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Thoroughly honest

I was not at all keen to poke around in the wreckage of my past and had ‘successfully’ avoided doing so for decades. But I was desperate to feel well and, somehow, I felt an inner strength which I had never felt before. Frankly, I was more afraid of not doing this Step than I was of doing it. My sponsor tested me again, “Are you willing to go to any lengths to recover from your alcoholism?” “Yes, yes, yes”, I promised myself and my Higher Power.

Even before I put pen to paper (NO computers! NO short cuts or abbreviations! Longhand only!), I was prepared thoroughly by my sponsor. It helped to know that this process was about the ‘nature’ of the ‘wrong’ in terms of its effect on me, not the wrong itself. This was not an exercise designed to beat myself up. The goal was not to do a ‘successful’ inventory. The goal was to dig to the deepest level of my own self-honesty. My Fourth Step was in columns, and extremely detailed: resentments, phobic fears, sexual conduct and, especially, remorse at my own behaviour.

I could easily have left things out, but I scoured my life inside out and upside down, with lots of prayer, until I could look myself in the eye. I faced all the monsters of my past – head on. I’d heard too many members share what happened to them when they ‘forgot’ to include things. The idea of multiple Fourth Steps left me cold. At the point I felt everything was down on paper, another week of thought and prayer was suggested, just in case anything else might be lurking about. My sponsor assured me that IF I had been fearless and thorough, and IF I had still overlooked something, then my Higher Power would deal with it in due course. I could then apply Step Ten.

For the first time in my life, I had a clearer and truer perspective of who I had been – in front of my eyes, in my OWN hand, in black and white. I faced up to it all. I also discovered a goodness, which had been overshadowed by my self-obsession. I recognised the monotony of, time after time, ‘doing the same thing and expecting a different result.’ That clearly needed to change. The Big Book refers to comprehending the futility and fatality of my previous behaviour – I saw that too. As I was learning to see myself in this new light, I slowly began to see myself in others. The seeds of tolerance, patience and good-will were planted. Step Four was a beginning and the most honest effort I had ever made, but much more work needed to be done.