The end-product of Step 4 — an “inventory” of our interactions with people and things before recovery — is the most personal step in recovery.
All the other steps in our recovery are meaningless without a deep look, honest at our life interactions.
Honesty in Step 4 is crucial. We make our inventory and it is ours alone. In this inventory there may be things we want to keep to ourselves forever. There may be things we could only share with our closest confidantes. There are parts of our inventory that many others already know — a divorce; a criminal record; a job lost — or bridges burned in the destruction caused by our active addiction.
The original Step 4 in the Alcoholics Anonymous book is completed in written form by us, examining our fears and personal interactions in society. We are encouraged to examine things with an eye for “our part” where we thought we were wronged by others and society in general. This is a new self-examination technique for most of us. This review becomes a common practice that we use in varying degrees throughout the rest of our lives. Completion of this step carries us to the next step: discussion of the inventory contents we want to share with someone we trust.
The true goal here is not just to say “I drank/used because of” something or someone. No, a sincere inventory is the reverse of that: I drank/used and therefore I did something that led to the loss of friends, family, or a career.
This inventory starts the unfolding of a personal biography. Sure, substance abuse was a part of our life story. Everyone has a life story that can “inventoried” or analyzed. Ours is different from the other 90% of humanity who aren’t addicts because we abused substances until we couldn’t stop. Our lives and interactions with the world were tainted by this misuse.
Until we do an honest self-inventory we may think our life problems led to substance abuse. From this inventory we see it as the other way around: substance abuse led to our problems.
As our inventories unfold we have the beginnings of an understanding of our lives. These understandings help us accept and forgive others (and ourselves) as we learn “our part”.
Some other examples of Step 4 personalized include these:
a. I make a searching and fearless inventory of myself, of my strengths and weaknesses. I choose not to permit problems to overwhelm me, rather to focus on personal growth and the unconditional acceptance of others and myself. (12 Statements, The Little Book, pg 15)
b. Search earnestly and deeply within ourselves to know the exact nature of our actions, thoughts and emotions. (A Nontheistic Translation, The Little Book, pg 16)
b. I have the strength and courage to look within and to face whatever obstacles hinder my continued personal and spiritual development. (The Twelve Steps of Self-Confirmation, The Little Book, pg 26)
d. I will make a realistic and rational evaluation or “inventory” of my thoughts, feelings and behaviors, both positive and negative. This is not induce guilt and shame, but to evaluate where my attitudes, actions and decisions were not realistic or rational. (The 12 Steps of Realistic Recovery, The Little Book, pg 14)