I’ve found it is so much easier to write about doing a 4th Step than it is to actually write a 4th Step. If you’re having trouble getting started on this vitally important Step, you’re not alone. I talk with people all the time who struggle with this Step. In fact, most comments have been about getting it started, not getting it written. So keep checking back here and maybe together we can support each other to get this thing going for both of us. I promise to be transparent and truthful about my struggle with this Step if you’ll occasionally comment on how YOU’re doing with it–deal?
I have an awesome sponsor. Really, I do. She’s the first one to tell you that she’s not perfect, but I’ll be the next one to tell you she’s pretty close–at least when it comes to knowing about how to get the most out of the 12 Steps and applying them to your life. She doesn’t read my blog, so you’ve got to know that I mean this! Just that fact ALONE tells you how she works her program. How many of you sponsors would be reading your sponsoree’s blog to keep tabs on them? Hmm? Be honest.
So, a few weeks ago when a certain personal situation came up, I realized I needed to do a good 4th Step (and my sponsor agreed, of course). I did one in 1985 when I got to AA and I actually did another (short) one when I first hit the Al-Anon program about 8 years ago, but everything I know about this Program tells me that I’ve been lax in this area. Circumstances have changed–and so have I. Some of my “issues” (we call them character defects) don’t seem to be going away like I’d hoped they would. Meetings help–a lot. Talking with my sponsor and other folks in the Program helps, too. Service work–I like to help out where I can at the local and State level–has taught me a lot. And I continue to learn from the people I sponsor, too. So, if I’m getting all this “help”, why do I still have issues? I have a feeling my 4th Step will reveal the answer.
To begin, my sponsor told me to “visit” the first three steps before I start writing my 4th. Now, to those of you who are “seasoned”, that might seem like a no-brainer. But let me tell you, a light came on at that moment. Knowing that I often don’t retain what I read (even when I’m trying to do so), I chose to write out Steps 1, 2 and 3. I’d never done that before either.
Step 1 was the hardest for me to write, which was a surprise to me. But it served to re-establish why I go to all this trouble of working a program, and that in some ways, I will probably always be in need of a “cure”. Step 2 was easier, but it still opened my eyes to how this disease continues to manifest itself in my life. I’m definitely willing to concede that I can occasionally walk the walk of insanity. Step 3 was easiest of all because I have no trouble with the idea of a higher power or His involvement in my life. I’m pretty grateful that not only do I NOT have all the answers, but that somebody else DOES.
This leaves me on the threshold of Step 4. Now, if you happen to browse this blog, you’ll see that I have written a post about 7 More Ways to Do A 4th Step. Hoo boy, I sure can’t plead ignorance in this area, huh?
I’m writing this post because I feel very good that writing out the first three Steps can lay the groundwork for a searching and fearless inventory. So much so that I wanted to share it with those of you who happen to read this. Here are a couple of other great ideas that have helped move me along with this exercise:
- Meet weekly with a group of like-minded people, those who are also struggling to get started–and keep going–on their 4th Step. I meet with 5 or 6 people once a week for 30 minutes just to touch base with each other, encouraging each other, sharing our struggles for the week, prayer and ultimately a re-dedication to our exercise.
- Talk about it at meetings. Many times I was able to get unstuck because I heard someone in a meeting actually admit to something I was hiding in my heart.
- Tell your family you need a block of uninterrupted time to work on this. This could turn out to be a valuable lesson for their future–and a blessing for yours.
- Get your sponsor involved. You might think this goes without saying, but lots of us (me included) tend to go off on something we think is a great idea only to find out later that if we had talked to someone beforehand, we would have saved ourselves a lot of heartache. Don’t have a sponsor? Get one this week.
So there you have it. My take on getting started on a 4th Step. I’m looking forward to sharing my struggles with writing out this one because if there’s anything I’ve learned in the past XX :) years of my life it’s that we’re so much more alike than we are different!
The bottom line is this: don’t try to do it by yourself. Being united in this attempt is what will carry us along during those times of weakness.