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Step 4/Twelve Steps-The Scary One


Each year I like to run through the 12 steps as written in the book Alcoholics Anonymous. These steps were an adaptation of many works before them, and are a universal truth for all people who want to enjoy good mental Hygiene and an abundant life. They have been adopted by some 150 self-help groups, and in the words of my favourite forensic psychologist, are the best basis for mental health around IF worked and lived.


I am not a step guru, and like to keep things as simple as possible. The 4th Step reads:


Made a searching and fearless inventory of ourselves.


The 4th Step is a place where many people get stuck. It requires action and it does require work. I did a 4th that worked when I was prepared to be honest with myself, look thoroughly at my life, and take this new higher power I had found along on the journey with me. The higher power was there, and that allowed me to do the step without the fear I had felt in the past when I looked over my past life.


Doing the step did take work. I found a written set of questions that I used as a guide in doing the step. They led me to nooks and crannies, as well as specific actions of the past I probably would not have looked at. While thinking and writing, a lot of emotions both good and negative were stirred up. I allowed myself to feel them, noted them, and a few times when they became over whelming, I took at time out.


I dug out things I had buried deeply and felt the feelings of these things. I put on paper things that I thought would remain inside of me hidden for the balance of my life. Upon reflection, it felt good to get this stuff out. I highlighted the names of people I had hurt over my life. I identified and noted the defects of character that had been at play (dishonesty, false pride, fear, resentments, sloth, etc.) and noted them. Had I hurt me? Yes, but that was not the point of the exercise. I know today I did things that were plain wrong and within my control.


There was also much good that I discovered, as there is in an inventory of anything that is taken. I did note this, but it was not good healthy living that was causing me to be active in my addictions and that was destroying my life. The good did offer hope going forward, the good was a foundation I could build a new life upon! The good didn't require letting go.


After doing the writing, getting down anything that was on my mind that was a negative from my past that was still in my thoughts, I put the document away. I had been as searching, fearless and thorough as I possibly could.


In a few days, I went back and read what was written. I tried to read it like I was reading the story of someone else, a person named Keith.


Slowly the lights came on. For the first time in my adult life I has an idea of who I was and the incidents that had happened to bring me to my bottom. For me, the downward trend started on a day when I was still a happy child between 3-4 years old. On that day, my world shifted, and I started to act out.


Keith had always been a good person deep inside. He began, on that fateful day, to feel that he didn't quite fit in, was not as special as he once was. Keith began to act out to get the attention he wanted, and a lot of the acting out was not healthy. At a fairly young age, he found mood altering substances and behaviors, including social behaviors that made him feel better. It included gravitation to what the Big Book calls "lower company". This start at poor mental hygiene accelerated until a bottom was reached! Mood altering substance and behavior became a way to medicate the pain inside. I did not know how to properly deal with emotions and feelings so either stuffed them or numbed them. A sad story. Talent wasted, people hurt.


On balance, I was given talents at birth that were put to use. On the outside, Keith had many successes and learned to be a person others expected him to be in certain situations, most notably the work world. Little did people know the scared little boy that was inside! Ego and pride is what Keith showed to others; a false confidence. Inside there was fear, insecurity, stunted emotional growth and more, all leading to pain. I had found several medications that would temporarily numb the pain. I had become very selfish in my behavior while wanting to please people and controlling life because I was terrified of what would happen if I didn't control my little universe.


I always knew, and know today, there was always a caring, loving person inside who had great potential (funny what you see when you read old school report cards).


There are many ways to do a 4th. Books have literally been written about it and this step is the topic of many conversations at meetings and among people. There is no "right" format, but that being said, writing a 4th gets stuff outside of you. I found a detailed question guide that worked for me, and I share it with anyone who wants it. I use it with my coaching clients both non-addicted and addicted. I use it because it is a major step in achieving good mental hygiene and a full and abundant life going forward. Step 4 is a great investment of your time in your own new life. There is really no true recovery without doing this step. There is no right way to do; JUST DO IT!


How did I know it was complete?


For me I knew it was complete when I read it over, made changes, cleared up areas where I couched the truth and honestly noted feelings and character defects at work.


I knew it was complete when I read the story, knew it was mine, and understood for the first time in my adult life who I was and how I got there. From seeing the good, I could move forward with hope.


-- keithb

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