Reflections on Step Four

I recently moved. With that came the boxing and unboxing of old journals and step-work. Before I put these valuable materials in a private place, I took some time to read over them. Some of what I read brought me to tears while other writings made me so grateful. I am free of so many of the old resentments that kept me in bondage. I am grateful I can look back and see how far I have come and what I have survived. Examples of areas of my life that I have seen growth in are: my old beliefs about what it means to be a “real” man or a “real” woman; what markers I use to define worth and value for myself and others; beliefs about the nature of humanity, the universe and God. The Big Book talks about getting down to “causes and conditions” and I truly believe step 4 is where we take the first steps towards emotional sobriety.

My most recent fourth step had less than 30 resentments, the one before had over 60. I just don’t react to life in the same way I used to. I attribute that to maintaining a spiritual practice, spot check inventories and building relationships around me with my sponsor and fellow alcoholics who can give me reliable feedback as to my behavior and thought process. My sponsor always reminds me “you can’t do better until you know better”. My experience with the fourth step shows that to be true. I don’t have to be perfect either; because I have a way to improve and change my internal condition on a day-to-day basis.

Yesterday, I was speaking to a fellow alcoholic about shame. I was able to share with her that I don’t really have much shame about my past behavior anymore because I’ve done inventories and amends. Essentially I’ve treated my shame with the 12 steps. And fundamentally, I know that most of the wrongs I did, I did because I simply had no other choice (powerlessness), I was too afraid to do anything different (fear) or I just didn’t know any other way to act (lack of inventory). But most importantly, getting all of these old patterns and beliefs down on paper gave me experience that I can articulate with a fellow alcoholic to enable us to connect with our Higher Power through our shared brokenness and begin the journey of healing.

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