When I was finally ready to work Step 4, I had just celebrated my first year of living life as a person who no longer drank alcohol. Seven of those months, I did it on my own and the last five months were spent in the rooms of AA.
I started to work my program in earnest and follow the suggestions given to me by others in the rooms and, more specifically, my sponsor. I had just received my one year chip for sobriety, I was attending four 12-step meetings a week and floating atop the proverbial pink cloud.
I was all in.
Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
After meeting with my sponsor and getting the low-down on how to format the dreaded moral inventory of my life, I drove home in silence and thought a lot about what this task might bring up for me.
I opened up my laptop, created a spreadsheet and titled it Step 4, took a deep breath and started typing.
Column one was for identifying and naming my resentments towards people, institutions or principles. Easy enough. I jotted down the name of my ex-husband, ex-boyfriends, my family and friends, a financial institution, religion, and my high school guidance counselor. This 4th Step was going to be a piece of cake.
Column two was for listing the cause of my resentment towards said people, institutions or principles. This column ended up being my version of how things went down in the story I’d been telling myself about my life. How the ex-boyfriends wronged me, how my family didn’t support me and how Wells Fargo had wronged me during the mortgage crisis several years ago. This column felt good to write. These grievances I’d been holding onto felt fresh and justified. I liked seeing them neatly typed up and in their column next to the offender. Why did people say this Step was so hard? I was finding it really easy.
Column three was for expounding on what affect did this resentment have on my life? Now, here is where I had to pause in the process and really think about the affect those listed in column one had on my life. I took my time with this part of the Step and listed everything I could think of for each resentment I had listed. I spent about 10 days on this column alone. I emptied all of my thoughts onto the page and felt a certain kind of relief when it was complete. I knew I had made a searching and fearless moral inventory of myself, as suggested for this Step. It was at this point that I also felt like I wanted to quit. It is not easy to examine your life and list your deepest, darkest secrets. I somberly pushed on.
Column four was the grand finale of this Step. It was reserved for listing my part. Here is where I had to own my part in the original resentment listed in column one and jot it down so that I could share it with my Sponsor when we later worked Step 5.
Yeah, column four was no walk in the park and it took me a couple of weeks to complete this part of the Step.
I ended up having to really examine the initial resentment I harbored and the effect it had or was having on my life and then ask the question over and over again - What was my part in this? Where am I to blame?
This is where I had to look at my flaws, my shortcomings, and my character defects and own them. A lot of people in and outside of the rooms bristle at the phrase character defects, but if I was currently okay with calling myself an Alcoholic, I could certainly say I had character defects. I didn’t let myself get hung up on this part of the Step work because I knew that If I did, I would never finish the Steps. I pushed on.
So I had to look at my resentments and see where I had fear, judgment or jealousy. I had to examine whether or not I had been dishonest, gossiped or helped contribute to the problem with my own judgment, intolerance or hatred.
I had to be 100% honest in this fourth column. At first, it was proving difficult because I was resisting the truth, but once I figured out that the truth was the only way out, I opened myself up to the process and took Cheryl Strayed’s advice and wrote like a motherfucker.
When I was finally done, my four-page, double-sided spreadsheet was a thing of beauty. It held the absolute truth of my life - the ugly, the shameful and the heartbroken truths that had brought me unimaginable pain for years, decades even. The old stories I’d been telling myself about myself were now documented. During the writing process, I had released them from the confines of my mind and deposited them onto a blank page where they could now reside outside of me.
A weight had been lifted.
All in all, Step 4 took me about a month to work on. I didn’t worry too much about doing it perfectly. Instead, I focused on being thorough and rigorously honest - no matter what.
I focused on telling the unedited version of my truth. And that, my friends, felt like the kindest, most authentic thing I have ever done for myself.
Tammi hasn’t had a drink since February 3, 2015. She is a former wine bar owner, lifelong seeker and recovering perfectionist. She makes art every day and credits this practice as the path to her spiritual overhaul. She documents her creative forays and monthly sobriety milestones at TammiSalas.com Her writing here will share her story as she navigates the 12 Steps of AA.
A NOTE FROM TAMMI:
Anonymity is the foundation of AA and I respect that. However, I choose torecover out loud in order to be of service to other people still suffering.