05 July 2012

Step 4: Jane's way

I finished my Step 4 written moral inventory. 


It was painful, but tremendously cathartic.  Most of what I want to write here, today, is just the logistics of my experience, what I did.  Because in the beginning, I had no idea what I was supposed to do.  I didn't know where to start, I felt like the outline in the manual was too ambiguous.  So I reached out to a couple people who had completed theirs and then I just started writing.

First, I wrote a biographical sketch.  I started at birth and included any relationship or event that popped into my mind.  I just wrote, trying not to analyze anything, just to include things that I felt I either had residual negative feelings about, or that I felt demonstrated some kind of meaningful experience.  As I wrote, I did start to notice patterns and themes in my life and my relationships. So in another document, I started making a list of my strengths and weaknesses, and recorded my reoccurring shortcomings there.  

I wasn't satisfied with this, I wasn't sure I was uncovering everything I needed to.  So I turned to this website: (shared with me by Scabs)  http://www.step12.com/step-4.html

In contains four worksheets from the AA 12-step program to assist with the inventory.  I only completed the first one because I felt like it was the one that most applied to me, and because by this time I was three months into this process.  It was very helpful, and it gave me the opportunity to take responsibility for some grievances I have long held against people in my life, particularly people I love most.  (Ironic, perhaps?) 

After finishing that worksheet I had more information about myself to add to my list of strengths and weaknesses.  So for the last few weeks I have just been contemplating the following paragraph from the aforementioned website:

"If you doubt that you have any problems -- just think back to the last time that you felt restless, irritable and discontented. Remember when you got angry - with your self or with another person. Remember the last time you were disturbed. Remember the last time you had a problem or troubles. The last time you felt uncomfortable and not at ease in a situation. What was it? Whom was it with? What happened? "

Eventually it got to the point where the root of my discontent could be traced back to a handful of insecurities, weaknesses or attitudes.  At this point, I felt like I was ready to be finished.

I don't share all this because I think I did it the RIGHT way.  There is no RIGHT way, only the way that is right for you.  I constantly fought the temptation to feel like I needed to be more thorough, write more, think more.  But I realized this process is ongoing, and as I personally plan to have the 12 steps as a part of my life indefinitely, I know I will have more opportunites for self-reflection.  After I had mostly completed my inventory, at group meeting we read Step 4 from the original manual for addicts, and that was also very helpful.  (There is a list of questions on page 22 that I think I will use whenever I find myself "irritable" or "disturbed.")

Just in closing I want to share a quote that helped me stay afloat during periods of despair as I realized my own nothingness.  (I apologize if I've shared it before, it's a personal favorite.)

"We can distinguish more clearly between divine discontent and the devil's dissonance, between dissatisfaction with self and disdain for self.  We need the first and must shun the second, remembering when conscience calls to us from the next ridge, it is not solely to scold, but also to beckon." 

"Come on over" my conscience says to me.  "Here you will find that no matter your weakness you are still worthy of the atonement and the love of Jesus Christ."


  1. So, do you have a sponsor from your group to share it with?

  2. Man, I've got to get me into 12-step huh? Yes! Once the summer dies down, I am GOING! Then I'll be more intuned with these amazing posts of yours... lol.

    Love that quote, love your rawness here... pretty much I just love you!

    Big huge hugs!

  3. Wow. This is amazing, Jane. I think you have captured the essence of what the process is all about. And you've done it in simply a beautiful way.

    Thank you for sharing.

  4. I'm also interested in HX's question -- have you been able to find a sponsor? How did you do that and how is that working for you? I think there are many women who don't yet have sponsors, but I keep wondering if maybe if those who do can share what a sponsor/sponsee relationship looks like and how it helps that they can know better what to look for and ask for in their network of people.

    I can't stop thinking that maybe a sponsor could be an online contact if there isn't a possibility in real life. What are your thoughts on that? (Like I said to you recently, I think without knowing it, you ladies are sort of like sponsors to each other, even if not formally so.)

  5. Wonderful Jane! I think it's so important to note that there isn't a correct way to do step four. We all can do our own versions and come out for the better. Once I realized that my step four could be incomplete, or rather, I didn't have to uncover every detail of my life, I was able to sink my teeth in and take off.

    1. Yeah, the woman I shared with said that she postponed it for years because she felt like it was like eating an entire elephant in one sitting.