4th step allows a person to write down their resentments, asks them to write down what in their life was effected by that resentment, and then asks the mother of all recovery questions “What was YOUR part!”  It is here where the individual must see and own up to the fact that they set themselves up to be hurt.  The 4th step is where we learn to live in a world of total ownership and move away from our victim mentality.  Treatment helps us do that by providing honest feedback and allowing us to learn responsibility.

2. Fears–  Fears can be broken into two categories.  A]-Fears that may never change or “outer” fears.  For example, if a person is afraid of sharks, they may always be afraid of sharks.  Since that is an outside fear, the person would need learn to deal with or let go of that fear.  B]- “Inner” fears.  These are the fears that we all must face on some level.  Fear of being alone, fear that I am not good enough, fear that people don’t like me, etc, etc, etc.  These fears can and will be mastered when a person learns to work the 12 steps, especially once the fears are written into an inventory.  Both types of fears go on a fears list or part 2 of an inventory.  It is very important to be honest about all fears so we can learn to let go and stop letting fear take away life experiences and moments.  More about the sharing of these fears will be discussed when we look at step 5 next month.

3. Sex– Again, this is not the time to make a “brag” list or anything like that.  Most addicts have some sex related past actions that they are ashamed of or feel like they need to apologize for.  The recovery community refers to the sex part of a 4th step as a way to shape a solid and sound ideal for future relationships or sex based behaviors.  For instance, if a person who had casual sex when using or drinking completes an inventory, they would hypothetically learned or realized that they didn’t like their old behaviors and would remain abstinent for a period of time and then only engage physically with a true partner in a romantic bond. This would represent great progress.  I am not going to go into great detail here due to subject matter that is private and can be viewed as sensitive by some so let’s just say it is an important process for people in recovery.

4. Hidden Secrets– Pretty simple actually.  We need to learn to trust people and to not hold anything up in our minds that could block us from experiencing recovery.  Secrets are a great offender to that.  In a 4th step we learn the importance of trusting and opening up to a confidential source.  Much more on this next month on step 5.

This is just a tiny snap shot of what is discussed in a 4th step.  This is a tangible, written process that can take 1-2 weeks to complete.  Anyone who completes a 4th step is an inspiration to others because of the courage they displayed to look within.  Treatment helps provide that confidence.

See you next month!

**please note that all matter stated here is that of an independent writer and does not represent the River Source trying to re-define the steps, this is simply a look at how treatment uses the 12 steps.  In support of that purpose, only a synopsis of each step will be included every month.  For a list of the 12 steps and the accurate definitions please contact AA world services or obtain a copy of the book “Alcoholics Anonymous”.**