Step 4 & 5 by Scott C.
Step Four – Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
Step Five – Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
”When the spiritual malady is overcome, we straighten out mentally and physically.”
As I have been in the rooms of AA and Celebrate Recovery for years, I have seen many people stop working the steps at Four and sit at Step Two or some version of Step Three for years. I was one of them. Guilty as charged… Maybe we had not hit bottom, are to fearful to continue, maybe we were not desperate enough or are not willing to be honest with ourselves; I don’t know. But whatever the reason, eventually I would either drink or drug again or in some cases stay sober but live sick in a life filled with shame, resentment and unhappiness. Before Celebrate Recovery I had never taken a searching, fearless and honest moral inventory of my life before, in fact I doubt I was aware enough about my life to even do so. However, once my sponsor got me to Step Four and Five and walked me through how to do them it made perfect sense that a honest moral inventory was vital in order for me to begin to view life and myself in a different, more healthy way. I was also desperate enough to continue working the steps and I wanted to live a happy, joyous and free life. I wanted to be free of the bondage of my past and gain a clean slate so I could live life to the fullest and learn how to be present. It was clear that I personally could not simply live life without chemicals without having some sort of relief and my sponsor told me that Steps Four and Five of the program would bring me that relief.
Step Four consists of making lists of people, institutions and ideas that we have resentment towards, our fears and our sex conduct. It also uncovers the worst of our actions and the harm we have done to others. The AA Big Book lays out directions on how to do a Step four in great detail as well as the Step Guides of Celebrate Recovery and I come from a line of sponsorship that takes those directions very literally. It works and has worked for many years so I don’t feel a need to explain or add to the method that is written in the text.
Although every single step is vital and life changing as it is worked, I personally feel that Step Four and Five are especially life changing and therefore important to do carefully. My sponsor(s) have described our lives before working the steps as being like a garbage full of toxic crap and waste. If all the crap in this garbage can is not emptied out, the can scrubbed clean, set back up and refilled (by God himself) it will continue to fester, ferment and will keep us in bondage. Over the years my actions, dishonesty and selfishness continued to add more and more toxic garbage into my life until it almost completely blocked anything and everything good from my view. I would drink or drug to feel but more often I drank or drugged to not feel, think or consider where my life was going. As such I had to find things outside of myself that I could latch onto to give me any sense of meaning or happiness. Most of the time I would latch onto another person who seemed to have some sense of themselves and where they were going. Problem was I had nothing to offer in exchange, or so I thought, so I would be whatever I thought they liked or wanted. I would continue to use that person/relationship until I used it up, they moved on or I saw that the person was as lost and mixed up as I was. Then I was on to the next thing or person on my never ending search. The end result of my lifestyle was emptiness, loneliness, a dishonest fraudulent life and an incapacity to feel anything close to genuine affection for others. I was 100% convinced that I had nothing to offer, no one really liked me and if you knew what I was really like inside you for sure would not want to have anything to do with me. Yet I longed to connect and yearned to belong.
It is often said in recovery that we are only as sick as our secrets. I never considered the fact that my secrets separated me from others, blocked me from having healthy relationships with others as well as my creator and made serenity or peace impossible. Life was short and I was on a single minded quest for whatever would bring me the happiness I longed for and thought I deserved. I thought that if only I could find the right person, idea, experience or amount of attention and affection I would be happy in this life. I was always on the hunt for THE party, THE fun, THE relief, THE answer, THE relationship, THE attention, THE job. Problem was I simply was having a hell of a time finding it, so I kept running and searching. Step 4 and Step 5 brought me to a halt, dead in my tracks. Everything I thought about my life, about other people and what I thought would make me happy was turned up on its head. I got to see what was inside me and who I really was as a person. I was gently shown that I was an extreme case of “self will run riot.”
