This begins the theme of the next four steps: seeking relief from the things in our character that sabotage our lives and keep us from being free of the bondage of self. We honestly evaluate ourselves, develop the humility necessary to admit our faults, and seek freedom from those faults and defects of character.
Many people in recovery will tell you that this is the step that really changed how they lived their lives. They faced, with honesty and integrity, their own characters. They did not hide behind excuses or reasons for behavior--they simply opened their hearts and minds and listed how THEY acted, how THEY treated others, and how they treated themselves.
Many spiritual traditions include some form of "confession" or admission of sins. The idea behind these traditions is that the person faces his or her character in the hopes of improving it.
"It suddenly occurred to me that while I'd beaten myself up a lot over the years, I'd always blamed someone else for my problems, or just felt sorry for myself. I don't think I had ever honestly looked at my part in my problems." Melissa W.
For many recovering alcoholics, the fourth step marks the first time they have fully owned their behavior. No excuses, no blame, and no self-pity. Just an honest appraisal, a true inventory, of their behavior. The fourth step can be an eye-opening experience. Sometimes it is the first time we see ourselves the way others do. We recognize where we have been destructive and selfish. Take your time with this step and make a pact with yourself to be open and honest. This is not another opportunity to beat yourself up. This is an opportunity to assess your character so that you can decide what kind of person you want to be from now on.
"When I got drunk it was because I hated my job, because my parents were too critical, because my husband didn't understand me. As a sober person in recovery, the fourth step showed me I got drunk because I was an alcoholic. That meant rather than deal with the conflicts in my life, I tried to drown them or escape them. I was my own worst enemy. I loved the role of victim and I lived it to the hilt. If I was a victim, it wasn't my fault that my life was a mess. I got honest in the fourth step." Susan M.