One of the stumbling blocks for many people as they move through the early steps of recovery is that all important fourth step. I have known far too many people who got hung up on this weeks. I have known quite a few people who never followed through with this step and, predictably, they did not stay sober. I will be the first to admit that this step can be daunting. It has many sub-steps and for many of us the columns are long. Fears and resentments, for all of us, are the very reasons we became addicted to substances in the first place. What is more, for me, so many of my resentments I felt were justified. I really believed people had done me wrong and my resentment toward them was based on some pretty solid facts. But this was to miss the point.
Fears can be fairly evident for most of us. We know what we are afraid of and even those fears that may cause us embarrassment can be confessed as we work with a sponsor we come to trust. My own fear of failure led me to just fail ahead of time without ever actually trying anything. It was easier to give in to the fear, not try, then see myself as a victim. This made it easy for me to drink away my blues. But I was never able to see the full extent of this fear until I wrote it down and shared it with a helpful sponsor. Once I made the step toward admitting to myself, to God, and to another person the exact nature of this fear, I was able to understand it and, by extension, begin to work with it. After working the steps with this insight form my fourth step I was able to take risks in the work place I never would have dared to before. Rather than hovering in the background while others took the big jobs, I started volunteering for the challenges and as a result I started getting recognized for the positive results. This could only happen because I did a thorough and complete fourth step.
Resentments were the difficult part. Ultimately, I let go, just for the sake of putting pen to paper, of the wrongs I perceived others had done to me, and I admitted my role in these resentments. Again, this was possible because of a good sponsor. Just like the fear index, I began to see how much of a part I played in these difficulties which generated resentments. I could not undo the past, but I could move forward with a new sense of how approach people and situations. Eventually I was able to make amends in some of these resentments. Step four made it possible for me to get my own ego out of the way, see where I had a responsibility to others, and address that responsibility.
I have heard of people who felt a tremendous weight lifted after they worked step four. Others have simple told me that they were better able to move forward in recovery—in life—with the insights this step gave them. No matter the immediate feeling, step four is crucial moment toward becoming a sober person, a sober person who can look the world in the eye without fear.