I have come to believe, and have observed enough real life examples, that terminal uniqueness if not addressed can cause depression, a very dishonest, destructive life and in extreme cases lead to suicide or accidental death. Although for me the writing required for Step 4 turned out to be insignificant in the overall scheme of things, what my sponsor did with my written list during Step Five had a tremendous impact. It was what my lists revealed about my life, under the direction of my sponsor, that enabled me to begin to look at everything from an entirely different perspective. As the Big Book points out, Step Four is a fact-finding and a fact-facing process in an effort to discover the truth, to disclose damaged or unsalable items and to get rid of them promptly and without regret. This also meant opening up Pandora’s Box as my sponsor calls it and I was warned that part of the process is the fearless part and takes may people out during the process but I relied on my selection of a good sponsor who promptly checked up on me right afterwards to be sure I was in good space and for once I actually was in good space with “the mask” off and tucked away along with the paper copy of the inventory sheet.
One of the most important insights I had during these Steps is that I had been held in bondage by holding onto my past, by my resentments, anger, self pity and by my fear. Resentment is the number one offender and it destroys more alcoholics and addicts than anything else. A life that includes deep resentment leads only to futility and unhappiness. I wasted years of my life, that might have been worth while, by living in anger, resentments and self pity. One thing is clear, I never lived in the present and I was never in the moment regardless what I was doing. Instead, I was always living in the past, re-feeling (resentment) everything that had been done to me or I was in the future with some fantasy of how I would show everyone. I lived my entire life thinking that eventually I would find something or someone that would fulfill me and I lived with a “I will be happy when” attitude. Problem with how I lived was that I was looking everywhere but at myself. I fought against the reality that my past could not be changed or be any different than what it was and that I could not control the future regardless how hard I tried. Since I had never taken a honest moral inventory I thought what was wrong with my life was everyone and everything else. Although untrue, my mind told me that nothing ever worked out for me and that if only things would go in my favor I would be happy. In reality I had every opportunity and many successes. I got almost every job I applied for and have had a successful career, I have been able to marry and have children and I have had many fun adventures along the way. However, because of my mind, secrets, shame, selfishness, resentments, etc., it was never enough and I never could enjoy the moment because I was always running from something or grasping for more.
With alcoholics and addicts our hope, of living a happy, joyous and free life, is the maintenance and growth of a spiritual experience. Living with resentment is infinitely grave, in fact the Big Book tells us it is fatal and the Bible talks of spiritual death which seemingly is worse than physical death. When I harbor resentments, self pity and secrets I shut myself off from others, myself and my creator. I had tried everything in life to be happy; I tried self help books, thinking positively, relationships, material things, alcohol and drugs nothing worked. As such I had to be prepared to look at it from an entirely different angle. I came to realize that people who wronged me in my life were spiritually sick, just like I was spiritually sick. I also came to realize that although there were some events in my life that harmed me, that I did not deserve and were not of my doing or choice how I continued to view or use those events throughout my life kept me in bondage even though years had passed. I came to realize that I had to put out of my mind the wrongs others had done to me and I resolutely looked for my own mistakes in how I used my past or how I acted in the present. I had to look at where I had been selfish, resentful, dishonest, self-seeking and frightened? If I looked at my life, while completely disregarding the other person involved entirely how did my life honest look. I realized that just because I had the best of intentions at times that did not mean my actions matched up at all. I could not look at what I meant to do in life or how I meant to act, all the “could haves” “should haves” “going tos” and “if onlys” didn’t count. I had to look at “I did” “I was” “I am.” Just a sinful man I am!
I also came to realize that fear touched almost every aspect of my life. I would have told you I was a brave person and many people would have said the same about me simply because I did what I wanted. However, that was not being brave, it was being selfish. The truth was that I was completely afraid. I was afraid of not being loved, not being liked, not being smart enough, handsome enough, sexy enough, funny enough, being alone, looking stupid, of failing, of not being right, missing out, not being included, not “being” somebody, the list goes on and on. I was afraid of not getting what something I wanted or losing something I had. In the Big Book it says that fear is an evil and corroding thread and the fabric of our existence is shot through with it. In my life, fear set in motion trains of circumstances which brought me misfortune that I felt I didn’t deserve but eventually I realized that I had set the ball rolling. In my past when “terrible” things happened to me, even in early sobriety, I could not or did not see that I myself had (I am going to say 99% of the time) set the ball rolling and brought the trouble into my life. Now there are some things that I did not deserve nor do I take blame how another human being harmed me. Unfortunately, when people’s self will runs riot other people do get hurt. (I have to admit that I also have deeply hurt others, even people I love.) However, what I have to be concerned with and take a look at was what did I do with that event once it was over? How did I use that event in my life? I now see that I carried that event for years and used it to justify whatever I did in relationships. In my mind, no matter how unfeeling or selfish I was in a relationship, it was never as bad as what happened to me and so how could anyone be upset with me for hurting them. I was wronged so I was not to blame.
