Step 4: Get Over Your Own Bullshit
Make a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
Too many people overvalue what they are not and undervalue what they are.
—Malcolm S. Forbes
There’s plenty on this in the Big Book, but it’s still not complete. You need to do more than what it says in the book to get to yourself completely.
Step 4 is the step on which most people derail. Take a look at that word fearless. It’s there for a reason. This step is scary.
What you’ll see as a standard inventory item is resentment. In making a resentment list, you have to write down everyone about whom you carry negative feelings. Then you include your part in the process, and the end result.
This is a good start. Maybe enough for your first time through the steps. But as you get to Step 10, when you’ll come back to this point, you’ll find you’re still lacking.
A moral inventory includes all morality, not just resentments. If you’re a member of a religion, your morality is likely defined by your religious denomination. While I’ve met plenty of religious people who don’t seem to care about the particulars of their own religion, I don’t understand that at all. When I was a member of a religion, I took its moral stances very seriously as absolute right and wrongs. That’s up to you to figure out, if you are like that. But if you’re an atheist, now’s the time to define your own morality. This is a very important process in your recovery. Take it seriously.
Atheism and Moral Inventories
Before you make any judgments about yourself, simply describe your history. It’s an inventory, after all. Do nothing more than go through the warehouse of your past conduct. The literature talks mainly about resentment with this step. Also, a sexual inventory is common. But that’s not nearly enough. You really need a full inventory of your morality. I’ve made some suggestions.
In the first of three columns, list every item you’ve ever taken, no matter how small, that you did not pay for or return. In the second column, name the owner of the item. In the third column, describe the reason you stole it.
I’m guessing the third column is mostly filled with “Needed Money for Drug Habit.” And, as booze is much easier to steal than drugs, there’s likely “Needed Booze” in there as well.
Is it okay to steal from a large corporate store? How about a small neighborhood store? From someone you don’t know who is rich? From someone who won’t notice?
I’ve asked sponsees to list in their sexual inventories the times they cheated on their girlfriends or wives. Most of the time, they don’t come up with anything. It’s not because they haven’t cheated. It’s because their definition of what is cheating is all screwed up.
Especially since Bill Clinton’s scandal, there are a lot of guys who would say that getting oral sex isn’t cheating. There are some other guys who think that it isn’t cheating if a condom is worn. There are guys who will have sex with another woman but not kiss her, because that would be cheating. Some consider that if they pay for sex, it’s not cheating. I’ve heard these specific things mentioned in all seriousness.
Instead of a list here, write down specific ideas of what you think being faithful to a partner is and what the boundaries are. Be sure to include what behavior you expect in return.
I can’t list here what is right and wrong; you’ll have to decide that for yourself. But you will need to get a clear picture of who you are relationship-wise and find someone else who accepts your standards, and you need to accept his or hers.
Just because you don’t think of an action as cheating doesn’t mean your partner doesn’t. Chances are, you haven’t been around a long-term healthy relationship, ever. I’d wager you have dated other addicts or the children of addicts. The rules in such codependent relationships are very different from those of normal relationships.
Honesty and Integrity
I think of honesty as being truthful to others, and integrity as being truthful to yourself.
After a career of acquiring and using drugs, it’s easy to lie without even thinking about it. It may be a natural state to which you’ve conditioned yourself. You may be constantly
coming up with stories that are better than the truth. This has to stop. Even if you think it’s harmless. Even if it really is mostly harmless. When the Normies find out, it will freak them out that you lie about little things like what you had for lunch or what you watched on TV last night. They won’t trust you with the bigger issues even if you are telling the truth about them.
An honesty inventory from the past could be impossible. But keep track of a current inventory. Do you lie? At all? To whom? For what reason? What fear provokes the untruth? Even if they’re little lies that seem insignificant to you, you need to find out why you tell them. Why not tell the truth?
General Questions to Ask Yourself Throughout Inventory
How did drugs and alcohol play into changing your ideas of what is right and wrong? Can you remember what you thought was acceptable before your usage started? How would you like it to be now?
Step 5: You’re Not a Snitch If It’s About Yourself
Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
Do yourself a favor, and admit the exact nature of your wrongs to more than one human being. Really. One’s not enough. Can you fathom two? One person in the program, and the other a Normie.
What’s the point of this step? Once you read off a list of your resentments, most of them will sound really stupid. You’ll realize they shouldn’t matter to you, and magically, they won’t matter to you anymore.
