Fear and the 4th Step – Grapevine Article April 2001 by Ted D.

Step 4 – Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

How often have you heard, “I know I should start on my Fourth Step, but I’m terrified!”? I know guys in the Fellowship who, when active, were flat-out reckless. But take these very same go-for-broke guys, and suggest it’s time to do a Fourth Step and you’ve never seen such cagey deliberation, such wariness, such humorless, frozen-faced fear.

Where does this terror come from? Have we somehow unknowingly fostered this fear? Have we turned the Fourth Step into something that bears almost no resemblance to the original process?

At other times, we seem to let our disease come up with palliatives to put off doing a Fourth. For instance, when a newer member tells her sponsor she’s afraid of tackling the Fourth Step, this well-meaning sponsor tells her with the best of intentions not to worry, or to hold off for a couple of years. Why? To stay irritable, restless, and discontented for two more years?

Sometimes, we make the Fourth Step just about impossible to do. Where did the suggestion “Write your life story” come from, for example? Very few of us have time to write an autobiography. And even if we did, how much of it would actually contain an inventory of the resentments, fears, and guilt that we have to get rid of? Then there are those recovery publications that peddle twenty-page inventories or guides. Are we writing federal legislation or doing an inventory?

Here’s another new twist: “Don’t forget to put down your assets, too.” Why? Has anyone you know ever gotten drunk over an asset? Has anyone ever wanted to get rid of his or her assets?

Does Step Five say to share the exact nature of our assets? Is it possible that our disease has come up with yet another way to water down this Step?

Shouldn’t we stick to the original analogy Bill W. used? He chose the word “inventory.” He did not choose “balance sheet.” Assets go on balance sheets. On one tape recording, Bill W. said that part of the reason for publishing the Big Book was to “nail it down in black and white so the drunks couldn’t wiggle out of it.” Nowhere in the Fourth Step section of the Big Book does it even once mention the word “asset.” Could it be that we drunks are trying our best to “wiggle out” of this simple process?

Remember the classic scene from old gangster movies? The setting is an interrogation room at the police station. The veteran detective wants information from the nervous suspect, and in a tired, I’ve-been-here-before voice, says: “Okay, Louie. We can do this one of two ways: the hard way or the easy way.” It’s the same with the Fourth Step. We can do it one of two ways. The easy way is between pages 63 and 71 of the Big Book.

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