The fourth step of Alcoholics Anonymous is concerned with looking at ourselves and our behavior during drinking. It is the beginning of breaking down the walls of denial that we live in. It is not easy but very necessary. The form denial takes is that we don’t think we have a problem with alcohol and we don’t always see the effect it has had on ourselves and others. If we don’t begin to change the behaviors and attitudes we had while drinking then it won’t be possible to make lasting changes that lead to sobriety. In order to begin to change the attitudes and behaviors we have to know what they are and how they sabotage us.
The fourth step is “Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.” In the dictionary the word search means; to go about, to survey and to look through in trying to find something. So in the fourth step we need to look through to find our strengths and weaknesses. It is a good idea to lists these strengths and weaknesses on paper so you can see what they are. As you write this list you will be amazed at how long it is. As we list the strengths we can’t let our low self-esteem get in the way. Most alcoholics have a deep hatred of themselves, and do not think they have anything going for them, Not True!
Fearless in the dictionary means; to be free from fear and brave. On some level we know that it will be uncomfortable to look at ourselves. We can resolve to be brave as we search ourselves. We can be committed to doing anything it takes to remain sober. It may not be possible to be free from fear so just resolve to be brave. To be brave doesn’t mean to be fearless; it just involves the willingness to try.
Moral means; relating to principles of right or wrong and conforming to a standard of rightness. Moral standards ask the questions; am I hurting myself or others? Are my actions making me stronger or weaker? Alcoholics Anonymous puts a lot of stock in “doing the next right thing”. It has been proven to help keep members sober. An active alcoholic does many things that go against his own standard of right and wrong. Things he does or says while drinking he would never do or say when sober. Many an alcoholic has woken the day after a binge asking himself “what did I do last night and the shame quickly follows. Unfortunately this shame can lead to another bout of drinking. It is a vicious circle.
As you go through the steps that AA has outlined the shame will begin to subside. You will become fearless in your quest to live up to your own moral standards. The fourth step is something you will do over and over again on a daily basis as you are faced with decisions though not to the degree that you did it the first time. It will be done in your mind as you face daily situations that need discernment.