The other thing that happens is that you start to see how your inventories match up to those of other people. It will give you a chance to observe your own moral code objectively.
By the way, this is going to sound like high comedy to anyone but you. Really, when you hear about the shit people carry around from grade school, you’ll understand. So don’t get too bent out of shape when you admit the exact nature of your wrongs and people laugh their asses off. Trust me, it’s funny. Maybe not yet, but it will be.
Step 6: Nobody’s Perfect, Especially Not You
Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
Once you’ve done your fourth and fifth steps, your sixth shouldn’t be that hard to start. But there is often a reluctance to let go of some of your character defects. A lot of them are fun. But maybe gambling, hookers, and strip clubs aren’t the best activities for you.
First, you have to determine what your character defects are. If you don’t know what these defects are, go back to Step 4
and repeat 4and 5.Itshouldbe clear to you where you’re lacking morally. I think people skip through this step too quickly. I think that often Step 6, then Step 7, are mentally completed but not emotionally completed. It’s one thing to think logically that you shouldn’t gamble anymore; it’s another thing to be entirely ready to never do it again.
I’m using gambling as an example here, because I’ve seen a lot of men transfer addiction from drugs to gambling. I’ve also seen it transfer to porn, strippers, and compulsive sex. With women, overeating often happens as well.
What I’ve seen happen most often is that the addiction goes away, and one of these defects of character becomes stronger. What was before a number-two priority becomes a number-one priority. The guy who liked to get drunk and get into fights will get sober and get into more fights if he doesn’t see his rage and anger as defects of character.
Attributes or Defects?
The idea of attributes versus defects has long intrigued me. I thought, What if that defect is an unalterable part of my personality? What if I can’t have it removed?
Sometimes, it’s not the defect that has to be removed, but an attribute that needs to be used in a different way. It’s like the villains in comic books always using their powers for evil instead of for good. They could have easily been heroes if they’d lived differently. But hey, radiation blasts can make a guy a little cranky.
Take loyalty, for example. Who doesn’t want a loyal friend? My best friends are the ones who stuck by me when times were tough and I wasn’t that great of a guy to be around. I treasure their loyalty. But it’s not always a good thing to be a loyal person, right?
There’s the kind of person who stays in an abusive relationship out of loyalty. That’s no good. Instead of using all that energy in a positive manner, they’re using it in what is ultimately a self-destructive manner. My feelings of letting “The Boys” down if I quit was my weird sense of loyalty coming into play.
Spontaneity is the same thing as unreliability, as are self-confidence and too much pride. There are many examples of this. Think of anyone close to you. The flip side of the qualities you like about him or her is what makes you crazy as well.
Step 7: Taking Out the Emotional Trash
Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
Humility. Where to start with this one? Humility shows up in Step 7, but then it’s gone. If I were to rewrite the Serenity Prayer, I would definitely throw in something about “Grant me the humility to get through the fucking day.”
Humility is a huge problem for me. I define humility as not thinking that myself or my needs are more important than anyone else. My lack of humility is definitely a defect of character.
Most people think they’re humble. But addiction erodes how we value humility. This lack of humility is at the core of an addict’s debilitated morality.
Initially, when we’re getting loaded, we think that what we do does not affect other people. It’s not about how it affects our families and friends. It’s about ourselves. This is the first phase of our lack of humility. It’s bad enough here, but it gets worse.
Next, we may see our need to get high as more important than others’ needs to own their own property. Whether it’s scamming or shoplifting from a large corporation or smashing the window of someone’s car to steal the CDs under the driver’s seat, it’s stealing. Stealing doesn’t seem right before the addiction sets in. Why? Because we automatically think we wouldn’t like it if people stole from us. We see other people as equals. When we think we’re better, more important, or that our needs are more urgent, it’s easy to rationalize the behavior. It gets worse from this point.
At some point, we steal drugs from our other drug buddies. There’s some unspoken honor in the fact that you don’t rip off your friends in your drug circle, even if you are all a bunch of unabashed thieves. All kinds of weird acts are forgiven in this group: physical and emotional abuse, infidelity, violence, but when you steal someone’s shot, you’ve committed an unforgivable sin. Junkies will curse your name and warn the entire neighborhood. You will wear a Scarlet Letter for this one.
It’s not only about stealing. This is what makes drunks think it’s okay to drive home. It’s that me-first mindset that you have to lose. There are a lot of actions you may take that you think have no effect on other people, but the consequences reach further than you realize.