Category: Little Red Book

“Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.”

Step four is an action Step. This Step grates on the alcoholic nature. We begin the process of reversing many of the survival behaviors necessary to sustain an active alcoholic/addict. We do no enjoy these self-destructive behaviors, but we have become accustomed to using them.

Made…This Step demands positive action.  It is not accomplished all at once, but gradually.  There are two theories about taking this step:

1.  Don’t take it until you are absolutely ready.

2.  Take it right away.

Possibly the combination of these two ideas holds more value.  Ease into it, remember to be gentle on yourself.

Searching and fearless means being as honest as you can be at the moment.  We are used to rationalizing, so sincerity is mandatory.

In doing a moral inventory we want to take advantage of our assets in order to work on our liabilities.  Our behavior indicates attitudes and personalities, but don’t get stuck in details.  Try to see through the phony behavior.

This is not an examination of conscience.  We are not only looking for sins and evil deeds we might have done in the past.  We are looking for personality traits and conflicts that cause us distress.

Inventory is from a Latin word that means to find. We are looking for character defects and shortcomings that cause us problems.

We are all endowed by nature with certain wonderful and powerful instincts; otherwise, we would not have survived.  Our problem is that in our disease we have exercised some of these instincts to the extreme, and it has become a way of life that we now see as destructive.  The Steps address these misdirected instincts.

Step Four is a vigorous and painstaking effort to discover what these liabilities in each of us have been and are now.  By discovering what our emotional conflicts are, we can move toward their correction.  We cannot do this without taking a good look at ourselves.

The alcoholic cannot live with discomfort for great periods of time without eventually seeking relief in alcohol.

There are many ways to take Step four.  Do it in whatever way appeals to you.  Make sure it is written down, however.  You must believe no one will ever read it-not even when you do the Fifth Step.  It is the only way we can be completely honest with ourselves.

The Little Red Book Study Guide©1998 by Hazelden Foundation


Once we get a handle on the physical aspects of the disease, the danger to slack off arises.  Attention must be paid to the mental and emotional aspects of the disease.  Negative  emotional or mental binging can push us toward a drink faster than a physical craving.   Now that we have begun to be settled with the past, this Step anchors us in the present.

All inventories are alike in principle, but the time factor distinguishes one from another.

1.  Spot-check inventory. This is taken at any time during the day when we feel we are getting all tangled up mentally.

2.  End of the day inventory. Here we try to balance the activities of the day-positive and negative.

3.  Periodic inventory. This is the updating that takes place during out frequent talks with our sponsor, spiritual advisor, or fellow members.

4.  Annual or semiannual inventory. This is a general housecleaning, an updating of Step Four.

This practice is a valuable tool to maintain a happy and balanced recovery.  Discipline is required to establish the habit of inventory taking, but once established it becomes easier and automatic.

“IT is in man’s nature he does not stay put.”


The times we seem to be sitting still are the times when are are filtering and assessing the ideas and values we pick up in AA.

We Ask for Spiritual and physical strength to execute His will.

Suggestions for self-study or Group Discussion:

The “twenty-four-hour” idea is often difficult for the alcoholic to get a handle on. We know God’s will if we can stay in the moment.

If I stay in today, I have much less anxiety. When I look into the future it increases my anxiety. It is my belief that most anxiety disorders are because people are uncomfortable with the feelings they are experiencing from worry about the future or about something that hasn’t happened. Our addict brain screams to be taken away from uncomfortable feelings, most of which are in our mind when we are projecting what MAY happen in the future. If we stay in the moment, truly present in the moment, we won’t experience anxiety about the future.

To truly be in the moment, notice your breath after you sit down in a chair. If you are walking up the stairs, pay attention to each step. That is being in the moment.

I tell clients that when I wake up in the morning, I choose to be sober for that day. I can handle 24 hours and that is all I need to handle. That is possible.

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