One of the reasons I had, and still battle fear is that I do not feel that I am enough. I have never been “enough” and so I tried to fill that huge gaping hole inside of me with everything and everyone. I discovered that nothing I could fill it with was enough either. Not the cars, the money, the job, the women, the excitement, the clothes, the attention and not the alcohol or drug. Through CR I have realized that I am god’s kid and that is enough.
Another reason I was so fearful and resentful was that self-reliance failed me, I could not manage my life, my mind or my feelings. During the Third Step (and every day since) I gave my will and my life over to God to do with and build with as my God saw fit. If that is the case and I wanted to be free (just how free do I want to be) I had to let go of all my resentments, all my fears and all my unforgiveness. I had to be released from the bondage of being controlled by everything and everyone, of my past and my future. I had to be willing to see that others are sick and I had to take action by spending time praying for each and everyone of those people I hated and resented (yes each one). By letting everything and everyone out of the mental jail I had placed them in, what really happened was that I found my own freedom from that prison. I could be 100% free of them, the harm that was done to me, my past, my shame, my secrets, my lies, my resentments and my fear. I could be an open book. I could talk about everything and I could admit I was also wrong. I could admit that I didn’t know everything. I could be useful rather than right. I could feel that lightness in my heart and mind, instead of heavy depression and the wish to die which I had carried with me for over a decade. I could be still, have peace and a calmness. I don’t have to push my agenda in every situation. I do not have to carry my “story” with me in life. I learned that I don’t have to deny my past or wish to shut the door on it, but instead my past, in god’s hands, has become the greatest asset I have in helping others. I had to forgive and be free of my resentments and fear in I wanted to stay sober and live happy, joyous and free.
The Fourth Step also deals with our sex/relationships. We are asked to review our own conduct over the years, not other people’s conduct. Where had I been selfish, dishonest, or inconsiderate? Whom had I hurt? Where had I unjustifiably arouse jealousy, suspicion or bitterness? It does no good for me to review all that had been done to me, again that is all beyond my control. The good news is that I can do something about my own behaviour and that I have found has rearranged this whole area of my life (as long as I practice these principles). I was taught to ask god to mold my ideals with sex/relationships and to ask god help me to live up to them, then I must be willing to grow toward it.As I mentioned before, Step Five seems to be the step where many of people stop working the program. I know that my fear, abandonment, rejection issues and resentments, plus the walls I had built around my heart certainly made Step 5 a fearful proposition. However, a solitary self-appraisal is insufficient and our secrets keep us sick. To tell another person all of the issues that we have just written about is a fearful and humbling experience. But most alcoholics and addicts lead a double life when we are drinking so this is the time where I for the very first time became entirely honest with one other person, who was my sponsor. I have come to believe that getting all this crap out of our lives is a life and death errand with every twist of character being illuminated, every dark cranny of the past was looked at. It is my hope that anyone who does these Steps has a sponsor who works closely with them and who guides them carefully through it. It was the most terrifying thing I have ever done in my life. I was positive that my sponsor would reject me, judge me, “dump” me or at the very least, feel different about me. But none of that occurred. I found true acceptance, love and understanding for the first time in my life. My sponsor took time to interject and share some of his own story with me when it related to what I was sharing. By doing so he gave me assurance that I was not judged, others had done exactly the same thing or worse and above all he cured me of my terminal uniqueness (which was just ego in disguise). I have to admit it was difficult, scary, painful, emotional, draining and it upset everything I thought I knew for sure. It actually tipped my whole world upside down…how I related to god, the world, ideas, to others and to myself all began to shift.
