A core principle behind the Fourth Step is to identify our assets and liabilities for recovery. Things that will help us in dual recovery and the things that will harm our dual recovery. It's an opportunity to start identifying and healing the pain from the past and to stop the progression of our illnesses.
I like DRA's concept of writing out our Assets and Liabilities for recovery. When we get them down on paper we have a list of Strengths or Assets to build our dual recovery on and a list of Liabilities which are targets for personal growth and change. It's really easy for some of us to get into beating ourselves up over this Fourth Step business. That's why when I sponsor somebody and help them with their Fourth Step inventory, I tell them to list one Asset for every Liability they can think of to keep the columns balanced. I don't think being unnecessarily hard on ourselves is working an honest program. Everyone has lots of Assets and they need to practice recognizing them.
I was carrying around a lot of pain and shame from being abused when I was a kid. I wasn't really ready in early recovery to deal with that. It triggered my symptoms in a big way and I kept getting stuck there. I talked to my counselor about it and he suggested that I leave the childhood stuff out of my Fourth Step. To deal with it in therapy later when I was ready. He said I needed to look fearlessly at myself though, particularly the last few years--with honesty and an attitude of self-care and love. Then he suggested that knowing about this trigger and how it affected my symptoms was an Asset to my recovery.
I had no idea how many resentments I really had. Doing my Fourth Step was a real eye opener. I was blaming lots of people for lots of things but never resolving any issues. Things just kept building up inside. There is a saying that says "resentments are like taking poison and expecting the other person to die." That's exactly how I felt, poisoned by my own resentments.
It took all of the faith and trust I developed in the Program by working the first three Steps, to get enough courage to be honest and really search for the truth about myself in the Fourth Step--to be able to face and walk through my fear--to be able to reach out and ask my sponsor for advice and support. I recommend to anyone that they do the Steps in order. They are numbered for a good reason.
Underneath most of the things I wrote about in my first couple of Fourth Steps was Fear. Once I began to honestly evaluate the various resentments and relationship problems I was writing about, I began to see a pattern. I was a terribly insecure person inside who tried to project the image of a strong secure stoic guy that really didn't need anybody. Inside, a little scared boy--outside, a Clint Eastwood wannabe. I had built a protective wall or facade around my self so no one could get in and hurt me. The other side of that coin was that no one could get in and help me or meet my needs for true bonding, trust, or intimacy.
I had several grudges against people who I was sure had treated me rotten in various personal relationships, but under it all when I properly inventoried my part in the situation, I had been far too demanding of them. I had driven them away by demanding that they make me feel secure and loved. Now I know that's an area I have to keep working on.
The Fourth Step isn't about a list of every bad thing we ever did, though it may start out that way. Mine did, but then I started looking for patterns and so I rewrote my Fourth and grouped items that were of a similar pattern. Under those groupings I tried to distill the particular pattern or defect of character I found down into a line or two. For the most part, it's those patterns, inappropriate coping mechanisms, and mistaken beliefs that I want to discuss with my sponsor in the Fifth Step.p.
*Adapted from the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous®
*The Twelve Steps of AA are reprinted and adapted with permission of Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc. Permission to reprint and adapt the Twelve Steps does not mean that AA has reviewed or approved the contents of this publication, nor that AA agrees with the views expressed herein. AA is a program of recovery from alcoholism only - use of the Twelve Steps in connection with programs and activities that are patterned after AA, but that address other problems, does not imply otherwise. THE FOURTH STEP OF ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS* 4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.