As my sponsor helped me through that time, some tears were shed and the world stopped spinning, I found that this new way of life was awesome! I can say that I was free of so many things right away and have continued to get free of many others as I discover other areas of my life in which I have been in bondage. I can honestly say that now I can look the world in the eye. I can be alone at perfect peace and ease. I have learned to forgive because I so desperately want to be forgiven. My fears and resentments have subsided as I have learned to let my “story” go. I am able to live my life right here, right now and not in the wreckage of my past or in the fear of my future. I am able to be of service to others. I realize that it is none of my business what other people think or say about me and I don’t have to bristle when I am criticised or ignored. I can promote others instead of myself and truly listen to what others have to say. I now try to daily to trust and rely upon God on a daily basis; an infinite God rather than my finite self. I am in the world to play the role God assigns. Every morning I take the action and give up my life for that day. Throughout the day I try to remember to do as I think my God would have me do and treat others as noble guests that are brought into my life, which does not leave any room for fear or resentments. I ask my God to remove my fear and resentment and to direct my attention to what I should do and be. When I take these action I at once commenced to outgrow fear and resentments.
Do I do any of this perfectly or all the time…absolutely not! However, it is a comfort for me to know that it is progress not perfection and that every day I get to get up with a clean slate and see how I get to serve God’s children in that day. I can also honestly say that because I have done the work required in Steps Four and Five and I continue to take the actions that I learned in those steps, I have began to feel the nearness of my creator and I have had a spiritual experience (which has become daily spiritual growth). I have felt a new freedom and a new peace. I get to walk hand in hand with the spirit of almighty God and it doesn’t get any better than that!
Update : 4/16/2013
All of the Twelve Steps ask us to go contrary to our natural desires … they all deflate our egos. When it comes to ego deflation, few Steps are harder to take than Five. But scarcely any Step is more necessary to longtime sobriety and peace of mind than this one. Since the initial writing of this article I would like to share some of the natural by products of going through the cleansing process of step 4 and 5.
I have suffered for years with sleep issues which persisted night after tireless night. I took prescription drugs which at times helped the sleep but hurt the rest of my life because there was no such thing as controlled use of drugs for me but whether I took drugs or didn’t the sleep issues persisted no matter what I did or tried without relief. I chalked it up to physical damage I did to my body over the years of abusing alcohol and drugs and just never thought the problem would go away. I went years without ever knowing what deep sleep was as I awoke every 30-45 minutes all night every night. Just assuming this was going to be the way life was going to be I simply white knuckled it night after night, day after day.
Then can day one after performing my fifth step. I crept into bed about 10PM. Emotionally exhausted from the days events with a general feeling of relieve and an easy spirit. The next thing I knew it was 6AM. I was like, wow I must have been tired. That fifth step took a lot out of me. Little did I know it took more out of me then I thought. The next night, the same thing and just about every night since the years of sleep issues that I assumed would never change have almost magically disappeared. I stood beside myself once I realized what was going on as Doctor Scott knew everything there was about the human condition and sleep and pharmaceuticals and I was sure that this problem would not go away ever as I had already tried every known remedy and a few unknown ones. To my surprise it has passed along with all the sins of the past. At this point in my life nothing should be a surprise as we serve an all powerful God and anything is possible (Matthew 19:26) with Him yet I stand in awe of the power these two steps hold as well as respect for the power of the past and resentment and guilt can have over our conscious and subconscious life.
Today I enjoy natural sleep and I work on maintaining that status. Sure I still make mistakes but I deal with them right away today. Do not let the sun go down on your anger the bible states. This is very true and add resentment and guilt and anything else that kept swirling around in my head not allowing me to sleep for years to that list. I see today why these steps are so important and Why Celebrate Recovery throws the VICTORY lesson in here instead of at the end of the 12 steps. The victory has already been won but we just need to wash away all the defeat of the past and accept what Christ did not just on the cross but when he rose again. The picture of Baptism is washing away our sins and coming up out of the water, clean and a new person in Christ Jesus. We don’t have to be the old defeated drug addict or alcoholic anymore. I am now clean, worth and righteous through Jesus and ready to be used for His purpose. I do not attend church today to be served but to serve my God by helping His children. Until all that garbage was washed away I was not ready for Him to use me in this capacity.
Today I will speak the truth despite who accepts it or who does not. Whether they accept me for who I am or don’t is not up to me. I am accepted by God himself and He is the only one I need to please today! He is My Father and I am His child. My youngest son is set to be baptized in a few weeks and I am a proud father. I can only hope the my father in heaven could be that proud of me as I am of my children today…